High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Renovated Brussels Bourse Turns To Booze
© Visit Brussels
© Visit Brussels © Visit Brussels
The L-Spot

Renovated Brussels Bourse Turns To Booze

Place de la Bourse, Brussels

After years of renovation, Brussels' former Stock Exchange building has been transformed into a grand venue for lovers of architecture, archaeology and beer.

The Brussels stock exchange, also known as the Bourse or Beurs, lay empty for many years. The building became obsolete when trading in stocks and shares moved online. The last six brokers left the building in 2015 and the vast hall where traders once shouted out orders was abandoned.

The city finally found the funds to restore the building. The architects Robbrecht and Daem were enlisted to come up with a design. It took three years and 90 million euro to get the job done, but the doors of the renovated Bourse finally opened again in the summer of 2023.

Built by Léon Suys in 1871-73, the stock exchange was a grand neoclassical building laden with symbolic sculpture. The sculptor Jean-Joseph Jacquet was given the job of carving the figures in the tympanum representing Belgium flanked by the capitalist gods of navigation and industry. And the young August Rodin contributed some of the details.

The Bourse was built at a time when Brussels was the confident capital of a rich industrial nation. It formed part of an ambitious plan to cover up the dirty river Zenne and create a city of wide boulevards modelled closely on Paris.

The renovated building is now the centrepiece of a different type of city, modelled more on Copenhagen or Amsterdam. The boulevards around the stock exchange have been turned into traffic-free promenades planted with trees and wild grasses.

The building has also undergone a transformation from an elite institution to a public space. The trading hall is now open to everyone. It’s a huge, echoing space, like a grand railway station. There’s a café, a brasserie, coworking spaces and meeting rooms.

The Bourse also contains the museum Belgian Beer World dedicated to the history and culture of Belgian beer. And the architects have added a roof terrace with a bar and view of downtown Brussels. (Open to everyone in the evening, after Beer World has closed). Down in the basement, you can look at the foundations of a Franciscan monastery built on the site in 1238.

Barely a few hours after the Bourse reopened, a drunk tourist climbed onto one of the two lion sculptures at the front of the building. He broke off the hand of one of the heroic figures that had been carefully restored at crippling expense. Maybe it wasn’t such a brilliant plan to turn the Bourse into a booze museum.

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