Tag Archives: technology

Spotted by Locals

So the nice folks over at Spotted by Locals are sharing the Brussels love this week. Their City of the Week is Brussels and to celebrate they’re offering their iPhone app guide for free until Friday (usually costs $3.99). I downloaded it yesterday and gave it a little test run. Here are the results.

SpottedbyLocals

The app is easy to use, with lists of places around Brussels sorted by categories like bars, restaurants, music, shopping, etc. You can also view the featured locations on a map or by searching nearby. Each entry has a short review from the Spotted by Locals team, address, hours and other useful info.

SpottedbyLocals app             SpottedbyLocals app

The list of bars is pretty decent and includes some popular spots like Bar Beton, Chez Franz and L’Ultime Atome. The restaurant list is okay with reviews of places like Kokuban, Ici and Toukoul but is missing some of my favorites and generally more up-scale eateries.

I like that they have a list dedicated to coffee & tea, as a good cup of coffee isn’t always easy to find. There is also a list of spots to relax around Brussels, including parks, squares and other public spaces. The shopping list is rather limited but they make up for it with the more complete overview of arts, culture and music venues.

SpottedbyLocals app            SpottedbyLocals app

Overall the app is useful and allows you to make a selection of your favorites. This week Spotted by Locals is also offering free city apps for London and Berlin so get’em while they’re hot. If you roll old-school style, you can always download the PDF version of the Brussels city guide for a reduced price of $0.89.

There are several other smartphone apps for Brussels out there, many of them for free, which I posted about here and here a little while back. This latest one is a good addition to the mix!

P.S. and be sure to also check out The Spotted by Locals list of top Brussels blogs posted yesterday. Best of Brussels made the cut!

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Foodie Fridays – Brussels smartphone apps

Earlier this year I finally gave in and purchased my first iPhone. I know I’m a bit late to the game but I’m definitely making up for lost time. It’s so easy to spend way too much time Instagraming, tweeting and checking the weather forecast, but an iPhone (or other smartphone) can come in handy when you need a map to navigate the streets of Brussels or look up an address. I’ve recently discovered a couple of new apps for Brussels, some which are rather helpful for finding somewhere to eat.

I briefly wrote about the Yelp website last year went it went live on the Brussels market. Well I’ve now discovered the Yelp app and it is a good one! You can search for restaurants, bars, cafés and much more in a variety of ways – what’s nearby, per category, neighborhood or price. You can then browse location listings that have loads of details including opening hours, reviews, photos, a map and directions.

I especially like the Nearby function, which can come in pretty handy when you’re not sure what’s in the area. (I should have used this last night to pick a restaurant but instead went with a recommendation which didn’t turn out well :)) You can also try the Monocle search, which, somehow through the magic of an iPhone, can show you in a compass-like view where the closest places are and the distance to each. It lists bars, restaurants and even your friends if they’re checked-in somewhere (which I find a bit creepy).

Overall, it’s an extremely useful app, helpful for not only finding a spot for dinner or a drink, but also loads of other locations around Brussels. The listings include everything from dentists to art galleries to clothing stores. The categories are fun to browse too – who knew there were 18 pawn shops in Brussels and a Hungarian restaurant in Schaerbeek? 

There’s another new smartphone app called Brussels Close Up from travel writer Kimberley Lovato. This one’s probably more useful for tourists, but could also come in handy for locals. For eating out it isn’t as good as Yelp (the restaurant and cafe listings are a bit lacking) but does include some of the better places in Brussels. For example, the Food & Drink category for Flagey only includes Cafe Belga, Chez Marie and Mamma Roma (all good picks, but definitely not exhaustive). 

This app also has information on all sorts of locations like museums, hotels and some stores. There is a Top Attractions list which would be helpful for visitors. You can also search on the map and look at photos and reviews.

I’ll mention one more app though not related to food. 🙂 The Expats in Brussels Guide has developed a smartphone app in partnership with the Brussels-Europe Liaison Office. Free to download, the app divides information into categories, including settling, mobility, schools, shopping, socializing, services and SOS. Very helpful if you’re just moved to Brussels or are looking for the nearest bank, police station or tram stop!

Also be sure to check out my previous post on the Visit Brussels app which displays restaurants, bars, cafes and much more in a list or on a map.

