LilleLille (Dutch: Rijsel) is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France and the core of one of the largest metropolitan agglomerations in the country. Historically, it has also been the capital of Flanders, and later an industrial powerhouse, thanks to which it now boasts a large and handsome historic centre. Today, it is known as a major economic and academic centre, with a very large student population. Situated at the literal crossroads of Europe, Lille is within a 90-minute train ride from Paris, Brussels and London.
HistoryWhile the area of present-day Lille has been inhabited since as early as 2000 BC, the first mention of the city itself dates back to 1066, when it was referred to as apid Insulam in Latin. Meaning "at the island", this toponym is reflected in both the French and Dutch names of the city, both being contractions of the same expression (L'île and ter ijsel).
Most visitors will probably arrive by train at Gare de Lille Europe or Gare de Lille Flandres. It is possible to land at the Charles de Gaulle Paris airport and then continue by train, but do not try this at the Ryanair's Paris airport (Beauvais) as there is no train connection at all and the only bus is back to Paris itself.
By planeLille has its own international airport, but it is mostly served by flights to holiday destinations around the Mediterranean and other airports within France. That said, proximity to Paris and Brussels allows one to use the airports of either metropolis to visit Lille, especially those with direct train connections to Lille. Visitors from other continents may also entertain the option of landing in one of London's airports and transferring to a Eurostar train to Lille from the British capital.
Lille Lesquin International AirportThis airport is small but convenient for entering Lille or travelling on to nearby areas across the border in Belgium. Both major and budget airlines operate scheduled services. Unlike larger airports there is hardly any walking as the check-in desks are directly inside the entrance and the security gates are directly behind the check-ins. A direct coach connects to central Lille (stops outside the main railway station) in 20 minutes, and runs once an hour costing €7 one-way, while a return ticket is €9. A taxi into the centre costs about €20.
Brussels South Charleroi AirportLocated some from Lille, BSCA offers a wide range of European destinations through low-costs giants Ryanair and Wizzair, as well as a few other LCCs. It is a popular option with Lille's student population. Reaching the Belgian airport can be tricky without a car, though Flibco offers an hourly service to the airport. The journey lasts 1 hr 40 min and can cost as few as €5; Otherwise, you can take a train from Lille-Flandres train station to Charleroi, then hop on the bus to the airport. This journey should take you a little more than 2 hr.
Gare de Lille EuropeLille Europe lies at the heart of the Brussels-Paris-London high-speed rail corridor. TGV and Eurostar trains stop here; the TGV / Thalys journey from Brussels takes little more than 30 minutes, the TGV from Paris about an hour, and the Eurostar from London an hour and 22 minutes through the Channel Tunnel.
- Check the SNCF website to see train timetables
If you are travelling from the United Kingdom, Eurostar is the best option to reach Lille through the Channel Tunnel. The journey time to Gare de Lille Europe is 1hr 22 mins from London St Pancras International, 1hr 8 mins from Ebbsfleet and just 56 mins from Ashford. Train connections run regularly by ferry from Calais.
Lille is also linked by TGV to Lyon (3 hours), Nantes (4 hours), Strasbourg (3.20 hours), and Marseille (5 hours).
Gare de Lille FlandresThis station is mostly served by regional TER trains
Another option is to take the TER or the regional, slower moving trains, where a ticket can be purchased fairly cheap to many locations in France and Belgium. The transit bureau for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais offers weekend "Trampoline" passes, where a round trip on TER trains between Lille and several Belgian cities can be purchased for a set price of €20-40, with the freedom of choosing your own train times. Be careful though: depending on the train, cities may be referred to by either their French or Dutch names, which can get confusing.
By busOUIBUS the French bus-branch of SNCF, Eurolines, and Flixbus run coach services between Paris, Brussels, London, Amsterdam, Bruges, and more. The bus stop station is located at Gare de Lille Europe.
The tickets of all those companies can be purchased on Sobus.
By public transport
There are also bus lines that service all parts of the city.
- Transpole Public transportation in Lille, In French, English and Dutch.
Single tickets are €1.60 + a €0.20 charge for the rechargeable ticket. 24 hour day passes are available for €4.80 - other ticket types are available for longer stays. Machines accept cash and cards. The tickets cover the Transpole metro, buses and trams to any destination - longer distance intercity trains (to Roubaix for example) require separate tickets.
