Brussels is the de facto capital of Belgium and of the European Union (EU). It is also the largest urban area in Belgium, comprising 19 municipalities, including the municipality of the City of Brussels, which is the de jure capital of Belgium, in addition to the seat of the French Community of Belgium and of the Flemish Community.
Brussels has grown from a 10th-century fortress town founded by a descendant of Charlemagne into a metropolis of more than one million inhabitants. The metropolitan area has a population of over 1.8 million, making it the largest in Belgium.
Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main center for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions as well as the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the city has become the polyglot home of numerous international organisations, politicians, diplomats and civil servants.
Although historically Dutch-speaking, Brussels became increasingly French-speaking over the 19th and 20th centuries. Today a majority of inhabitants are native French-speakers, and both languages have official status.Linguistic tensions remain, and the language laws of the municipalities surrounding Brussels are an issue of considerable controversy in Belgium.