Next time you travel to France, venture just an hour north of Paris to the city of Lille. Formerly the European Capital of Culture, this city is known for its fascinating history, bustling art scene, and incredible architecture. Whether you’re visiting for a week or a day, make sure these places are on your itinerary.
Things to Do:
Start your day off in the center of the Grand Place, the Lillois’ favorite meeting spot, to admire the Ville Bourse (Old Stock Exchange). The building, reminiscent of seventeenth-century architecture, is made up of twenty four-houses that surround an arched courtyard. Here, you can find a second-hand book market, people playing chess, and even a tango demonstration if you visit in the summer. Place Charles de Gaulle, 59000
Palais des Beaux-Arts
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The museum’s architecture, typical of that of the late 19th century, is a work of art by itself. Take some pictures of the gorgeous exterior, then step inside to see the works of Goya, Rubens, Monet, and Rodin. Palais Des Beaux Arts is the second largest general-interest museum in France, so if you’ve already conquered the Louvre—make this your next challenge. 18 Bis Rue de Valmy, 59000
Lille Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art (LaM)
If you’re more of a modern art kind of person, there’s a museum for that, too. The LaM holds over 4,500 exceptional works from the 20th and 21st centuries. Allow yourself to be amazed by the work of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Klee, Aloïse Corbaz, and Augustin Lesage, just to name a few. After exploring the museum, take a breather in the serene sculpture park just outside. Allée du Musée, 59650
Stop at one of the largest markets in France. Here, you’ll find a variety of flowers, foods, fabrics, and exotic products you didn’t know you needed. Try to come on a Sunday when the market is liveliest to hear locals playing music nearby. Place Nouvelle Aventure, 59000
Places to See:
Belfry of the town hall
Take a picture of the Belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an architectural symbol in the Northern region. After admiring all of its 341-foot glory, take a flight of stairs to the elevator (or take the stairs, if you’re ambitious), up to the top for a beautiful 360-degree view of the city. We guarantee you’ll be breathless.
The House of Charles De Gaulle
See the birthplace and childhood home of one of France’s most influential figures—Charles De Gaulle. Located on Rue Princess, his house has been turned into a museum and is listed as a Historic Monument. 9 Rue Princesse, 59000
Admire the unique architecture of the Lille Cathedral, or Lille Notre-Dame de la Treille. A mix between gothic traditions and contemporary art, the cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Place Gilleson, 59800
What (and Where) to Eat:
Carbonnade at Au Vieux de la Vielle Lille
Forget what you know about typical French cuisine and try the Belgian and Flemish influenced dishes of Northern France. Start off with the traditional Flemish dish carbonnade, a very tender beef stew cooked in beer for hours, typically accompanied by a side of french fries. It’s a favorite amongst locals for a reason.
You can try it at Estaminet Au Vieux de la Ville, a restaurant specializing in Northern France cuisine. 2 Rue des Vieux Murs, 59000
Vieux Lille Cheese at Phillipe Olivier Fromagerie
Do as the French do and cleanse your palette with cheese after your meal. Try the regional “Puant de Lille” (Puant meaning strong smelling). It’s a ripened Maroilles soaked for three months in brine, which gives it that distinct, salty taste. Many people claim it’s the stinkiest cheese they’ve ever had. Don’t let that discourage you, it’s supposedly delicious — just don’t eat it on the Metro if you want to avoid glares.
Try some at Philippe Olivier Fromagerie, a family owned cheese-shop where cheese is considered art. 43, rue Thiers – 62200
Merveilleux at Aux Merveilleux de Fred
A Lille specialty, merveilleux is the perfect choice for dessert. Merveilleux is two meringues sandwiched together with whipped cream, coated with even more whipped cream, and dusted with chocolate shavings. Eat as many as you want, because you’re in Lille, and they’re fantastic.
Try a few at Aux Merveilleux de Fred, a pastry shop dedicated to these delicious treats. There will probably be a line, but trust us, it’s worth it. 67 rue de la Monnaie, 59800
Where to Drink:
Craft Beer at La Capsule
Wind down at La Capsule, a small hidden gem for beer-lovers. With 26 craft beers on tap as well as rare bottled beers, everyone is sure to find the brew of their dreams. Known for the friendliness of its staff and its cozy atmosphere, La Capsule is the ideal way to end your day in Lille. 25 Rue des Trois Mollettes, 59800
If you value presentation, head to Le Dandy, where cocktails are an artform. Known for their creative concoctions and their attention to detail, your time at Le Dandy will be unforgettable—no matter how many cocktails you drink. 67 Rue Basse, 59800
Places to Stay:
The Clarance Hotel – a 5-star boutique hotel located at the heart of Vieux Lille (32 Rue de la Barre, 59800; Tel:+33 3 59 36 35 59)
Villa Gounad – an affordable, charming hotel conveniently in the center of Lille near public transportation. (2 Rue Gounod, 59800; Tel: +33 3 20 31 31 07)