Lille

A university city full of life, Lille boasts a historic centre of incredible architectural beauty, a world-class museum scene and many hidden corners.
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Lille enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of major European cities such as Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and London.

It is internationally famous for the Braderie, the largest flea market, which is organised every year in September. But this French city, just a stone’s throw from the Belgian border, is worth a visit for many other reasons: its history, its cultural heritage, its enchanting architecture, its out-of-the-ordinary atmosphere and its inimitable welcome.

Things to do in Lille

Lille is the capital of Haute-France: it is a university city full of cultural and artistic ferment, very welcoming and lively, full of bars and restaurants. With its picturesque alleyways, Flemish architecture and historical panorama, it is a city to be discovered without haste, blending in with the locals.

The bell tower of the Hôtel de Ville

1Pl. Simon Vollant, 59000 Lille, Francia

The bell tower of the Hôtel de Ville dominates Lille from a height of 104 metres: it is one of the city’s most beautiful monuments, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the tallest civil bell tower in Europe and once you have tackled the first 100 steps, all you have to do is take a lift to its top to admire Lille and its surroundings from above with a 360° view. Indeed, on a clear day you can see the Lys valley and even the mountains of Flanders.

The bell tower is not only considered a symbol of freedom for all the communes of Haute-France, but also a landmark of the city. Built between the two wars, the town hall combines both traditional Flemish architecture and a modern material, reinforced concrete.

Grand Place and The Old Stock Exchange

2Pl. du Général de Gaulle, 59800 Lille, Francia

At the heart of the city is the Grand Place, also known as the Place du General de Gaulle, which was created in Lille in 1890.

A meeting point for all Lille residents, it is dominated by four statues of women: the Goddess in the centre, commemorating the siege of Lille by the Austrians in 1792, and the three Graces, crowning the Voix du Nord building. The statues represent the three provinces of the region: Artois, Flanders and Hainaut.

The Grand’Place, founded in the Middle Ages, is dedicated to trade, of which the Old Stock Exchange remains the sumptuous symbol. During the Christmas period, the huge Ferris wheel and a handicrafts market are installed here, while during the rest of the year it is a meeting place for the inhabitants of Lille. Its 10,000 square metres are surrounded by terraces, bars and bistros where you can relax and admire the cityscape.

The Old Stock Exchange

Located between the Grand’Place and the Place du Théâtre, the Vieille Bourse is a set of buildings in the Flemish Renaissance style. This monument was built at the request of the region’s wealthy merchants in 1652. Its small inner courtyard, surrounded by four gates and 24 identical residences, is a place lived in by the local population, where you can find a second-hand book market, flower vendor stalls and tables for playing chess.

Your gaze will be drawn to theinfinite variety of caryatids adorning the pillars. The same opulence can be found in the decoration of the windows, with sometimes curved or triangular tympanums, adorned with vines, garlands and fleshy fruits, in the Flemish Renaissance style. The Flanders lions carved on the portals recall Lille’s belonging to the Netherlands.

On gentle summer evenings, tango and salsa lessons are sometimes organised in the courtyard.

Palace of Fine Arts

3Pl. de la République, 59000 Lille, Francia

With its many prestigious paintings in a luxurious Belle Époque-style building from 1892, the Museum of Fine Arts is considered one of the richest museums in France. Strolling through the corridors of this superb 19th-century building, you can admire vast collections of European works, especially Flemish and Dutch: Rubens, Goya, Delacroix, Courbet, but also Rodin and Claudel are some of the great artists exhibited in the permanent collection.

Also on display are 17th- and 18th-century ceramics, a department dedicated to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a large collection of drawings, including 40 sketches by Raphael, and relief maps of some fifteen towns fortified by Vauban in northern France and Belgium.

Vieux-Lille

4Vieux-Lille, Lille, Francia

Le Vieux-Lille is a historic district located to the north of the city and is part of one of its 12 districts. It is the most charming and richest place in Lille and still retains many cobbled streets, bordered by magnificent buildings with Flemish architecture , stretching for almost 2 km, preserving traces of the canals that crossed the city in previous centuries.

Its brick and stone façades testify to the city’s past, from the 14th to the 20th century. Vieux-Lille is a popular district not only for tourists but especially among the people: it is full of art galleries, small boutiques and luxury shops, as well as famous cafés, bars and restaurants.

Marché de Wazemmes

5Pl. Nouvelle Aventure, 59000 Lille, Francia

Wazemmes is a lively district of Lille and people come here every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning to visit its famous, popular and colourful market, housed in a large red brick building, a classic example of northern French architecture.

Although it is one of the busiest markets in Lille, it is one of the top experiences to have in the city: you will be intoxicated by the colours and scents of local and exotic produce in a fabulous array of fresh fruit, meats, cold meats and cheeses. You can sample the best of local gastronomy at the street food stalls: don’t miss the tarte au maroilles, a savoury cheese tart, and the vanilla, caramel, praline, chestnut and raspberry waffles .

