Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Jerusalem, but grew up in the UK, in the rainy North-East. I have always been obsessed with other cultures, cities, languages and food and travel as often as possible to satisfy my curiosity. A few years ago, I landed in Brussels, a veritable crossroads of cultures, and a modern-day Babel, where I am pursuing a PhD in comparative literature. I also work occasionally as a freelance tour guide in various European countries and write about urbanism and architecture online. My other interests include cinema, theatre, photography and ecology.
How do you like being a Spotter?
Being a Spotter is a lot of fun. I’m naturally curious about the city and always have new recommendations and tips to share with my friends. Writing for Spotted by Locals allows me to share these with more people and encourages me to keep exploring. Recently, a friend of mine was told to visit a new restaurant by a colleague, who said she found it on Spotted by Locals, recommended by a guy called Nettah. My friend laughed and said ‘I know him!’
Brussels is great because it doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. The people are laid back and totally unpretentious. The slight cultural rivalry between the Francophones and the Flemish also means there is way more culture happening than would be expected for a city this size. When visiting Brussels, you must try a Zinnebir in a local bar and visit an evening street market in one of the 19th century neighbourhoods surrounding the centre. Don’t bother with the Manneken-Pis: you’ll just be disappointed that it’s small and surrounded by second-rate chocolate shops.
Which prejudices about Brussels are true? Which ones are not?
It’s true that Brussels can be quite dirty and a little chaotic. It’s also absolutely true that the European Quarter is monotonous and soul-destroying. The old cliché, though, that Brussels is a boring city couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always so much going on, a young and diverse population, and the chaos, although frustrating at times, is anything but boring.
What is the most popular neighbourhood to live in Brussels at this moment?
St Gilles is definitely the most popular neighbourhood in Brussels right now, at least for young people. It is slightly run-down, in a bohemian way, which makes the rents a little cheaper, and it is very close to the historic centre. It has a few beautiful squares, filled with amazing bars and cafés and there is always a live concert or a vernissage taking place somewhere, because the neighbourhood is very popular with artists and musicians. St Gilles has street after street of beautiful fin-de-siècle apartment buildings and pocket parks and is home to one of my favourite old-time cafés: Brasserie Verschueren (pictured below).
Is there something else you want to share?
Brussels is a fantastic place to understand the development of European architecture. Almost every style is represented and the city really peels away chronologically like an onion. You can see the development of the city in concentric rings, starting from the medieval Grand Place in the centre, until you reach the outer suburbs of the postwar period. It’s fascinating.