La Vieille BourseBuilt in 1653, this is a historic and beautiful building with an atrium style opening and inner court. Located between two picturesque squares, Place du Général-de-Gaulle and Place du Théâtre, this former commercial exchange still plays a central part in the life of the city. Within the inner court, you may find antique booksellers, posters, and other hidden gems.
Place du Général-de-GaulleThe main square of Lille. It has many beautiful, Flemish inspired buildings, like the headquarters of local newspaper La Voix du Nord and a fountain with the statue of a goddess, "la Grande Déesse" (1843). There are myriad restaurants, bars, and stylish shopping centers located around the square.
Place RihourSurrounded by restaurants, houses the tourist information centre inside its main attraction, the Palais Rihour (1453).
Town Halladdress: Rue Augustin LaurentThe Town Hall and its 104 meter tall Belfry is a historical monument and Unesco World Heritage Site. The belfry is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday. You can access this site by getting off at the metro station Mairie de Lille.
phone: + 33 3 28 38 40 50address: 2 rue des Bons EnfantsBuilt in 1923.
Chamber of Commerceaddress: Place du ThéàtreBuilt in 1921, now an upscale shopping center. Offers a magnificent sight, especially when lit-up at night.
CitadelleA masterpiece of 17th century defensive military architecture, built in the reign of Louis XIV and designed by Vauban, the famous French military architect. In the same area is a zoo (free of charge) and a lovely park.
Cathédrale Notre Dame de la TreilleThe construction of this cathedral started in 1854 and was eventually finished only in 1999.
- Take a stroll through the old quarter of the city, known as Vieux Lille, and enjoy the cobble-stone streets, the variety of stylish designer shops, gourmet restaurants, and museums. At Christmas Town, you may visit the Christmas Market, take a ride on the ferris wheel in the main square, and take pictures with Father Noel by Christmas Lights. More notable streets like Rue de la Monnaie and Rue Esquermoise are definitely worth the trip.
phone: +33 3 20 06 78 00address: Place de la RépubliqueA famed museum covering European art from the 15th to 20th century. There are myriad events open to all, including night events and festivals.
phone: +33 3 28 55 30 80address: 19 Rue de BruxellesA large collection of stuffed mammals, insects, fossils, etc.
phone: +33 3 28 36 84 00address: 32 Rue de la MonnaieA former hospital now presenting art.
phone: +33 3 20 69 23 60address: 23 Rue de l'Espérance, RoubaixA 20th century art museum built around a former swimming bathhouse. The main room features a swimming pool.
phone: +33 3 20 19 68 68address: 1 Allée du Musée, Villeneuve-d'AscqModern art, outsider art, contemporary art.
phone: +33 3 59 73 00 30address: 9 Rue PrincesseThe birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, Leader of the French Resistance and later President of France.
- The subway in the long-distance train station Lille Europe is an attraction on its own. In the expansive, main hallway, the wall is covered in a beautiful, large mural depicting various famous landmarks around the world.
phone: +33 3 20 54 44 50address: Place SébastopolOne of the most famous theatres of Lille.
- Chalice Sound System hold regular reggae gigs at various locations around Lille. Check their Facebook page to know when the next event will be.
La BraderieThe largest flea market in Europe, held every September for which millions of people come to Lille. You will find everything: paintings, antiques, ornaments, furniture, clothing, art, and more. The traditional food of the braderie is moules-frites, or mussels and fries, usually paired with a refreshing local beer. You will find many restaurants selling this meal for an affordable price. Tourists and locals alike will be partying, eating, and drinking, in a very lively, fun atmosphere.
- The annual
Christmas MarketA must for visitors. You can access this market from the main square, where you can also enjoy the ferris wheel and Christmas lights strung up all throughout the old city. The beautiful lights, warm atmosphere, local shops, and restaurants make this enjoyable for everyone. There are unique, local shops that sell items such as handmade soaps, artisanal honey, saucisson, and handmade crafts. There are many food stalls that sell a range of delicious Christmas food such as hot, spiced wine, pretzels, tartiflette, raclette, warm waffles with your choice of sweet topping, cider, soup, chocolate, and even cocktails.
Lille has a very large student population, thanks to the many schools and universities located in the city. There is also a significant international student population, thanks to the Erasmus program.
- Business schools: Skema, Edhec, IAE Lille, IESEG School of Management, etc..
