Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the capital city of the European Union – a rather important and highly regarded profile for a rather small country. Due to this political influence, Brussels has become a central focus in economic development, with many global companies now choosing to operate out of the city. Along with a population of around 1.8 million people, Brussels is a central hub for economic, social and cultural activity for the rest of the country and the continent as a whole – including that of meetings and conferences. In fact, the city hosts over 50,000 registered meetings, congresses and exhibitions each year.
Brussels is geographically positioned in the heart of Europe and boasts several points of access. As such, business associates can leave London and find themselves in a board meeting in the city within just a few hours. Only 25 minutes from downtown, Brussels Airport is a frequent choice for business travelers, welcoming over 18 million passengers each year. Five major train stations also serve the capital region, providing smooth and easy access to and from other European cities such as Paris and Amsterdam.
The city itself is fairly compact, making it easy to explore by foot. A cost-effective public transportation system of metro trains, buses and trams also makes it easy for meeting guests to reach key destinations, such as the Brussels Expo. With over 115,000 square meters of flexible exhibition space, this leading event facility can accommodate up to 2,000 people. Every year, about 60 exhibitions and 90 events are held in one of Brussels Expo's venues, which range from a 1,860-seat auditorium to 13 state-of-the-art conference rooms.
Along with the Expo, Brussels is teeming special event venues. There are over 60 unique locations to hold events of 10 to 10,000 people, whether they be state-of-the-art auditoriums or 19th century masterpieces. Book the Atomium, the self-proclaimed "most astonishing building in the world," for banquets, galas and more. Designed to resemble an aluminum atom, this landmark structure is made up of tubes and steel-clad aluminum spheres, one of which can be booked for special events both during the day and at night.
Museums, concert halls, sports centers, even historic castles aren't off limits when it comes to event planning in Brussels. From Chateau Sainte-Anne to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the city has a setting for any style and size of gathering. Throw a grand reception of up to 1,500 people at the ground floor of Autoworld, where attendees can mingle and drink among and impressive collection of historic automobiles. Add whimsy to formal banquets by hosting them at the Belgian Comic Strip Center, one of the most stunning creations of architect Victor Horta.
Brussels' economy is largely led by the service industry. Financial services provider ING, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Siemens and SONY are among the global names conducting business from Brussels. Over 60 banks have also set up home in Brussels, securing the city's position as the 7th biggest financial market in the world. The city is also home to many well-regarded institutes of higher learning, including the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.