Brussels (French: Bruxelles, [bʁysɛl] ( listen); Dutch: Brussel, [ˈbrʏsəɫ] ( listen)), officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region (French: Région de Bruxelles-Capitale, [ʁe'ʒjɔ̃ də bʁy'sɛlkapi'tal] ( listen), Dutch: Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, [ˈbrʏsəɫs ɦoːft'steːdələk xəʋɛst] ( listen)), is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital 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 to a sizeable city. The city has a population of 1.1 million and a metropolitan area with a population of over 1.8 million, both of them the largest in Belgium. Since the end of the Second World War, Brussels has been a main centre for international politics. Hosting principal EU institutions and 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.
The oldest part of the present Town Hall is its east wing (to the left, when facing the front). This wing, together with a small belfry, was built from 1402 to 1420 under direction of Jacob van Thienen, and future additions were not originally foreseen. However, the admission of the craft guilds into the traditionally patrician city government probably spurred interest in expanding the building. A second, shorter wing was completed within five years of Charles the Bold laying its first stone in 1444. The right wing was built by Guillaume (Willem) de Voghel who in 1452 also built the Magna Aula.
The 96 metre (310 ft) high tower in BrabantineGothic style emerged from the plans of Jan van Ruysbroek, the court architect of Philip the Good. By 1455 this tower had replaced the older belfry. Above the roof of the Town Hall, the square tower body narrows to a lavishly pinnacled octagonal openwork. Atop the spire stands a 5-metre-high gilt metal statue of the archangel Michael, patron saint of Brussels, slaying a dragon or devil. The tower, its front archway and the main building facade are conspicuously off-centre relative to one another. According to legend, the architect upon discovering this "error" leapt to his death from the tower. More likely, the asymmetry of the Town Hall was an accepted consequence of the scattered construction history and space constraints.