Brussels, the capital of the European Union, Belgium and Flanders, stands on the banks of the river Senne and the navigable canals of Willebroek and Charleroi, which connect to the Maas and Schelde basins. The city, which dates back to the 9th century, is a flat city, built on a plain on the left bank of the river Senne.
The city, constructed around a historic Flemish centre stretches from Manneken Pis to the botanical gardens, crossing the Gand-Place and the Royal district, which runs from Park Mountain to the Palace of Justice, the highest part of the city, with a typical French flavour and continues on, with the last branches of the city, finishing in the Brabant hills. Both the centre and the reas around the city are is easily reached on foot. The ring road, traces the steps of the ancient city walls and marks the city centre limits. The Grand-Place is the gem of both the lower part of the city and of Brussels itself. The Gothic buildings Maison du Roi, look out over the square. These elegant Brabantine Gothic buildings, were erected as a bread market and today are the site of the Council Museum- Museum van de Stad Brussel, the Ville- Stadhuis Town Hall, and the council building, with its splendid 96 metre belfry, and the Guildhall Buildings. The Truerenberg leads to the Ministers district. The district, built around a central park,is closed at its northern end by the Parliament building( the Nation Building), site of the Parliament of Flanders. The Royal Palace, with its splendid rooms, stands opposite the Parliament Building.
The first covered shopping area in Europe, the Saint Hubert Gallery, built in 1846, stands on the north-east side of the Grand-Place. Walking through the gallery, the visitor is met by shops, restaurants, cafés and theatres. Marolles is the working class disrtrict of Brussels. It is centred around the Place du Jeu de Balle, with narrow lanes and lively squares that host second-hand and antique markets. The Marolles district is dominated by the Palace of Justice, which dates back to 1866 and which possesses a gold column façade. The numerous rooms inside, are centred around the building's 97 metre-high dome. The city is divided into 19 districts, some of which are in turn separated into Communes, areas, where the population is made up entirely of North Africans or Turks, such as St. Josse and Schaerbeek or Etterbeek, the area around the European institutions, where the population speak only English. Residents in the Ixelles district, the area where the African district borders the elegant middle-class suburbs,communicate using a mix of various African languages and Swedish. The city hosts various international organizations including the EU, Euratom and Nato.The Atomium construction, built in 1958, for the universal exhibition, can be admired in the Boulevard du Centenaire.
The Manhatten Centre, is located near the Gare du Nord. This commercial district is a complex of modern skyscrapers, where it is possible to find whatever you are looking, from gifts to electronic articles, from supermarkets to cinemas. Shops of all kinds are dotted throughout the city, the main shopping streets are: Waterloo Boulevard, the Toison d'Or Gallery, the Rue de Namur and the Avenue and the Gallery Louise. There are many colourful markets including the flower market at Gand Place, the antique and book market in Sablon and the flea market in Place du Jeu de Balle. The city's cinemas discothèques and cafés are located between Porte Louise, Porte de Namur, the Sablon and the streets in the lower part of the city, which intersect between Place de Brouckere and the Stock Exchange.