The prestigious Astoria Hotel, which had been abandoned since 2007, is finally being renovated. The beautiful and historical building is located on Brussels’ Koningstraat – Rue Royale, not far from the Royal Palace.
The hotel’s history goes back to 1907, when King Leopold II asked architect Devillers to replace the old hotel Mengelle by a modern elegant hotel to accommodate the crowned heads who would visit the Universal Exposition in 1910. The Universal Exposition was a world’s fair held in Brussels in 1910 from 23 April to 1 November. It received 13 million visitors, covered 220 acres and lost 100,000 Belgian Francs.
The hotel opened almost in time for the exhibition, on 2 July 1910. A magnificent sweeping staircase and Corinthian pillars welcomed the illustrious visitors. Its close proximity to the Royal Palace in Rue Royal made it the most convenient guest house for the King’s personal guests, its regal furnishing and interior gave it the appearance of a palace. The hotel hosted figures such as Winston Churchill, Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.
After lying dormant for several years, the Corinthia Group acquired the property in 2016. Plans were drawn up to expand the property by two floors, revamp it and get construction moving again. Some progress was made before the project came to a halt due to the measures implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19.
For an estimated €40-60 million, new rooms will be added and the hotel will be entirely modernized. “Our goal is to make the hotel the best in Brussels,” said the chairman of Corinthia. The transformation has received €2.7 million in funding from the regional government, and will include the renovation and modernization of 121 rooms and suites, and the addition of two extra floors to the building’s original structure.
“When we talk about heritage for the people in the city we also refer to the identity of the city, the things that are part of being a Bruxellois,” said Pascal Smet, State Secretary of Heritage and Urbanism. “We took the building for granted for a long time.”
According to the project’s lead architect Francis Metzger, the property will be ready to welcome guests by the end of 2023. “The needs of a client are not at all the same now as when it was first built. Serious work is needed to renew this hotel and to prepare it for a different world,” he said. “There are necessary modifications and alterations to be made, but it’s important not to change the hotel’s identity.”