a victim of changing travel trends, building works and the pandemic, it has been a while since the Hotel Métropole in Brussels had as many visitors admiring the elegance of its rooms and its decor as those who toured on Wednesday the legendary establishment. Some were there to say goodbye, others to gossip, but many were determined to bid in the exceptional auction called for the following day, in which 1,300 lots of furniture, decorative objects and il ·lighting that the new owners of the hotel do not need for the renovation in view of the reopening at the end of 2025. Within hours of opening the doors to the public and less than 24 hours before the sale, a call of the Brussels City Council forced to suspend the appointment.

“During the control of the interior elements of the Hotel Métropole that were to be put up for sale, it turned out that some had a heritage value”, announced the Secretary of State for Heritage of the Brussels region, Pascal Smet, so they have started the procedures to “classify” them, just as they did with the interiors and the building itself in 2002. “We respect the past, we create the future!” added Smet, who left to align with the people who had sounded the alarm about the wide selection of objects that the owners of the hotel were willing to auction and the risk of a patrimonial loss for the city.

The photographs and autographs that decorate the walls of the Métropole give an idea of ​​why there is so much fuss. Founded in 1895 in the heart of Brussels, the hotel, with 250 rooms, was the first to have central heating and the last luxury hotel in the city that was not owned by an international chain (it went bankrupt and closed its doors in 2020). It soon made its way into the history books. In 1911 it hosted the first Solvay Congress, a scientific summit that brought together the best minds of the time, from a young Albert Einstein to Max Planck, Henri Poincaré or Marie Curie, the only woman in the group (almost half would end up receiving the Nobel). Dignitaries passing through the city stayed here, from General De Gaulle to Dwight Eisenhower or Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. It was also a springboard and refuge for artists such as Enrico Caruso, Toots Thielemans, Arthur Rubinstein, Jacques Brel, Maurice Béjart or Annie Cordy, who had her own suite there. Now, his furniture is, or was, for sale.

Authorities in the Brussels region have not revealed if there is any particular object they believe should not be moved (even if it changes hands), but the auction catalog did not only include lamps, tableware , chairs, paintings, tables, the photo of the Solvay congress, dissected peacocks or capes and uniforms that would delight Wes Anderson. It also offers more structural elements, such as the iconic reception furniture (17 meters long, natural wood with art nouveau style glassware details, with a starting price of 4,000 euros) or the bar bar, which could be tendered from 500 euros.

It is not clear why if they were not considered to have heritage value in 2002 they are now, but the local authorities’ decision completely caught ADER Enterprise et Patrimoine, the French auction house handling the sale, by surprise. An hour before the announcement, its director, Elsa Joly-Malhomme, spoke to La Vanguardia about the interest the sale had aroused and clarified that no object was protected.

“Brussels people and Belgians in general feel very attached to the hotel and rightly so, because it is beautiful. There are many protected elements that remain here, what we are selling is everything that will not be used in the future hotel project”, commented Joly-Malhomme. “There are a lot of personal stories, a lot of memories, a lot of nostalgia. It is a page that closes from a beautiful hotel but a new happy stage will open. I understand the concern but the soul of the place will not change, that is what the new owner wants”.