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The origins of Brussels go back to the 10th century when a Castle was built on the St Gery Island (Ile St Gery) in the middle of the Senne river. During the Middle Ages, Brussels flourished as a stopover on the important commercial road between the harbor of Brugge and the city of Koln, in Germany. The drapery and tapestry industries developed in this time. The original buildings of the “Grand Place/Grote Markt” were built over the 13th and 16th century, but most have been restored if not rebuilt since then.
Brussels was under French rule at the beginning of the 19th century and then was part of the low countries, the Netherlands, from 1815. In 1830 the “Belgian Revolution”, gained Belgians their independence from the Dutch. Belgium then became a kingdom with Brussels as its capital city. The “Column of Congress”, which commemorates the first Belgian constitution, is still visible today. Brussels has continued to expand and develop in the years since.
Under the reign of Leopold II, important city improvements took place, like the laying of the circle of boulevards around the center of Brussels. Called “La Petite Ceinture” it follows the location of the old ramparts of the 14th century. The “Cinquantenaire”, the Basilica of Koekelberg, the Stock Exchange building ("La Bourse/De Beurs") and the Theater “La Monnaie/De Munt” were also built at that time, as were numerous public parks in the capital city, including the Park of Laeken.
The city was taken over by the Germans during both world wars and suffered numerous bombardments during WWII.
The international exhibition in 1958 (for which the Atomium was originally built) was the beginning of a new era. In the years since, Brussels has evolved into an important international center, hosting the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Commission and the European Parliament. Establishment of these important political bodies has also brought an increase in diplomatic offices as well as business headquarters for many international firms.