How can anyone resist a bar called La Fleur en Papier Doré (The Flower in Gold Paper)? Originally called the Café des Artistes, it acquired its more romantic name after it was taken over in October 1944 by the eccentric poet and art dealer Geert Van Bruaene. It became a popular meeting place for Belgian artists and writers including René Magritte and the members of the Cobra group.
Known in Dutch as Het Goudblommeke in papier, the café still has its old iron stove, tiled floor and ageing wooden furniture. The three dark little rooms are crammed with mysterious objects that don’t belong together, including faded newspaper cuttings, dark oil paintings and a dusty South African stuffed parrot.
Hanging in the back room is an enlarged copy of a photo showing a group of artists and writers standing outside the café. Look carefully and you can spot René Magritte.
The cafe has been listed as a protected monument since 1997. But that didn’t save this Brussels landmark from bankruptcy in 2006. It was rescued by a group of volunteers who relaunched it as a cooperative.
The new owners have lovingly preserved this intimate bar as a local hangout. But they have struggled to survive during the pandemic. You can do your bit for heritage by dropping in for a coffee, or a bowl of soup, or a glass of beer. Don’t let this place die.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.