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Set in northern France, Lille is a large, thriving city that beautifully blends ornamental Baroque architecture, cobbled market streets and glitzy modern buildings, creating an urban area that is ideal for an inspirational and endlessly intriguing European getaway. The city centre sings with the bright reds, whites and oranges of grand palaces, citadels and halls. The sprawling streets are strung with fine-dining restaurants, museums, fabulous clothing boutiques, and old-world tree-lined squares that boast a cool café culture.

Things to see

Start your sunny Lille day by strolling around the Grand Place. This vast central square showcases a unique mix of architecture, where Flemish and Baroque influences create a dazzling array of bright colours. Visit the Vielle Bourse, Lille’s old stock exchange, a grand and ornately decorated 17th century building where garlands and cherubs line the epic facade. After, walk across the square - past The Goodness, a majestic statue stood atop a mighty blue column - to Le Furet du Nord, one of the largest bookshops in Europe. Browse the endless shelves of rare and antiquarian books, before taking a tranquil stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, a large botanical garden of sweet-scented roses, opulent orangeries and delicate dahlias. As the evening draws in, head to the Place Rihour, a relaxed neighbourhood with an abundance of fine-dining restaurants, where you can enjoy a creme brulée beside the 15th century Palace Rihour.

Hotels in Lille

Immerse yourself in the splendour of Lille’s affluent architectural heritage by staying in one of the centrally located 5-star historic hotels. Set in centuries-old buildings, these hotels maintain refined interiors, where portrait-clad hallways lead to enormous rooms complete with gold-framed mirrors, king-size beds and antique writing desks. If you prefer a sleek, contemporary design, many modern 4-star high-rise hotels offer attentive service, luxurious in-house dining and elegant bar lounges. For inexpensive accommodation, 2-star hotels in Lille provide comfy, understated and centrally located rooms, complete with picturesque views across the colourful skyline.

Where to stay

Stay in central Lille for the best of the city’s modern and historic sights. Central Lille borders the old quarter - near the enticing grandiosity of Grand Place - but also puts you within walking distance of Lille’s museum and gallery district, where fine decorative paintings are offset by inspirational contemporary art. For a true taste of local Lille, stay further in the old quarter - known as Vieux Lille - where bijou clothing boutiques lead to less tourist-heavy historical relics, from tiny churches to endless tree-washed cemeteries. For an offbeat youthful holiday, stay east of the centre, near Lille’s university of modern art.

How to get to Lille

Lille is located on the Eurostar train line. Enjoy the idyllic romance of international train travel by catching a train from London St Pancras, and race through the channel tunnel and northern France’s rural fields, arriving in Lille less than 2 hours later. Travelling by plane is equally favourable, with the nearby Lille Lesquin International Airport offering regular flights to many top European destinations, including Heathrow and Gatwick. From there, hop on an affordable coach, which will see you in central Lille in 20 minutes. Once in the city, the most popular areas are connected by a reliable subway system.

When are the best times to travel to Lille?

Lille enjoys the temperate climate of northern France, which means that the winters tend to be mild with rain and only occasional snow, while the summers are warm but not stiflingly so. Summer sees the highest number of tourists, and hotels in Lille can be heavily booked, so advance planning and reservations are recommended. Spring and autumn are good times to visit if you want reasonable weather and cheaper hotel deals.

What are the top must-see attractions in Lille?

Vieux Lille, the city’s Medieval centre, has elegant, lovingly preserved town houses in the Flemish style, paved streets and attractive squares with pavement cafes. The Place du Général de Gaulle, at the heart of the city, is an expansive plaza surrounded by handsome buildings from the 17th to the 20th century, with the 1653 Old Stock Exchange, an outstanding example of ornate Flemish architecture. The 1670 Citadelle is a massive fortress laid out in a star configuration with well over a mile of brick-built ramparts surrounding it.

What are the best types of food and restaurants in Lille?

With its proximity to the Belgian border, the traditional cuisine of Lille is a Franco-Flemish fusion. Dishes like mussels with frites, served with ice-cold beer, rabbit stew with prunes and savoury tarts are to be found in restaurants throughout the city. Set in an elegant redbrick and glass building from the 19th century, the Halle de Wazemmes is a huge covered market where you can buy a multitude of cheeses, fresh produce and charcuterie.

What are the top things to do in Lille?

Set in a Belle Époque-style late 19th-century building with a stunning glass fronted modern extension, the Palais des Beaux-Arts exhibits paintings by the likes of Rubens, Goya and Picasso. For some intriguing applied and fine art exhibits, visit La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie. Unusually, it’s set in a splendid former public swimming pool built in flamboyant Art Deco style in the 1920s. The gorgeous Jardin Vauban, meanwhile, includes rolling green lawns, ponds and waterfalls and gloriously colourful flower beds.

What are some fun facts about Lille?

The Citadelle has various grassed areas and that’s why you’ll see Soay sheep freely wandering. The sheep get fed and the grass is kept neatly cropped without the need for lawnmowers. Because of the strong Flemish influence on the life and culture of Lille, it’s a city with 2 names. The Flemish name is Rijsel. Lille was the birthplace of France’s famous World War II leader and President, Charles de Gaulle and the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle is now a museum celebrating the leader’s life.

What kinds of public transport are there in Lille?

The centre of Lille is quite compact and you’ll be able to explore much of it on foot. For travel in Lille around the larger city, there are 2 quick and efficient metro lines plus 2 tram lines. There’s also an extensive network of buses. You can buy bus tickets as you board, but you need to get tickets in advance to use the metro and trams. Daily and 7-day passes are available. You can also take taxis in Lille, with smartphone booking available.

Lille Travel Guides & Things To Do