The Wazemmes market is renowned for its conviviality and is a must during a stay in Lille to enjoy a wonderful folk atmosphere. It is also home to a haberdashery of yesteryear: metres and metres of fabrics, hundreds of buttons and all kinds of trimmings.

The Citadel of Lille

6Avenue du 43e régiment d'infanterie, 59800 Lille, Francia

Hidden in the greenery of its park, the Citadel of Lille was built by Vauban, on the orders of Louis XIV, to protect the city after its conquest. It was originally a small town surrounded by five bastions, forming a star, with a circumvolution of 2,200 metres. Sixty million bricks had to be fired to build it, three million stone blocks had to be extracted from the quarries and seventy thousand feet of sandstone had to be quarried.

The royal entrance gate bears a Latin inscription, a true praise to the glory of the Sun King. The Citadel was part of a double line of strongholds between Gravelines, Dunkirk and Maubeuge/Rocroi. It was the famous Pré Carré, designed by Vauban, which included 28 fortified towns.

On sunny days, it is a favourite place for Lille residents to stroll. In fact, the Citadel Park is the largest green space in the city, rich in activities, both sporting and cultural, thanks to the enhancement of its historical and natural heritage. It is surrounded by a large forest, crossed by the River Deûle and its canals. The place is popular with families for the presence of a zoo and a mini amusement park for the little ones.

Rue de Béthune

7Rue de Béthune, 59800 Lille, Francia

For those who want to go shopping, the best place is undoubtedly Rue de Béthune: this pedestrian street is a long succession of shops, patisseries and street stalls.

It is an extremely commercial artery linking rue du Sec-Arembault, rue Neuve and rue des Tanneurs to place de Béthune and rue de l’Hôpital-Militaire. Devastated by World War II bombings, it was extensively rebuilt and now houses some fifty shops of all kinds, as well as a large number of restaurants on the Place de Béthune side.

The cathedral of Lille

8Pl. Gilleson, 59800 Lille, Francia

It is called La Treille, the cathedral of the Archbishop of Lille, and has a singular history behind it. Although the plan for its construction, presented in 1853, was grandiose and had the ambition of donating an immense religious structure to the city, it was never realised and a much more modest construction was preferred.

The church was only completed in the 1990s, with the realisation of the façade, which is why there is a marked difference in style between the latter and other parts of the church.

Passage des Trois Anguilles

9Pass. des Trois Anguilles, 59800 Lille, Francia

In the heart of old Lille, there is a small secret passage, the narrowest alley in the city. Located at 22 rue Voltaire, this passage joins rue Négrier. The street is more than 100 metres long and only 1 metre 20 cm wide.

This alley has a rather unknown origin. It was certainly created during Vauban’s expansion of the city after the Sun King’s reconquest of Lille. It is assumed that there were many other passages like this in the city before, but that they disappeared after urban redevelopment. In those days, the inhabitants of the district had to close the doors of the passage in the evening and reopen them in the morning.

Today it is one of the most picturesque places to take original photos in Lille.

Maison haute

1010 Pl. de Gand, 59800 Lille, Francia

Another rather special place is the Maison Haute. It is visible because of its height that breaks the line of the buildings but few people spot it. Yet it surpasses all the other houses in rue de Gand in height.

Witnessing the lack of space experienced by Lille during its development, this maison represents the desire to occupy as much space as possible for the construction of houses, even if this meant constructing eccentric and oblique buildings.

Maison Coilliot

1114 Rue de Fleurus, 59000 Lille, Francia

Located on rue du Fleurus, not far from the République-Beaux-Arts metro station, Maison Coilliot is an Art Nouveau house designed by Hector Guimard. The house was built with freestone, brick, wrought iron and ceramics. Today it consists of a shop on the ground floor and accommodation on three levels on the first floor. Built on a sloping terrain, it has an asymmetrical double façade.

Besides its beautiful exterior, the interior is also worth seeing: the atrium is a masterpiece by Guimard, whose signature is on the entrance door.

Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse

1232 Rue de la Monnaie, 59800 Lille, Francia

As its name suggests, the Comtesse Hospice is a former hospital dating back to medieval times. Founded by Countess Joan of Flanders in her palace in 1237, it housed patients until 1939.

Located in the Old Lille district, the Hospice Comtesse today houses a municipal museum of ethnography and folklore. You will also discover a 17th- and 18th-century Flemish house, art collections in the former nuns’ dormitory, as well as the 15th-century ‘sick room’, where exhibitions are now regularly organised.

Quai du Wault

13Quai du Wault, 59800 Lille, Francia

The Quai du Wault is located between Vieux-Lille, Rihour and the Esplanade: it is one of the two ancient ports of the city and its basin is still full of water. It is located in the city’s new golden triangle, a stone’s throw from the citadel and not far from the Grand-Place and its shops.

For the best photographs, come on a summer evening to capture the sunsets over the houses on the Quai du Wault.

