Explore Lille, France
Lille is a medium-sized city in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of northern France with a very large student population. This city has a strong industrial background, but, after some difficult years, it is now known throughout France for its handsome city centre and its very active cultural life.
Explore Lille, France’s fifth largest metropolitan area and fourth urban area. It is located to the country’s north, on the Deûle River, near the border with Belgium. The whole metropolitan area of Lille, both on French and Belgian territory (Courtray, Tournai) was estimated in 2007 at around 1,885,000 inhabitants, ranking as one of the major metropolitan areas of Europe.
Most visitors will probably arrive by train due to the major international railway hub situated there. It is possible to land at the Charles de Gaulle Paris airport and then continue by train for about an hour. From Ryanair’s Paris airport (Beauvais), there is no train connection at all and the only bus is back to Paris itself. The Flibco Company also operates a direct coach connecting central Lille and Brussels South Charleroi Airport in 90 minutes.
The Lille Lesquin International Airport is small but convenient for entering Lille or travelling on to nearby areas across the border in Belgium. Both major and budget airlines operate scheduled services. Unlike larger airports there is hardly any walking as the check-ins are directly inside the entrance and the security gates are directly behind the check-ins. However, there may be a walk from the gate area to the airplane if it is parked on the taxiway rather than at a jet way. A direct coach connects to central Lille (stops outside the main railway station) in 20 minutes, and runs once an hour costing 7 Euros (return ticket is 9 Euros). A taxi would cost about 20-30 Euros.
Lille has two automated subway lines that connect the centre of the city with several suburbs. It also has many bus routes that go throughout the city and two tram routes that go to Roubaix and Tourcoing, which are other important cities of the region.
Lille has a very nice city centre, excellently suited for a city trip. Most of the sights can be combined in a walking tour.
What to see. Best top attractions in Lille, France.
- La Vieille Bourse (1653). Right between two picturesque squares, Place du Général-de-Gaulle and Place du Théâtre, this former commercial exchange still plays a central part in the life of the city. You may find booksellers and flower markets in the inner court.
- The main square, Place du Général-de-Gaulle, better known as the “Grand Place”, has many lovely historic houses, like the neo-Flemish headquarters of local newspaper La Voix du Nord, and a fountain with the statue of a goddess, “la Grande Déesse” (1843).
- Place Rihour, surrounded by restaurants, houses the tourist information centre inside its main attraction, the Palais Rihour(1453).
- The town hall is worth a look and can be combined nicely with a visit to the Porte de Paris(1692).
- The Opera (1923)and the Chamber of Commerce (1921) are located close together and offer magnificent sights, especially when lit-up at night.
- Take a stroll through the old quarter of the city, known as Vieux Lille, and enjoy the quiet, cobble-stone streets, the variety of stylish designer shops, gourmet restaurants, and the modern Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille. More notable streets like Rue de la Monnaieand Rue Esquermoise are definitely worth the trip.
- A bit farther from the city centre is la Citadelle, an interesting example of defensive military architecture, built by Vauban, a famous French military architect, under the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. In the same area is a zoo (free of charge) and a lovely park.
- Musée des Beaux-Arts, a famed museum covering European art from 15th – 20th century.
- Museum of Natural History, a large collection of stuffed mammals, insects, fossils, etc.
- Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse, a former hospital now presenting art.
- Musée d’Art et d’ Industrie de Roubaix : La Piscine, a 20th century art museum hosted in a beautiful “Art déco” (start of 20th century) former swimming pool.
- LAM – Lille Art Modern Museum, modern art, outsider art, contemporary art.
- annual Christmas Market (on Place Rihour, opposite the tourist office) is a must for visitors. From mid-November till a few days after Christmas, check for opening days and times.
- The open market, Marché de Wazemmes, is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning, but the busiest day is definitely Sunday. Vendors sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, books and stationery, suitcases and shoes, even perfume and undergarments! Be sure to pick up a bag of fresh clementines, a bright bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, some rotisserie chicken and roast potatoes for lunch, and a glass of beer at one of many little pubs surrounding the market.
- La Braderieis an annual street fair held every September, for which millions of people come to Lille. You will find everything: paintings, antiques, ornaments, furniture. Inhabitants are partying, eating mussels with French fries and drinking, in a very fun atmosphere.
- Once a month, there’s a big reggae event in Wazemmes’called Chalice Sound System
- Go for a drink in style at the Hermitage Bar, in the Hermitage Gantois luxury hotel. The place is open to the general public providing you’re dressed and behaving appropriately, and is one of the most refined spots to enjoy a drink in Lille (priced accordingly). The hotel also hosts art exhibitions that you can enjoy free of charge.
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- The pedestrian streets just past Grand Place (rue de Béthune, rue Neuve, Rue du Sec Arembault, rue des Tanneurs, etc.) offer popular clothing chain stores such as Etam, Pimkie, Zara, H&M, Sinéquanone, as well as small pubs, restaurants, and two (huge) movie theatres. Some of the buildings that house these stores have beautiful 30’s-40’s architecture.
- Euralilleis Lille’s largest shopping centre and offers popular clothing chains, as well as the Carrefour hypermarket. Situated between the two train stations, Gare Lille Flandres and Gare Lille Europe, and right in the heart of the city near dozens of hotels, Euralille is easily accessible to travellers coming into the city.
- Le Furet du Nord(Place du Général de Gaulle) is the largest bookstore in Europe, it appears to be one of the most touristic “monuments” in the city. It has 8 floors and offers more than 420,000 titles.
- There are dozens of upscale boutiques (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Hugo Boss, Kenzo) and trendier, independent stores located in Vieux Lille.
Food lovers would definitely be recommended to visit Lille. There are hundreds of little patisseries selling a large variety of cakes. The city also has a number of chocolate shops, such as Guillaume Vincent (12 Rue du Cure Saint Etienne), which sells exquisitely decorated chocolates which, judging from their taste, must have about 90% cocoa solids.
Delicious stuffed waffles are to be enjoyed at Meert (a remarkably beautiful patisserie) on the Rue Esquermoise right next to the Grand-Place (place du Général de Gaulle) (Station: Rihour on Line 1), as well as at the new location at the Piscine (Museum of Arts and Industry) of Roubaix (Station : Gare Jean Lebas on Line 2)
Lille has a below-average rate of aggravated assaults for a European city.
Once in Lille you must visit Courtray. It’s a Belgian city close to the French border, part of the metropolitan area of Lille, easily reachable by train.
Official tourism websites of Lille
For more information please visit the official government website: