metropole façade

Hotel Metropole Brussels held the first MICE event in the city

The Belgian hotel is famous for having hosted in Brussels the first Solvay Conference in 1911 with the presence of Albert Einstein and Marie Curie

Viviane Vaz for Id International

Professionals who organize meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions usually call the activity by the acronym MICE, a type of tourism in which groups, planned well in advance, are brought together. Today it’s very common to have these conferences and meetings held in hotels. Very often the buildings are constructed having this need in mind, since a good part of the hotel revenues also come from events hosted under their roof.

Passing by the Square Brouckère, few inhabitants and tourists can imagine there is a place in the Belgian capital who set this trend more than one century ago. “The family owners of the Hotel Metropole Brussels are quite humble, but they could well boast about having held the first Solvay Conference in 1911. One could say this was the first MICE event held in Brussels,” explains Marine Deroo, International Sales Manager at Hotel Metropole Brussels. 

In a way, it’s true the historical meeting in the Metropole hotel was the first MICE event taking place in a hotel in Brussels. More important, the conference meant a turning point in the world of Physics. Following the initial success of 1911, the Solvay Conferences (Conseils Solvay) are still dedicated to debate problems in both Physics and Chemistry.

1911: First Solvay Conference in Hotel Metropole Brussels. Do you recognise all the scientists present in this picture? Take a closer look! 🕵 Seated, from left to right: W. Nernst, M. Brillouin, E. Solvay, H. Lorentz, E. Warburg, J. Perrin, W. Wien, M. Curie, and H. Poincaré. Standing, from left to right: R. Goldschmidt, M. Planck, H. Rubens, A. Sommerfeld, F. Lindemann, M. de Broglie, M. Knudsen, F. Hasenöhrl, G. Hostelet, E. Herzen, J.H. Jeans, E. Rutherford, H. Kamerlingh Onnes, A. Einstein and P. Langevin.

The Dutch physicist Hendrik A. Lorentz was the chairman of the first Solvay Conference held in Brussels from October 30th to November 3rd, 1911. The subject was Radiation and the Quanta. This conference looked at the problems of having two approaches: the classical physics and the quantum theory. Albert Einstein was the second youngest physicist present (the youngest one was the British Frederick Lindemann). And the first and only woman taking part in that scientific conference was the Polish-French chemist and physicist Marie Curie, who pioneering research on radioactivity.

This is the “Einstein room” today. Imagine to bring you team to debate there!💡

In the beginning was… Belgian beer!

In 1890, the brothers Prosper et Edouard Wielemans-Ceuppens had a brewing company and decided to open the Café Metropole as a place to sell their beer. Their café became a huge success and quickly the family purchased all the surrounding buildings next to it, including a bank, which would become the Hotel Metropole, inaugurated in 1895. Today, you can travel in time by looking the hotel’s reception desk and recognising the former bank desk.

First things, first

No wonder the physicians chose that hotel in the center of Brussels to gather in their first conference. The Hotel Metropole Brussels was one the first luxury hotel in the capital to have electricity and central heating in 19th century Brussels. That’s why some heritage tours visit the Hotel Metropole to admire its design, commissioned by the brewery brothers to French architect Alban Chambon. The meetings and conference rooms are still decorated in a Renaissance style.

What do you prefer? A🍸or a ☕? If you are indecisive, take the Black Russian cocktail, invented at this elegant bar at Hotel Metropole Brussels! 😊

Later, in 1949, the hotel barman Gustave Tops was the first to create the Black Russian cocktail, using the typical Russian spirit —vodka— and a black coffee liqueur. Ironically, despite the Cold War tensions, the drink with the Russian ingredient was invented to honour the American ambassador to Luxembourg, Perle Mesta. 😱 Was it just a coincidence or Tops’ witty sense of humour? Who knows?

What we do know is that since 2002 the façade and the ground floor of the hotel were classified by its historical value as Monuments and Sites Service of the Brussels Capital Region. It’s definitely a place full of stories to learn and to experience. Have you imagined having your own event there? 

Gala dinner prepared at Hotel Metropole Brussels. Cheers!🍾