Lille is a quaint relaxed city in the far northern tip of France in the region Nord-Pas de Calais.
Though it is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, he city is not a typical traveler’s destination, but is rather a junction of sorts for those transiting between London, Paris, and Brussels. Lille’s appeal is often understated. The city is the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle and is home to a number of worthwhile museums, countless examples of beautiful architecture, as well as great cafes and restaurants offering a fusion of French and Flemish tastes. Lille is the perfect one of two day destination. Here are a few places and events that you must check out if you make it to this charming city.
Lille’s Grande Place
The city’s central meeting point is the Grande Place, also known as the Place Charles de Gaulle. This busy hub is a popular meeting point and a great place to go shopping, sip an espresso, or browse for books at the Voix du Nord bookstore.
The Palais des Beaux-Arts is one of the largest fine arts museums in the country. It houses a large permanent collection and features a variety of unique temporary collections. La Piscine Museum is a truly unique setting for a museum; a renovated indoor swimming pool. The museum, situated in Roubaix just outside of Lille, can be reached by taking the metro. It features a collection of 19th and early 20th century paintings as well as other textiles from the time period.
Lille’s Braderie Festival
The biggest draw for tourist to Lille is the city’s annual Braderie, a citywide flea market held in the month of September. During the Braderie vendors selling arts, crafts, clothing, and food items as well as those with any type of used knick-knack imaginable set up shop on the side walks. Concerts take place daily during the Braderie and the city puts on a number of other unique performances from dance to theater. One thing that will certainly catch your eye during the Braderie is huge piles of mussel shells that are piles up outside restaurants. Each restaurant features Lille’s favorite meal Moules Frites (mussels and fries) during this festival. The discarded mussel shells are piles in the street next to the restaurant as a sort of competition to see which restaurant can draw the most customers.
Lille’s Old Town
Going on foot is the best way to see Lille. From the Grande Place you can take a walk towards the Vieille Ville, the older part of the city, which makes you feel like you have stepped back in time. In Vieille Ville you are surrounded by well preserved Flemish style buildings and the streets are made of cobblestone. Another great walking destination is the Vauban Citadel which dates back to 1668. Take a stroll on the path around the citadel which is also used by runners and as a dog walk. After Mussel shells piling up during Lille’s Braderie exploring the citadel you can relax on the green grass of Vauban Park.
Lille is one of the best connected cities in Europe.
It has quick access to London via the Eurostar and frequent TGV (express) trains to Paris. Plus you can easily catch a train to Brussels and a number of other Belgian towns like Ghent and Bruges. Lille can easily be visited as a day trip but two days will give you more time to really explore this charismatic city.
Top 5 Hotels in Lille
- Grand Hotel Bellevue – 3-star hotel – double room from €119
- Suitehotel Lille Europe - 3-star hotel – double room from €102
- Hotel Alliance Lille – 4-star hotel – double room from €182
- Hotel L’Hermitage Gantois – luxury hotel – double room from €168
- Express by Holiday Inn Lille Centre – 3-star hotel – double room from €90
Photo of Lille, France, by Bebo