The two universities continue to collaborate, and are together referred to as the Brussels Free Universities.
In 1834, in response to the foundation of the Catholic University of Mechlin by the Catholic church, many recognized the need for a secular counterweight to the new Catholic university. After sufficient funding was collected among , including Freemasons, led by Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen and Auguste Baron, the Free University of Brussels was inaugurated on 20 November 1834, in the Gothic room of the city hall of Brussels. This day, called St V is still celebrated today. After its establishment, the Free University of Brussels faced difficult times, since it received no subsidies or grants from the government; yearly fundraising events and tuition fees provided the only financial means. Verhaegen, who became a professor and later head of the new university, gave it a mission statement which he summarized in a speech to King Leopold I: the principle of "free inquiry" and academic freedom uninfluenced by any political or religious authority.
On 1 January 2015, the City of Brussels had a total population of 175,534. The total area is 32.61km² which gives a population density of 5,464 inhabitants per km². As of 2007, there were approximately 50,000 registered non-Belgians in the City of Brussels.
At first, the City of Brussels was simply defined, being the area within the second walls of Brussels, the modern-day small ring. As the city grew, the surrounding villages grew as well, eventually growing into a contiguous city, though the local governments retained control of their respective areas.