Le Café Métropole opened in 1890 by the Wielemans brothers, brewers at Forest with the aim of promoting their beers. Due to their tremendous success, they bought the neighbouring building in the city centre (the former "Caisse d'Epargne" headquarters) and turned it into the Hotel Metropole Brussels.
It is in this way that a palace was born, embodying a new concept for the end of the nineteenth century.
A palace is in other words a luxurious Brussels hotel equipped with the most up-to-date facilities: lifts, electricity, central heating, not to mention the richness of the decor and high quality service. Inside, all architectural styles are depicted in an air of luxury and richness of materials: panelling, polished teak, marble of Numibia, gilded bronze and forged iron, all competed to give the impression of comfort in the 1900 era.
The French architect Alban Chambon, already responsible for the decoration of the Café Métropole, was appointed by the owners to carry out the interior design of the hotel.
The French Renaissance main entrance, leads to the Empire style reception hall, where columns and pillars line the room. The attentive observer will linger in front of the beautiful stained-glass windows, which would be used widely later on by the Art Nouveau style. To the right, lies a large staircase and the lift with its elegant and timeless mahogany case. Chambon did not hesitate to call upon the best artists and craftsmen of his era who assisted him in his work. It is in this respect that the bronze Nymph on the fountain of the Roman-style restaurant that has now been converted into a café was signed by Julien Dillens. An Indian lounge and an Italian Renaissance reception hall complete this refined collection of styles.
The Hotel Metropole hosts numerous international and national social events in Brussels' city centre. The first Solvay Physics Board was held which brought together personalities such as Einstein, Marie Curie, Poincaré. Stars, crowned heads of state, and politicians have all stayed at the Hotel Metropole, and balls and banquets were frequent and popular.
After the First World War, which saw the hotel requisitioned, the owners undertook extension works by buying a neighbouring building in 1925, in order to create new rooms.
The extension works of the Hotel Metropole cinema completed in 1932 were also important. The building of the 3000-seater theatre required the demolition of several buildings on the rue Neuve. The project included the creation of shops, a brewery, a disco "La Frégate", banquet halls and two floors of supplementary rooms with a patio above the cinema. The construction of this was carried out by Adrien Blomme who designed an authentic architectural Art Nouveau masterpiece combining technical process with a refined aesthetic. The facade of yellow Travertin opened out on the rue Neuve with large glazed bays. The restrained interior decoration, with mirrors, polished metals and precious wood is enhanced by carefully purpose-built lightings. As you can imagine, the inauguration in the presence of Queen Astrid and Raimu was a great social event.
The Second World War saw the Hotel Metropole requisitioned by Germans during the occupation, then for a year by the allies, but in the aftermath of war the Brussels hotel enjoyed another golden era.
The post-war years.
Stars visiting Brussels, among them Sacha Guitry all stayed at the hotel. Toots Thielemans made his debut in the jazz orchestra that played in the café. Since the completion of the works in 1976, the hotel made a new start, which will take it well beyond its centenary which was celebrated in 1995.
Although the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958 remains primarily a prominent event in the history of Belgium, the Hotel Metropole played a direct role in preparing the events of this fair. In June 1957, less than one year before the Fair, it was indeed in the Hotel Metropole’s rooms, that an inauguration cocktail for an ambitious campaign in favour of the Fair was given.
The Hotel Metropole played an active role in “the Expo 58” wave. On this occasion, the city centre hotel underwent some renovation work and around ten bedrooms were fitted out to meet the demands of the huge crowds of tourists.
During the 50s and 60s, the hotel welcomed prestigious guests like the General de Gaulle, American presidents Eisenhower, Hoover, Chancellor Adenauer, etc.
Seventies and eighties
The perspective of the place de Brouckère was particularly transformed during this period by the building work on the underground system. This work which began at the end of the sixties did not end until September 1976 with the official inauguration of the first underground line.
The restaurant was completely renovated during the summer of 2002 giving it a baroque Italian decor. In 2011: Our bar has been renamed: Bar “Le 31” with a new decor and new furniture in a “Fin “XIX” style. The bar has also been privatized giving its own atmosphere and comfort.