Brussels-based city maps are conquering Europe. Some tourists can make do with a selfie stick picture at Manneken Pis, but the younger and more alternative kind want to break through the tourist bubble. Where do you guys from Brussels go for free live shows? Where do you lunch? And should we be more careful now, with the attacks and all?
The answer is on the USE-IT city map. It shows the way to metal at Magasin 4, lunch at the Albertina library and a coworking space in Molenbeek. “We’ve reached the point where Lonely Planet doesn’t do,” the map makers say. “Those guides are sparsely updated, and they lack those nice tips on how not to stand out as a tourist. For instance: don’t order a waffle with whipped cream and four kinds of fruit, because we Belgians don’t either. And perhaps a mitraillete is more of a Brussels dish than mussels with fries.”
The Maps for Young Travellers were first created in Ghent, and since USE-IT moved to Brussels in 2008 (headquarters are at Galerie Ravenstein) the virus has started to spread all over Europe. By now, 41 cities have joined the network, and their number grows fast. USE-IT Brussels has an info desk too, where more than 20.000 visitors drop by per year. They get fresh advice from young Brussels volunteers about nightlife, or they go on a walking tour together along the Anderlecht supporters’ bars or the new genital graffiti. Everything but Manneken Pis.
The USE-IT maps now also appear in an app for iOS. Still, the paper maps won’t fade out, not even when roaming costs go down. “Paper is still doing well for travellers. People want to get that overview over the whole city, and a small screen doesn’t suffice. Besides, they prefer to pull a paper map out of their pocket instead of an expensive phone,” says Nicolas Marichal, USE-IT’s editor in chief.
This week, all USE-IT initiatives from the whole of Europe are joining in Brussels for the 2016 European meeting, supported by visit.brussels. “This city will always remain the epicentre. Our info desk and our maps still serve as an inspiration to most startups in the rest of the continent. And we absolutely wanted to get everyone here again, even if only to show how this city has not become that infamous hellhole in March 2016,” Marichal concludes.