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Brussels’ Bourse reopens in style with new temple to beer and rooftop bar among its attractions
The Bourse is back. Not only does the former stock exchange remain ‘the’ place for people to meet up, it now reveals all its inner glories.
A grand public opening on 9 and 10 September is an opportunity to explore the iconic building with guided tours available.
Built between 1868 and 1873 by architect Léon-Pierre Suys and including Rodin sculptures, it had not been touched since the mid-19th century.
Now beautifully renovated, it boasts Belgium Beer World and the Bruxella 1238 archeological museum – as well as the rooftop BEER LAB Sky Bar with stunning views over central Brussels.
The former dusty interior with stone columns has been transformed with gleaming floors, rose-pink false marble Corinthian columns and a monumental new entrance from Rue du Midi to the central ‘nave’. The passage provides a walkway between the Grand Place and the Boulevard Anspach pedestrian area.
“This mythical building… is finally being opened up to everyone,” Brussels mayor Philippe Close said at the official opening.
While costing some €90 million, including €18 million of EU funds, the landmark building’s renovation “has no price”, he added.
Close emphasised that by investing in the project, “we are renovating a unique heritage that will be a new source of attractiveness in the centre of Brussels.”
The Bourse’s 12,000 square metres spread over five floors also houses the Madame Café brasserie, working/coworking spaces, a well-stocked beer museum shop and free exhibition spaces.
Concerts are scheduled so that visitors can listen to music and dance, while local schoolchildren can come here to eat their lunch, Close pointed out.
The mammoth project was supported by the city of Brussels, the Brussels-Capital Region, the Federal Government via Beliris (Brussels construction and renovation projects) and the Urban heritage organisation, as well as the EU via the European Regional Development Fund and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.
Citizen participation in the collaborative process to promote the Bourse to the world was a great success, said Brussels state secretary for urbanism Ans Persoons: “If all different levels of authority work together, we can accomplish great things.”
The long-awaited Belgian Beer World tells the story of brewing in Belgium from the Middle Ages to the present day. In the interactive museum, visitors can ‘make’ their own beer. They can then taste the result from some 100 available in the Sky Bar, after ordering from a virtual barman.
Close told The Bulletin that beer was chosen for the museum due to its Unesco status since 2016 as ‘intangible cultural heritage’. It was also much easier “to get Belgian brewers to come together for the museum than the different chocolate makers,” he added.
Brussels finance and budget minister Sven Gatz went further, arguing, “in beer culture we are best in the world”. Krishan Maudgal, chief executive of the Belgian Brewers Association, said beer had “inestimable economic and cultural value” and was “much more than just liquid in a glass”.
Close’s final comment highlighted the Bourse’s change of identity. Until 1970, women were not allowed in this illustrious ‘temple of finance’, “but now, a woman [Persoons] is heading the building.”
Photos: ©Belgian Beer World; ©Belga/Hakim Taghat