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 Grand-Place and the Royal district, which runs from Park Mountain to the Palace of Justice, the highest part of the city, and the last branches of the city, finishing in the Brabant hills.
Both the centre and the areas 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 look out over the square: the elegant Brabantine Gothic building that was erected as a bread market and wich is today the site of the Museum of the City of Brussels, the Brussels Town Hall with its splendid 96 metre belfry, and the Guildhall Buildings. The Truerenberg leads to the political district. The district, built around a central park, is closed at its northern end by the Parliament building (the Nation Building). 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. The Marollen is the working class disrtrict of Brussels. It is centred around the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein, 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. Etterbeek is the area around the European institutions. 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 area around the North Station is a commercial district and a complex of modern skyscrapers, where it is possible to find whatever you are looking for, 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 and the Gallery Louise. There are many colourful markets including the flower market at Grand Place, the antique and book market at the Sablon/Zavel and the flea market in the Marollen. The city's cinemas, bars and cafés are located between Sablon/Zavel and the streets in the lower part of the city, which intersect between Place de Brouckere and the Stock Exchange.