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Brussels started life as a village toward the end of the 10th century. It was ruled over by various kings of Flanders through the ages, most notably Charles V, Archduke of the Habsburgs and Holy Roman Emperor. The city grew gradually around its increasingly magnificent Grand'Place, but it really began to flourish following Belgian independence in 830. By the end of the 19th century it had
established itself as one of the busiest cities in Europe.
In 1958 it was chosen for its central location and political neutrality to be the European Economic Community's new headquarters, an honor that was a precursor to it becoming the location for many of the European Union's offices. As a by-product of Europe's integration, many international businesses have invaded the city, all wanting to be close to the hub of power. The result is a clash of old and new: swaths of steel-and-glass office buildings set only a few steps from cobblestoned streets.