Lille is the fourth-largest urban area in France and is noted as an underrated place. However, travelers there discover a hidden gem. Many people know Lille as a simple stop on the way to Brussels, London, or Paris. In fact, not many tourists intentionally visit the place, even though Lille houses two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many things to do in Lille wait for you, however. Witness the Flemish culture in the architecture of the grand structures around the city. From visiting a first-rate modern art museum to strolling along to the market for great local products, here are some of the things to do in Lille.
Vieux Lille or Old Lille is the central venue that showcases the city’s heritage and history. With gorgeous baroque architecture all around the place, expect to see bourgeois houses beautifully restored as you walk on charming cobblestone streets. Why not try this amazing 2-hour walking tour? Witness towering establishments like the parish, local shops, and museums with a knowledgeable guide narrating the town’s history.
Marché de Wazemmes
Spend your Sunday mornings at the lively Marché de Wazemmes to find hundreds of stalls with lots of local products on offer. Everything from food, antiques, fabric, to exotic products, ate here. Thousands of locals in France flock to this place not just because of its variety, but also for the inviting atmosphere. As you shop along, you will hear the pleasant sounds of the accordions playing in the background. It’s the local way to spend the day.
Town Hall (Belfry)
This is one of Lille’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. What makes the place worth visiting its 104-meter height. Totally exhilarating, viewing the city from the top of Town Hall Belfry, over the low-rise city’s worth it. Flemish architecture is prominent and the view from above is irreplaceable. You will see the lovely city of Lille from a whole new perspective.
This star-shaped French military base was built back in the 16th century and is still a working fortress under French rule. With that, visitors are prohibited from entering the premises. Even so, it’s worth checking out the picturesque walls, gates, and bridges surrounding the area. Actually, they a dramatic backdrop for a great photo in Europe. Did you know that Lille Citadel was only built in three years? Its design was done by the famous military engineer, Vauban.
Lille also caters to art enthusiasts Visit the stunning Lille museum of contemporary art, (LaM). It features the works of some famed artists like Picasso, Joan Miró, and Georges Braque, and more. In addition, self-taught artists such as Henry Darger and the schizophrenic artist Carlo Zinelli have their works neatly showcased here. Feel thrilled by both the fine arts and graffiti arts neatly displayed inside and outside the building. There, you’ll find paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts that signify Lille’s distinction as a venue for the unique arts scene.
La Vieille Bourse
This stock exchange venue in Lille was made way back in the mid-18th century. Many people will agree that the building retained its allure, thanks to the expertise of the famous main architect, Julien Destrée. To this day, activities are held in this historic landmark. Locals come in to meet, hang out, play chess, and check out the flower shop and book store in the building. From time to time, La Vieille Bourse turns into a theatre with a showcase of dance performances.
Palais des Beaux-Arts
Spend half of your day exploring this huge municipal museum made for fine arts, antiques, and modern art pieces. Admire a wide array of collections ranging from works made in the 1400s up to the 1900s. From the manuscripts, you can see the profiles of widely known artists behind these fascinating artworks such as Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Gustave Courbet, and so much more. The museum features an impressively detailed exterior that makes a good backdrop for awesome pictures. After appreciating the amazing artworks, you can chill at the small modern cafe inside.
La Piscine Museum
From a simple indoor pool to a cultural hub, La Piscine Museum now houses unique textile art gathered from some of Lille’s finest textile companies. These collections date way back to the 18th century and are conveniently displayed in a creative venue. Many sculptures surround the place and the star of the museum, the indoor pool, magnifies its elegance. It’s a perfect spot to get to know more about Lille and the traditions it held over the years. Consequently, La Piscine Museum is a famous artistic venue of the city.
Enter Europe’s biggest aquarium and watch a fantastic sea lion show at Nausicaá. Home to around 58,000 animals, the aquarium features whimsical exhibitions entitled “Journey on the High Seas” and “Mankind and Shores.” Because visiting here is both entertaining and educational, it’s one of the ideal things to do while in Lille, especially for those with families. The beautiful displays of marine life from jellyfish to sea lions will take your breath away.
Step into Lille’s main square to find the Grand Place – the locals’ well-known meeting place. On lively streets, you are surrounded by tall buildings adorned with classic Flemish architecture. In the area, you will find noteworthy historic sites like Voix du Nord and the performing arts theater Théâtre du Nord. Check out the various cafes here as you enjoy the beautiful structures and ancient charm. Live like a local. Stroll around and be enchanted by the city of Lille.
Just So You Know:
- Lille is also known as a “college town,” housing over 100,000 students today!
- If Brussels and Paris ever had a baby, it would be Lille – it is the cross between both the French and Nothern European cultures.
- The numerous bars and coffee shops are managed by the younger generation who strive to provide a unique local experience.
- Lille topped the 2017 survey, ranking as the most attractive place in France in relation to job salaries and affordable properties.
- The city of Lille is rather small. In fact, you can even cycle across it in only fifteen minutes.
Where to Stay:
- ⭐⭐⭐ Citadines City Centre Lille – Since it is just a walking distance to both the historical city center of Lille and the metro station, staying in this hotel is convenient. In addition, the appealing design keeps the place easy on the eyes. Enjoy complete amenities including a full kitchen, workspace, private bathroom, and a business center. Feel refreshed here before going for your adventure in Lille.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Novotel Suites Lille Europe – Located just 600 meters from the Lille-Flandres Train Station, the hotel provides easy access to various points of interest around the city. Live close to the picturesque and historic old town plus the convention center, Lille Grand Palais. Make use of the various amenities like a bar, fitness area, on-site restaurant, and modern suites. By staying at the city center, you can easily tick off your list of things to do in Lille.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Clarance Hotel Lille – Boasting world-class service, Clarance Hotel offers posh rooms, elegant interior, and sophisticated exterior. Feel like royalty as you dine in their high-class bar and restaurant. The vibrant design of the suites keeps the place looking fresh. At the same time, you are near the Printemps Gallery, Lille Grand Palais, and Nouveau Siècle Convention Centre. Note that free parking is available on site.
Get Some Culture:
- La Grande Braderie – Early September marks Lille’s La Grande Braderie, which is the biggest annual flea market all across Europe. You will find great bargains of almost any kind of goods like antiques, furniture, and much more.
- Palais des Beaux-Arts Museum – The place houses the second largest art collection in the whole of France. In addition, it showcases the masterpieces of some famous European artists like Rubens, Goya, and Rembrandt.
Grab A Bite:
- Coffee Makers – Nestled in Rue de Paris, this independent cafe serves not only aromatic coffee but also delicious local food. On top of that, the service is spot-on. It’s every coffee-lovers’ piece of paradise during their stay in Lille.
- La Fleur de Lille – Try out some creative French cuisine in this spacious hundred-seater restaurant. Their famous dishes like the Skreï Cod and Parsnip mousseline are the chef’s recommendations. Top off your list of things to do in Lille with a taste of the authentic and delicious French food.