Brussels (Brussel, Bruxelles), the capital of Belgium, situated at the crossroads of Western Europe, is now the siege of the European Union. It has been historically a highly successful mercantile city of northern Europe since medieval times. The Grand-Place in Brussels is a remarkably homogeneous body of public and private buildings, dating mainly from the late 17th century, when the city was at the heights of its propserity. The architecture, in its eclectic and harmonious blending of architectural and artistic styles, provides a vivid illustration of the level of social and cultural life of the period. The Grand-Place in Brussels is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The transition from the 19th to the 20th century in art, thought, and society, was spearheaded by an artistic movement called Art Nouveau. One of the earliest initiators of Art Nouveau, the architect Victor Horta, designed a number of townhouses in Brussels. Four of those townhouses form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Subsequently Brussels became a center of surrealist art, and then of comic strip art.
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