- Engineer: École centrale de Lille, ENSAM, HEI, ISEN etc..
- University: Lille 1 (Scientific), Lille 2 (Medicine,Law,Political Science,Management,Sports) (and the IEP Lille), Lille 3 (Human Sciences, Arts and Letters), Lille Catholic University (Multi-disciplinary)
For any foreign students wishing to come to Lille, the following website could come in handy: Web Site du Crous
- ICL-Clarife is the language centre for the Institut Catholique de Lille, France's largest private university. Located in the heart of Lille, ICL-Clarife organises complete French language and civilisation study programmes for non-Francophones. Web Site ICL-Clarife
- The open market,
Marché de WazemmesOpen every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning, but the busiest day is definitely Sunday. Vendors sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, Moroccan, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese food, books, stationery, suitcases, shoes, clothes, and even perfume and undergarments! Be sure to pick up a bag of fresh clementines, a bright bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, some rotisserie chicken and roast potatoes for lunch, and a glass of beer at one of many little pubs surrounding the market.
- The pedestrian streets just past Grand Place (rue de Béthune, rue Neuve, Rue du Sec Arembault, rue des Tanneurs, etc.) offer popular clothing chain stores such as Etam, Pimkie, Zara, H&M, Sinéquanone, as well as small pubs, restaurants, and two large cinemas. These buildings reflect beautiful architectural designs and styles from the 1930s.
EuralilleLille's largest shopping mall and offers popular clothing chains as well as the Carrefour hypermarket. It is located between Gare Lille Flandres and Gare Lille Europe in the heart of the city, making it wonderfully accessible to travelers coming into Lille. Stores include Primark, Zara, H&M, Timberland, Nike, and anything else you could think of.
Le Furet du NordA bookstore located in the Place du Général de Gaulle. It is the largest bookstore in Europe with eight floors and more than 420,000 titles. It is a perfect place to spend a day.
PrintempsA luxury department store located in Vieux Lille offering brands such as Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, and more.
- There are dozens of upscale boutiques (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Hugo Boss, Kenzo) and trendier, independent stores and restaurants located in Vieux Lille.
Those with a sweet tooth will find hundreds of little patisseries and boulangeries selling more cakes, pastries, and macarons than they knew existed along with an exquisite number of chocolate shops. Guillaume Vincent (12 Rue du Cure Saint Etienne), sells beautifully decorated, rich chocolates.
One of the more popular and affordable (but greasy) eating options are the multitude of kebab shops around the city. For a few euro, you can get a hearty sandwich with shaved chicken or lamb with a side of frites. A local speciality is the kebab with "Fricandelles": sausages that are native to this region. These are a great (and more local) alternative to a fast food chain for a quick bite.
A Lille must have: Delicious stuffed waffles enjoyed at Meert, probably the most beautiful pâtisserie in France. These waffles were the favorite of President Charles de Gaulle. Meert is located on the Rue Esquermoise next to the Grand Place (place du Général de Gaulle). Take the metro Line 1 and get off at station Rihour. There is a another location at the Piscine (Museum of Arts and Industry) of Roubaix (Station: Gare Jean Lebas on Line 2). Pastries bought here are to be enjoyed fully and without self restraint.
address: 8 rue du PasFrom €11.40 for the "all you can eat" flammekueche menu. A flammekueche is an Alsacian speciality with crème fraîche, onions, and bacon on a thin crust of dough. Yummy.
Pâtisserie du Lion d'Oraddress: Place du Lion d'OrThis pâtisserie has all sorts of goodies, including THE best croissants in Lille.
Sherlockaddress: 150 Rue SolférinoDelicious, hearty pub food with a British influence. Great hamburgers and selection of beer on tap.
Les Delices de l'Indeaddress: 22 rue Sainte AnneLovely family run restaurant serving the best Indian food in Lille. Authentic and home cooked.
Friterie des Lilasaddress: 40 rue Saint GabrielThe most delicious, homemade fries in Lille. Over 10 sauces to choose from, fries served with side salad and sausage.
Creperie de la Vielle Bourseaddress: 6 rue des 7 AgachesDelicious Bretagne crepes in a historic building.
Il Piccolinoaddress: 57 rue Sainte CatherineItalian, pizza, and Mediterranean food. Serves pizza of the highest quality.
