Things to do in Lille
If you’re in Paris, Brussels, or London and are looking for a quick French getaway, Lille is only a short bus ride away. Hailing both French and Belgian influences, Lille is the gem of Northern France. The city resembles the same grandeur seen in Paris but also the modern Art Nouveau look of many Belgian towns. The city is small enough to explore thoroughly in a weekend. So, let’s get started! Allons-y!
Places of Interest in Lille
- La Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange): This building is made up of 24 smaller houses centered around a courtyard. It once housed the city's stock exchange market, but there are now tables set up for people to meet, chat, and play chess. When the weather is good, a used book market is set up. It’s fun, exciting and cheap souvenirs can be found here. (Place du General de Gaulle, 59000 Lille).
- Église Saint-Maurice: Although there are many different churches scattered throughout the city, St. Maurice’s is the grandest both in size and architecture. When visiting this Gothic church, be sure to be respectful and mindful of any services that may be happening. (19 parvis St Maurice, 59000 Lille).
- Vieux Lille (Old Lille): When one thinks of sweet and charming French towns, an image of Vieux Lille emerges. As you walk along the cobblestone streets, you’ll notice that while some buildings look French, the next few will have a robust Flemish design to them. The cultural difference is what makes the city so unique and memorable. So, enjoy a cone of French fries to celebrate the city’s Flemish identity and then enjoy a macaron to celebrate the French side.
- Porte de Paris (Door to Paris): This somewhat strange monument was built to commemorate the takeover of Lille by Louis XIV. The monument stands facing in the direction of Versailles and depicts two different Greek symbols of war and strength (Hercules and Mars) to symbolize King Louis' desire to conquer the world. (Place Simon Vollant, 59000 Lille).
- Le Jardin des Geants (The Garden of Giants): If you plan to visit Lille in the spring or summer, visiting this garden is an absolute must. The park is in the middle of a very urban area of Lille, so the greenery is a welcome change. In some parts of the park, it seems as if giants are emerging from the Earth when in reality they are only shrubs. Small ponds and fountains are scattered throughout the park. From experience, this is an awesome place to pack a picnic or snack and just enjoy pretending to be French for a little while. (Rue du Ballon, 59000 Lille).
- Halles de Wazemmes: Whenever traveling, going to a food market is a great way to gain an authentic cultural experience of the city and find the tastiest local cuisine for the best price. This food hall and market is no different. Since numerous cheese shops, bakeries, butchers and other specialty food stores have a stall here, you can find everything you need to create the perfect picnic or simply pick up unique souvenirs for your favorite foodie. Two local sweets that should be tasted while in Lille are merveilleux (a light yet sweet meringue) and speculoos (a cinnamon cookie or paste, otherwise known as Biscoff in the United States). (Place Nouvelle Aventure, 59000 Lille)
Culture and History of Lille
- Charles de Gaulle Birthplace and Museum: For any history buff, this museum is definitely worth the small ticket price (6 euros including an audio guide and map). Explore the home of the Charles de Gaulle’s maternal grandparents, where the famous French general was born. The home is kept to look as it would during de Gaulle’s childhood, even with a small collection of artifacts that actually belonged to the family. Additionally, there is a small interactive portion of the museum to inform visitors about the entire life of de Gaulle and his importance in world history. (Maison natale Charles de Gaulle 9, rue Princesse, 59000 Lille).
- La Piscine Museum of Art and Industry: I bet you’ve never been to a museum that was once home to a pool. Located a few kilometers away from Lille, La Piscine Museum of Art and Industry is worth an afternoon visit if you have the time. Even if you are not the biggest fan of art, the building alone is extremely impressive. The swimming bath that was once in this gorgeous art nouveau style building is still visible and filled with water today. Now the bath is more of an art piece than a place to exercise or relax. In addition to the permanent collection of 19th and 20th-century pieces of art, there are temporary exhibits. Note: the museum will be closed due to renovation from April 1, 2018, to October 19, 2018. (23 rue de l’Esperance 59100 Roubaix).
Discover Lille through Macy's eyes
Hej! I am an American grad student studying and living in Sweden. Being a grad student, I have perfected the act of budget traveling. I have a fierce passion for cute dogs, film festivals, coffee and traveling. Join me as I work towards my personal goal of visiting all 28 EU countries before I graduate in June 2019! Feel free to pop over to my personal blog, Little Mouse. Big World, to read more about my travels while balancing grad school life.