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New Facebook guide shows Brussels through the eyes of locals

20:32 11/12/2019

Facebook has launched its first guide to Brussels created by the site’s community groups. The paper and online guide has been produced with tourism agency Visit Brussels.

Brussels Community City Guide, available in either English or a bilingual Dutch-French edition, contains tips on speaking the local languages with local people, the best places for practising your favourite sport or taking up a new one, volunteering and accessibility for people with reduced mobility, as well as more traditional city guide subjects such as food, drink, culture and activities for children.

A total of 30,000 printed copies have already been distributed at museums, cafes, theatres and other venues around the city. The guide is free, but readers are asked to donate €1 per copy to a good cause via the QR code printed inside the cover.

Around the world, approximately 1 billion people are members of at least one Facebook group. “These communities are very important to us,” said Alexis Lebedoff, Facebook country manager for Belgium. “All these groups have their own interests, they are all different, but they have one thing in common: they bring people together. This guide is 100% by community leaders, 100% by people who live here – for locals but also for those who just come to visit.”  

Several community leaders contributed to the guide, including Facebook Yoga Brussels, Bruxelles sans supermarché, Conversation Exchange in Brussels, Brussels Vegans, BXL Run Crew, Bxl à Donner, Brussels Childbirth Trust and Bruxellois, une fois. The groups were all set up by people seeking connections with others in the city, over a shared need or interest.

“We created Brussels Run Crew because we share a passion for running and exploring Brussels,” said group administrator Camille Pollie. “It’s a great city for gathering people who love to run.”

“I realised that lots of expats in Brussels had trouble finding francophones with whom they could learn and talk French,” added Yasmine Adèle Lesire of the group Free Language and Cultural Exchange Brussels. “Today, our members can find linguistic exchange partners to practise numerous languages.”

The support organisation Handy.Brussels contributed advice on accessibility in the capital, providing tips on subjects such as accessible restaurants and cultural venues as well as practical recommendations about the city’s transport system.

Sustainability is a major feature of the guide, which is printed on recycled paper; money raised from readers goes towards a number of good causes including those working on sustainability issues. In the chapter on conscientious lifestyle, readers can learn about the local circular economy, urban gardening initiatives, vegetarian and social restaurants and organic markets. More than 130,000 people in Belgium are members of Facebook groups linked to volunteering, a subject also included in the guide.

“Brussels is the most cosmopolitan region in Europe. It’s in our DNA and we’re proud of this identity,” said Visit Brussels spokesman Jeroen Roppe. “With this guide, people can see our vibrant capital through the eyes of locals. It’s full of tips from Facebook community managers and local examples of our strengths: cultural diversity, artistic excellence and openness, a cosmopolitan region where everyone can feel at home.”

Brussels is the 15th city in which Facebook has launched such a community group guide; others include Copenhagen, Bordeaux and Stuttgart. It’s aimed at locals, expats, tourists, business travellers and new arrivals to the city.

Photo: Eric Danhier

Written by Sally Tipper