Kyotoaddress: 44 Place de la GareGood Japanese food including sushi, sashimi.
- You can try some of Lille's famous "estaminets" (typical restaurants): for instance rue de Gand has two nice restaurants: T'Rijsel and Chez la vieille. The atmosphere is very agreeable, and you can taste some of Lille's typical dishes: Potje'vleesch, Carbonade flamande etc. These restaurants, being rather notorious in Lille, are very popular and it is strongly recommended to book a table two or three days in advance.
Brasserie Floreaddress: place RihourLarge choice of good meals.
address: 335, Boulevard de Leeds, 59777 EuralilleNewly opened in December 2002, this modern hotel has light airy rooms with long rectangular windows, giving excellent view over the city of Lille. Opposite Lille Europe train station, just a short walk to the historic heart of the city. Restaurant offering excellent buffet meals and "à la carte".
La Chicoréeaddress: place RihourTypical meals, typical beers. But do not expect to find excellent food here : this restaurant may just be useful if you don't know where to have dinner at 3 in the morning...Do not miss the awesome plate collection on the walls. Each was signed by an artist or a famous person, as La Chicorée is the place were they usually eat after the show. You might even meet someone famous if you try it after 2 or 3 am!!! It's also the place where a lot of casual people eat at night, after their job, after a trip in café, after a show... It's of course rather popular with tourists, but if you wish to appreciate Lille's cuisine at its best, try some other place.
L'Omniaaddress: 9 Rue EsquermoiseThe entrance of this restaurant/bar is difficult to miss and situated close to la Grand Place. Ramps and murals combine to create a perspective that evokes the feeling of being in Alice in Wonderland. Inside the decor appeals to the same childish sense of wonder- all red lights and plush, appropriate to this ex-theatre and ex-brothel (you'll find the history of the building on the placemats). The food itself is affordable - the lunch time menu starts from €9. The 'potjevles' are regional specialty but recommended only to the adventurous. Otherwise, the chicken tikka skewers are very enjoyable. The bar also seems to be very proud of their wide range of beers, and the wine was reasonably priced and good.
Pubstoreaddress: 44 rue de la HalleThis somewhat intimate restaurant is a great place for lunch or dinner. Candles on each table make it a nice spot for couples to have a quiet dinner. The menu, found under the glass tabletop, is full of diverse, delicious dishes. Each dish also has a clever name, usually a play on words.
L’ Gaïetteaddress: 30, rue MassénaThe menu in this restaurant focuses on regional specialties and is written in Ch'ti, the local patois/dialect. Great food and a warm, friendly waitstaff make this restaurant a great place to have dinner.
Pancookaddress: 125 rue ColbertThis restaurant is a perfect spot for lunch and dinner offering high quality, delicious meals for a reasonable price. Restaurant specials are Flemish-influenced, including regional dishes such as potjevleesch and carbonnade flamande.
Le Compostelleaddress: rue saint-EtienneMay offer some good dishes in a beautiful environment.
The Barbue d'Anversaddress: rue St EtienneFlemish cuisine.
Monsieur Jeanaddress: Rue Pierre MauroyFancy restaurant
L'Huitriereaddress: rue des Chats BossusBehind the early 20th century art-nouveau fish store lay one of the best seafood and fish restaurants in the country, appreciated by many famous people. The upscale restaurant is definitely closed, but you can still have oysters (and other small seafood) with a drink on the 1st floor
Rue Solferino has many bars and clubs. This is the street to visit if you enjoy a lively nightlife and party scene. On Rue Masséna, you will also find countless bars, nightclubs, and restaurants including small delicious kebab stands that are open late until the wee hours of early morning.
Coming OutLGBT-friendly bar. This relatively new bar has a diverse clientele. Virginie and Alain, the friendly, personable owners and operators, are there every day, working hard to make their clients happy, and they are! Red walls, blue lights, and a black bar create a very cool environment with ample seating in comfortable chairs. Open from 5 PM on, stop in for a beer or a cocktail (the specials are written on the chalkboard on the wall), or ask about their Karaoke or other special nights.
Maison du Moulin D'Or (Morel & Fils)address: 31 Place du théâtreThis place used to be "une bonneterie," which is still reflected in the decorations inside. Dress forms, wooden dolls, cloth, and beautiful colors (soft sea green and pink) are found throughout two floors. A great place to stop for a coffee or beer when you're out and about.
