Goupil Le Fol is a somewhat unusual drinking spot tucked away in a small laneway just stone’s throw from the Grand Place. We’d been warned that this was not just any ordinary bar, so we with ventured with caution but with open minds, unsure of what to expect. If I’d known at the time that “goupil le fol” is Walloon for “the crazy fox”, I might have been more prepared!
We were greeted by a dark and narrow entry way and sounds of French chanson tracks playing on the jukebox. We made our way up narrow wooden staircases and through a labyrinth of candle-lit rooms over several levels, each filled with well-worn mismatched couches and all sorts of weird and wacky bric-a-brac: old books, framed pictures, postcards, vinyl records, lamps and birdcages.
A little disconcerting at first, we quickly settled in and took a seat at one of the lounges, surrounded by young couples and small groups sipping glasses of colored wines and engaging in what appeared to be quite serious intellectual conversation. With no bar in sight, a server came over take our order, and we couldn’t go past the house specialty: fruit- and nut-flavoured wines. Given the maze-like layout, I wondered how our server would find us again but needn’t have worried. Our walnut and cherry flavored wines eventually found their way to us and were absolutely delicious.
Open every day until 4 o’clock in the morning, Goupil Le Fol is a popular choice for city revelers and night owls. Mysterious, intimate and chaotic with a charm all its own, we easily whiled away a couple of enjoyable hours and parted with a sense that we had just experienced a parallel universe.
Bar Goupil Le Fol is rumoured to be a former brothel, and it wasn’t hard to imagine this place in its former glory. The lighting is dark with a tint of red, the walls are covered with graffiti and paintings of nude women and it looks like the owners decided to keep a lot of the old bordello furniture and décor. I felt like a movie character entering a French brothel in the early 1900’s!
The bar is one big labyrinth. Once we navigated our way through dozens of rooms and several floors we ordered our first drinks in a dark and cagey room that had a strange drug-den-like feel. We later made our way to what our friend called the “orgy room” with a huge couch that wrapped around the room and a random bicycle placed where I imagined the stripper pole used to be. We seated ourselves on the last spare couch, across from a young couple who were very openly getting to know each other, and a wall covered in large scratch marks (left by the bar’s namesake crazy fox?). A trip to the restroom became a test of logic and memory as I spent over ten minutes in a disoriented state visiting room after room in search of a bathroom which turned out to be only a few metres from where I had started.
Bar Goupil Le Fol is a lot of fun and best experienced at the end of a night out – the lack of windows, dark atmosphere and strange decor might be too much to handle unless you’re already topped up on your favourite poison.
Goupil Le Fol
Rue de la Violette 22, 1000 Brussels