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Tag Tag City

No, this is not a post about playing a game of tag with your friends. Although that might be an idea for another day… This is a post about a new smartphone service called TagTagCity that was recently launched in Brussels. Aimed at both tourists and locals, TagTagCity helps people explore Brussels and find promotions around town at the same time.

The concept relies on “tags” placed at some 600 sites in Brussels, ranging from museums and monuments to shops and restaurants, which can be scanned to find out more information about the location. The tags are QR codes that are readable with a smartphone and provide details about the site, pictures and map (similar to what you would find in a guide book), plus audio and video features for many. There are also walks outlined for different neighborhoods and themes.

To use the service, make sure you have a QR reader app installed on your smartphone and then go to the website www.tagtagcity.com for the menu of locations, walks, promotions and account information.  You can then start scanning various locations, look up places to visit and keep track of your activity. Alternatively, you can enter the short URL on each tag to access the same information.

If you don’t have a smart phone, you can buy a device called a Clickey from TagTagCity that will allow you to read the tags and upload the data for places you’ve visited to a computer. This isn’t quite as helpful as the information isn’t in real time, but is an attempt to make the service available to all.

In addition to the guide aspect of the service, TagTagCity has also teamed up with local businesses and tourist spots to offer promotions and discounts. Scanning locations will earn you “coins” that can be saved up and used for promotions like discounts at hair salons and clothing stores. You can check out the latest deals via the website, such as a free coffee when you buy a piece of quiche at Tea Me Eat Me and a discount on a bottle of wine at Oeno tk.

TagTagCity also encourages users to share their tags and travel diary with friends via social networks. There seem to be quite a few sites and businesses signed up already, with hopefully more on the way. The website is available in French, Dutch and English, but when exploring I noticed that some of the functionality didn’t always work in English and I couldn’t find where to order the Clickey device.

I’m curious to see how this works in real life so will have to get busy tagging this weekend!

P.S. If you’re interested in other digital tools to help you discover Brussels, check out my previous post here. The Bulletin magazine has also just come out with an iPad app, which allows you to read the current and past issues for free.

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Brussels online

I’ve recently come across a few new digital tools that can help navigate your way around Brussels. Here’s a quick rundown.

The website Visit Brussels has developed a free iPhone app that displays restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping and various sites on a handy map, and provides a description and contact details for each location. I sadly do not have an iPhone 😦 but have tested it out on my iPad to get a feel.

It works pretty well to highlight loads of places to eat, shops, museums, etc in the downtown area. You can search my category or clicking on Around Me and the map displays locations nearby. It’s a bit weaker for the Ixelles, EU district and south side of Brussels, but hopefully this will change as more locations are added.

Some of my favorite features are under the category Do & See, which includes a good list of markets, shops and cultural activities around town. The app is updated regularly with new info from Visit Brussels so for those of us living here its worth checking back from time to time. Available in English, French and Dutch, you can use the app both online and offline. Would make a great tool for any visitors to use!

As I’m sure many of you already discovered, Google Maps finally launched Street View for Belgium at the end of last year. Leaving aside the fact that I don’t like people looking into the front window of my house, I find Street View really helpful when searching for a new address, especially in a European city like Brussels with small medieval streets and lack of clearly marked building numbers. I’ve also used it to explore different areas to see what else might be nearby before heading out.

To demonstrate its usefulness, here is an example of a recent search for the clothing store Hunting and Collecting. The result – an empty garage opening. Need I say more? 

  

I must also add a note for visitors. The pictures were taken a few months ago and are somewhat deceivingly sunny. It may not actually look like this when you come. 🙂

Another new online tool comes from the City of Brussels. They’ve put together a map of wifi zones found in cafes, hotels, train stations, etc. You can put in your current address to search if there are any hotspots nearby. Again this works best for the city centre. Unfortunately the map doesn’t distinguish between free and paid wifi networks but at least it’s a start. After just visiting the US, I must say that Brussels does a pretty good job by comparison of offering free wifi access in loads of places like cafes and bars. Hopefully this app can help track them down.

And if you’re looking for even more helpful tools, check out the Shop in Brussels and Yelp! websites which I wrote about a while back. Just what we all need, enablers for spending money and eating more!

Does anyone know of other good sites and apps for Brussels? Share your tips by leaving a comment!

Images via Apple App Store, Google Maps and City of Brussels.

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