The Palace of the Brussels Stock Exchange, closed and under construction for years, will no longer host the stock market parquet. This month, the eclectic building, built to house one of the world's first stock exchanges, reopened after a thorough facelift. And it has done so to house an area for temporary exhibitions, concerts and events, a coworking space, a restaurant and a large museum of Belgian beer, its star project. The place, which expects to receive about 300,000 visitors in 2024 and double a year in three or four years, claims Brussels as the capital of beer.
The renovation of the Palacio de la Bourse and the beer museum has cost 90 million euros – including a part of European funds – which is an extra cost of twice as much as expected, like almost everything in Brussels. And it has taken longer than expected, like almost everything in the community capital. "It has been long and complex," said the mayor of Brussels, Philippe Close. The coffers of the city – the regional government, the federal government and the brewers have also put money – hope to recover funds soon thanks to the tickets to the museum, at 17 euros. With the payment for the visit to that space (access to the building is free), which lasts an hour and a half between more academic and historical parts and others more immersive, the tasting of a beer is included among a selection of 48 varieties of barrel and 98 bottle.
Belgium, where the first Stock Exchange was also created, in Bruges in 1409, has one of the largest beer collections in the world. And although its export outside the EU has fallen since the pandemic, within the Union it has risen by 3%, according to recent data from the Belgian brewers' association. Beer, from Stella Artois or Jupiler to the Trappists, is a tourist asset. And so it has been placed in the center of Brussels, in the converted emblematic building of the Stock Exchange, which began to be built in 1868 on the site of what was the butter market. Another symbol of the change of times, of the digitalization of markets, of the attempt to recover spaces for citizens, but also of the touristification of the center of Brussels, against which a citizen platform protests recurrently.
Drunkenness and sculptures
A few days ago, when they had almost just discovered the facade of the palace, covered with sculptures by great artists, including Auguste Rodin, suffered the first mishap: a drunken tourist climbed on one of the sculptures next to the doors and broke a large piece. The repair will cost almost 20,000 euros, which the city aspires to charge the tourist, who was arrested shortly after, in a nearby fast food chain. The man, an Irishman, said he had not noticed the damage. The stairs of the Stock Exchange have been a meeting point and appointment in the center of the city that hosts the community institutions. They are witnesses to the celebration of sporting victories and vindications. After the Brussels attacks in 2016, they were also an improvised memorial – strewn with photographs, gifts and flowers – in tribute to the victims.
The new opening of the palace, which also serves as a walkway to the Grand Place and the shopping arcades, is part of the pedestrianization plan for almost the entire area – including Anspach Boulevard, the backbone of the city. The neighborhood has experienced an oceanic change since 10 years ago a group of people, spurred among others by the philosopher Philippe Van Parijs, began to take the roads on Sundays to celebrate picnics, sitting in the middle of the street, to claim that space, as had been done to achieve pedestrianization of the Grand Place in 1991.
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