The stronghold of the Dukes of Burgundy when they were more powerful than the French kings, Lille has always been a ‘crossroads’ town on the Franco-Belgian border. It leapt in prominence with the opening of the Channel Tunnel and, in 1994, the 186 mph Eurostar high-speed train. It is the point at which the route diverges to Paris or Brussels but is a superb city in its own right for a fast-access visit to traditional France (100 mins from London’s St Pancras terminal). The Eurostar station is a five minute walk from the old centre of Lille with its cobbled streets, elegant shops and excellent restaurants – the world famous L’Huîtrière is there, near the Cathedral. The Palais de Beaux Arts is second only to the Louvre, crammed with fine art from renaissance to the impressionists. The proximity makes Lille a wonderful week-end or even same-day dining out destination (there’s a splendid Christmas market). But if you can spare the time, try the amazing Art Deco public baths with in-shower ceramics by Picasso.
Lille is France's fourth largest city and easily accessible thanks to its international rail terminal and Eurostar link to London. Flemish influenced architecture and food, an excellent transport system, and friendly people make Lille one of the most attractive city break options in Northern Europe. Here's my guide to the city with some special tips for couples, families and backpackers.
360 Tour of Place de General de Gaulle - Grand Place with view of Teatre du Nord & Vieille Bourse
Like any big European city, there are hotels & accommodation in Lille to suit all budgets, tastes & requirements.
Hotel Ibis Lille Centre Gares - 3* (Map)
Review: Comfortable hotel, ideally located for train station & city centre
Location: 29, Av Charles St-Venant Le Forum - 59000 - LILLE
Price from: £45 per night
L'Hermitage Gantois Hotel - 5* (Map)
Review: 5* luxury in the centre of town
Location: 224 Rue de Paris, 59800 Lille
Price from: £150 per night
Nord Hotel - 2* (Map)
Review: Excellent value, near to park and metro
Location: 48 Rue Faubourg d'Arras, 59000 Lille
Price from: £40 per night
The city of Lille is over 1000 years old and boasts a rich and varied history. There’s lots to see and do but here are a couple of my suggestions…
Palais des Beaux Arts (Map)
Review: A museum with a fantastic collection of European paintings and antiquities, including works by Goya & Donatello.
Expert Tip: Opening hours are quite restricted and it is closed Tuesdays and various other holiday dates, so worth checking with your hotel or tourist information before visiting.
Location: Place de la République – 59000 Lille
Opening Times: Monday 14h00 to 18h00; Wednesday to Sunday 10h00 to 18h00; closed Tuesdays and holidays.
Price: Adults €5,50; Children €3,80
Palais Rihour (Map)
Review: A beautiful building and the perfect place to start a city tour since it houses the Office de Tourisme (Tourist Office).
Expert Tip: Note that the Tourist Office is closed for lunch on Sundays between 12h00 and 14h00
Location: Place Rihour, BP 205, 59002 Lille
Opening Times: Monday to Friday 09h00 to 18h30; Saturday 09h30 to 18h30; Sunday 10h00 to 12h00 and 14h00 to 17h00
Lille Restaurants & Bars
Lille can rival Paris for its traditional French cuisine. Some restaurants also offer a slightly more Franco-Belgian slant and there are also a plethora of international restaurants on offer. Here are my top recommendations on where to eat in Lille:
Estaminet chez La Vieille France (Map)
Review: Traditional cuisine plus wonderful ambience
Location: 51 rue de Gand, 59000 LILLE
Price from: £22 per head
La Bottega (Map)
Review: Awesome takeaway pizzas at fantastic prices
Location: 8 bis rue au Peterinck, 59800 Lille
Price from: £6 per head
Review: Scandinavian restaurant with heated terrace
Location: 21 rue du Curé Saint Etienne 59800 LILLE
Price from: £20 per head
Lille has an excellent public transport network consisting of 2 automatic metro lines, 2 tram lines and 60 bus routes that operate from 5.30 am till midnight.
Metro, buses & trams
Standard single fare is €1.30 and a book of 10 tickets costs €10.60. Monay saving options include a ZAP ticket (3 tram or subway stations without transfer) for €0.65, Day Pass for €3.60, & Evening Pass (after 7.00 pm) for €1.62. Alternatively, for access to many of the city's main attractions plus free transport, try the City Pass - 1 day (€20), 2 day (€30). More info & maps.
Compared to Paris, Lille is a breeze when it comes to driving. Parking is pretty good too with street level car parks offering about 20,000 parking spaces in addition to on-street pay-and-display ticket parking. Rates generally vary between 1.30€ to 1.60€ an hour.
Taxis can be found at the clearly marked taxi ranks or can be hailed in the street. There are large taxi ranks outside the two railway stations.
Lille 360 Tours
Place de la Gare - Gare Lille Flandres station & fountain