Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the region of Flanders (in which it forms an enclave) or Wallonia. The region has a population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, the largest agglomeration in Belgium. Brussels is also part of a large conurbation which extends between Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, Leuven and Walloon Brabant and is home to over 5 million people.
Brussels grew from a small rural settlement on the river Senne to become an important city-region in Europe. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a major centre for international politics and has become the home of numerous international organizations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants. Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union as it hosts a number of principal EU institutions (the other administrative centres are Luxembourg and Strasbourg). The name Brussels is sometimes used metonymically to describe the EU and its institutions. The secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also located in Brussels. Today, it is considered an Alpha global city.
Historically a Dutch-speaking city, Brussels has seen a language shift to French from the late 19th century onwards. Today, the majority language is French, and the Brussels-Capital Region is an officially bilingual enclave within the Flemish Region. All road signs, street names, and many advertisements and services are shown in both languages. Brussels is increasingly becoming multilingual with increasing numbers of migrants, expatriates and minority groups speaking their own languages.