A guide to serviced offices and office space for rent in Brussels as well as general information that may be useful if you are thinking of renting office space in the city.
History & Geography
Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium but as the home of the European Union is considered the capital city of the entire continent. Located in the northwest of the country on the river Senne, Brussels was founded in 10th century by Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia. From its inception Brussels was heavily fortified and intended to hold sway over the surrounding area. Because of its location between Bruges, Ghent and Cologne the city soon became a wealthy trading hub. In the 12th century the city became home to the powerful Dukes of Brabant who expanded the city by draining the nearby marshes and built new walls to encapsulate the newly enlarged centre. In 1695 Brussels was bombarded by the French under King Louis XIV, resulting in vast swathes of the city being completely destroyed, including the Grand Palace. The palace and the rest of the city were rebuilt almost immediately with a carefully considered combination of Gothic, Baroque and Louis XIV styles. In 1830 the Belgian Revolution occurred and Leopld I, first King of the Belgians ascended the throne. The latter half of the 19th century saw Brussels completely refurbished and modernized and the Senne, which by then had grown dangerously polluted, covered up. During WWII the city was damaged, however only lightly, especially in comparison with other major cities in Europe, particularly Britain and France. After the war the modernization of Brussels continued with a North-South connection built to connect the city’s two main railway stations and the opening of the Brussels Metro in 1976. During the 1960s the city became central to the burgeoning European Union and more modern buildings were constructed. Unfortunately during this construction many historic old buildings were knocked down and replaced with modern constructions not necessarily in keeping with the environs, a process which is today is known as Brusselization.
While the EU has no official capital, Brussels certainly functions as the de facto centre of administration. Since the 1950s the city’s ‘European Quarter’ has been home to various pan-European organisations and bodies. Brussels is the seat of the European Commission, the executive/government branch of the organization, as well as the seat of the Council of the European Union, a legislative institution made up of leaders of the member countries. The city is also the seat of the European Council, made up of the heads of state of the member countries. While the formal seat of the European Parliament is in Strasbourg, important meetings between political groups usually take place in Brussels. Because of its political importance Brussels is also home to more foreign journalists than Washington DC as well as over 10,000 lobbyists.
Brussels has a largely service-orientated economy, mainly due to the fact that the city is the administrative centre of the European Union. It also serves as the regional and world headquarters of many multinationals and European institutions. The city hosts a large number of international conferences every year and has become one of the major convention centres in the world. Much of Brussels’ economic success is based on the high level of education of its workforce.
As the capital of Belgium and one of Europe’s most important cities Brussels sees a fair amount of tourism though is not one of the continent’s premier tourist attractions in the league of Paris or London. Brussels boasts more architectural sites than most major European cities having been spared major bomb damage in WWII. Among the most popular sites are the Grand Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the Royal Castle of Laeken, the official resident of the King of the Belgians. Other famous landmarks of note are the Cinquentanaire Park, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Brussels Stock Exchange and the Palace of Justice. Brussels is also home to a plethora of museums, one of the most interesting and popular being the Belgian Comics Museum, a tribute to the nation’s love of the medium. Gastronomically Belgium is most famous for its waffle, chocolate, French fries and beer. Many connoisseurs consider Belgian food as among the best in Europe. Brussels is especially known for the beer brewed in the lambic style, where spontaneous fermentation is used. Visitors are also advised to try the local cherry beer, Kriek.
Brussels is served by Brussels Airport, located in the nearby town of Zaventem. The city is also connected to London via the Eurostar train, which takes approximately two hours. And the Brussels North Station connects Brussels with a host of other European cities via the high speed rail networks. The city itself is served by buses, trams and the metro. Bicycle-sharing has become a popular mode of transport in the city, which has a comprehensive system of bike paths.
Brussels’ office space has weakened considerably in the beginning of this year with demand dropping. Overall vacancy in the city currently stands at 11.92 percent and the average rent throughout the city is EUR 174 per square metre. Long-term leases usually change hands at yields of approximately five percent and office properties with three, six or nine year leases trade at yields of 6.25 percent in the CBD. While the results of the current economic turmoil in Europe have yet to be seen, the Belgian economy has improved of late due to support from the rampant German economy and consumer confidence has grown.