Urban race brings all-female, no-prisoners concept to Brussels

Summary

Pop in the City, the urban race that combines sightseeing off the beaten path with thrill-seeking adventures, is coming to the capital this autumn

It takes two to city-trip

Sevenhundred women, 25 challenges, eight hours and one city – those in a nutshell are the quintessential ingredients of Pop in the City, the urban race that sends female duos into cities for a day of unconventional exploring.

“We like to call it experimental tourism,” says Clementine Charles, one of three French co-founders of Pop in the City. “We’ve all travelled a lot and found it difficult to interact with locals or do stuff that’s off the beaten tourist track. Pop in the City allows all participants to discover a city in a different way.”

This September, Pop in the City and the attendant participants will land in Brussels. The upcoming race will mark both the ninth edition of the event and the first time it will take place in a capital. “Brussels is a very interesting city; it’s the capital of Europe, yet relatively unknown,” Charles says. “It’s easily accessible, too, which is important as the contestants are responsible for their own travel arrangements to the event.”

While you might prefer to stroll casually through a city’s historic centre, time is money in Pop in the City. It is a race – technically at least.

Participants typically gather at 9.00, don the event’s bright orange T-shirts and receive a roadmap with 25 riddles that lead to locations where they can discover or experience something new. “There’s no particular order in following the map, and they can ask locals for help,” explains Charles. “The duo that finishes the most challenges wins.”

It can sound a bit daunting in print. “We do want to surprise people – in a good way,” Charles laughs. “That’s why we ask women to register in pairs, because together they feel less timid. The teams help and even befriend each other, so there’s not really a competitive vibe.” 

Fire-fighter for the day

Some 270 women signed up for the first-ever edition of Pop in the City in Porto back in 2012. The winners were treated to a helicopter tour over the city. “We always link the challenges and the prize to the city,” Charles explains and reveals that one challenge in the Brussels’ edition will involve chocolate and another a death ride from the Atomium. 

In Aix-en-Provence, we got to extinguish a fire with the local fire brigade

- Three-time participant Marlène Coornaert

Though it is still months away, tickets to the Brussels race on 26 September have already sold out. The organisers reserved one-third of them for Belgian duos; the other tickets were bought by women from France, Switzerland, Italy, England and even the US.

Marlène Coornaert, from Brussels, is one of those lucky ticketholders. “It will be my third time in Pop in the City,” she says. “I was intrigued by the event after watching the video from a previous edition on Facebook and convinced my friend to join me in the race in Aix-en-Provence in 2013. Last year, I participated in Nice as well.”

At €195 per person, the tickets don’t come cheap (the price covers the cost of the race and a dinner). “The event is meticulously organised, and some of the challenges are just priceless,” Coornaert says. “In Aix-en-Provence, we got to extinguish a fire with the local fire brigade. The evening dinner was at their station as well; it was such a great experience.”

Organisers are still looking for volunteers who can lend a helping hand on the day, and that’s open to both women and men.

Photo: Participants at the at Nice edition of Pop in the City last year
© Courtesy Pop in the City

Tourism in Flanders

The majority of tourists visit Flanders from neighbouring countries like the Netherlands, the UK, France and Germany. The main destinations are the coast and the Flemish art cities.
West Flanders - West Flanders is the number-one destination for tourism in Flanders, including for residents living in the region. Visitors are flocking to the province for several reasons: The long coastline, the historical city of Bruges and the First World War memorial sites.
Art cities - The most popular tourist cities in Flanders are known as the “art cities”, which include Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Mechelen and Leuven. The most-visited city is Brussels, followed by Bruges. Other popular Flemish regions include the fruit-growing area of Haspengouw and the pastoral Maasland along the eastern border of Flanders.
World heritage - Flanders has five listings in Unesco's list of protected world heritage, including a series of 26 belfries and the entire historical city centre of Bruges.
5

percentage of local jobs in tourism

98

average amount spent per day by a tourist in euros

21 785 600

Number of tourists who visited Flanders in 2016