The Drugstorephone: +33 3 20 12 00 53address: 21 Rue RoyaleVery small, groovy lounge with two floors and a few tables outside when the weather warms up. Ambient music and orange lighting complement the vintage-looking movie and music posters on the walls. My advice: grab a table upstairs - the chairs are comfy and you can see down onto the street and people-watch. This bar is more for cocktails than beer, and their happy hour special offers all their cocktails for €6.
phone: +33 3 20 55 15 15address: 33, Place des BettigniesCafé Oz / The Australian Bar, 33, Place des Bettignies. Very cool bar with a lively atmosphere, good mix of music played, and a mélange of Francophone and Anglophone bartenders. They also have a terrace open during the day when the weather warms up for those who wish to enjoy an afternoon refreshment. Check their website or head on in and ask about their various happy hour specials, which fluctuate depending on the day/season.
La Capsuleaddress: 25 Rue des trois MollettesSpecializes in French and foreign artisanal beers on tap and bottled. Over 100 choices of beer to choose from. Cozy, wonderful interior, perfect to meet friends in.
Le Quai des Bananesaddress: 84 Rue RoyaleEvery type of cocktail you can think of if you'd like a change from beer.
Le Lobbyaddress: 10 Rue RoyalePopular with college students.
- Salsa the night away at
Le Latina Caféaddress: 42/44 Rue MassénaYou will find all things Cuban including portraits of Che Guevara, hot Spanish tunes, and their famous Havana Club Mojitos. As well, indulge in a Desperado (tequila beer) or two. Drinks are a bit pricier, but the ambiance makes it all worth it.
Pub Mac Ewan'saddress: 8 place Sébastopoloffers about 140 different beers
Hermitage BarLuxury hotel is open to the general public (dress appropriately). It is one of the most refined spots to enjoy a drink in Lille (priced accordingly). The hotel also hosts art exhibitions that you can enjoy free of charge.
La Part des Angesaddress: 50 Rue de la Monnaie
Le Farafinaaddress: 165 bis, rue de Solferino
phone: +33 3 20 30 62 62address: 17 Quai du WaultLuxury hotel in the center of Lille. Seminars organization.
phone: +33 3 28 36 75 00address: Avenue Willy Brandt - EuralilleThe residence is near to the railway station. Each apartment houses a bathroom with a separate toilet, a separate kitchen area complete with stove, microwave, fridge and dishwasher, and TV with cable channels. 5 apartments are equipped for people with reduced mobility.
Lille HostelAn HI hostel, about €17.30/night.
- Nord Hotel. Situated in the southern part of Lille, about a ten minute ride on the subway away from the centre of town. When first arriving, the area seems a bit intimidating, but is actually quite quiet. Fairly basic accommodation. Small, clean room and friendly staff. €60/night for a twin room.
address: 5 Parvis Saint-MauricePeacefully overlooking a church, but in a very central location. about €80/night, 3/5 Parvis Saint-Maurice.
phone: +33 3 20 12 96 96address: 57, Rue de BéthuneCentral location, basic but clean.
phone: +33 3 20 13 33 13address: 3 Rue Pierre Mauroy
phone: +33 3 20 74 70 70address: Boulevard de Turin, 59000 LilleLocated just opposite the train station, with entrance right in front of where the long-distance coaches stop. Spacious studio apartments for up to 3 adults or a family of 4, all with both a bath and a shower, as well as a separate toilet. Basic self-catering facilities, incl. microwave, in every room. Breakfast is very basic and better taken care of by means of shopping around than paying extra at hotel. No views to speak of and a bit of a walk from the historic city centre.
By far the most common issue you will encounter is pickpocketing, which is particularly common on the Metro and in crowded areas. Drunken behaviour is also common; this is exacerbated by the large student population. Drug trafficking has become fairly widespread as well. Finally, Lille has one of France's most visible homeless populations.
Greecephone: +33 320-334-625address: 21 Rue Jules Ferry, 59370 Mons-en-Barœul
- Bruges - Train from Lille to Kortrijk (€6) and from Kortrijk to Bruges (€8).
- Kortrijk and Tournai — Belgian cities close to the French border, part of the metropolitan area of Lille. Easily reachable by train via cheaper special tickets, named Trampoline offers. For €8 you can make a day trip to one of these two cities.