Redeveloped areas

Lille has an industrial past behind it, particularly in the coal, textile and steel sectors. But in the last century it has become a land of culture, so much so that it was named European Capital of Culture in 2004. The city has evolved over time, giving a second artistic and cultural life to many industrial sites.

One of the most successful urban redevelopment operations is certainly Le Tripostal14, a former mail sorting building transformed into a contemporary art exhibition hall and performance hall.

Even more original is the transformation of Gare Saint Sauveur15. Located on boulevard Jean Baptiste Lebas, the former Lille-Saint-Sauveur station, used as a freight yard, has become a cultural space, with temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, events, concerts and performances.

Finally, Maison Folie Wazemmes16 is a former textile factory converted into a place of culture and exchange, with the ambition of highlighting popular cultures.

Street Art in Lille

In recent years, the city of Lille has discovered a lively cultural ferment, which soon began to express itself through street art. The area where you will find the highest concentration of murals is the Saint-Sauveur station district, next to Boulevard Jean-Baptiste Lebas17.

Local and international artists meet regularly to ‘change the dress’ of the streets of Lille: for up-to-date maps with the works in the city, you can contact the Collectif Renart, composed of painters, teachers and popular education activists.

Map

In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article

Lille Flea Market

Mountains of mussels during the flea market

The Braderie de Lille is Europe’s largest and most famous flea market: every year, during the first weekend in September, more than two million visitors of all nationalities wander the streets of the city in search of bargains. Everything can be bought and everything can be sold: the exhibitors wind their way along 100 km of pavements.

There are around 10,000 exhibitors of all kinds: local traders, antique dealers, professional junk dealers, private individuals and restaurateurs, particularly along the Boulevards de la Liberté and Louis XIV. The Braderie de Lille is divided into different sectors: the small avenues host traders of second-hand objects such as small antiques, records, books and brocantage, while the large avenues welcome antiques, handicrafts and ethnic works, as well as the creations of artists and craftsmen.

For two days and nights, the city of Lille is in turmoil. In fact, events are organised all over the city: street performers, concerts, exhibitions, a joust, a half-marathon and even more buzzing movida throughout the weekend, not to mention mussels and chips tasting.

Incredible as it may seem, over 500 tonnes of mussels are consumed by visitors during the two days of the big flea market and the shells are piled in mountains on street corners.

Where to stay in Lille

Lille is a city of just over 230,000 inhabitants, nicknamed the capital of Flanders, due to its cultural affiliation with the historical region of Romanesque Flanders in the 17th century.

Today, it is a dynamic university city, enriched by the charm of its historic centre, with a relaxed lifestyle and characterised by the kindness of its inhabitants. For all these reasons, Lille has recently appeared at the top of the list of France’s coolest cities.

With its network of picturesque alleyways, the historical heart of Lille is perfect for experiencing the beating heart of the city. In fact, just a few steps away, you will find the Grand Place de Lille, with its terraces and numerous cafés, the place where all Lille residents meet, day and night. Sleeping in Vieux-Lille is an ideal choice for those who want to get around on foot and have everything at their fingertips.

Not to be confused with Vielle Lille, the city centre is the most populated district: it is a very young, dynamic area that welcomes students and young workers. Those who decide to stay here will find plenty to do among the shops, cinemas and clubs. It is also home to some cultural treasures such as the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Place de l’Hôtel de Ville and its famous Bell Tower.

A well-known business district, Euralille is the third largest in France after La Défense in Paris and La Part-Dieu in Lyon. Close to two railway stations, it can be a good choice for accommodation in an area that is well served by transport, quiet, with modern, inexpensive hotels and served by shops, restaurants and bars.

Located close to the city centre, the Bois-Blancs neighbourhood benefits from a young and lively atmosphere, favoured by the presence of the EuraTechnologies park, home to many start-ups: it has become an important hub of the city’s economy and is a modern neighbourhood with large green spaces and great dynamism.

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How to get to Lille

The most convenient stopover is Lille Airport. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the many direct flights that land at Paris Orly Airport, Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport or Paris Beauvais Airport and from there continue using the TGV network that will take you to Lille-Europe Station or rent a car directly at the airport to explore Northern France.

Lille Weather

What's the weather at Lille? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Lille for the next few days.

Friday 14
11°
19°
Saturday 15
11°
19°
Sunday 16
11°
20°
Monday 17
15°
20°
Tuesday 18
13°
23°
Wednesday 19
13°
21°

Where is located Lille

Lille is the capital of Upper France and is very close to the Belgian border, only 20 km away.

Insights on Lille

Flights to Lille

Flights to Lille

Lille Airport

Lille Airport

How to save on transport and entrance fees

City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.

Lille: 24, 48 or 72-Hour City Pass
Lille: 24, 48 or 72-Hour City Pass
The Lille City Pass is the answer to all your visiting needs, whether you're staying for 24 hours or 48 hours. Entrance to museums, tourist sites and attractions, and public transportation are all included: take it easy!
From 30,00 €

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