Welcome to Lille

Guide to Lille, France
“Its bright main streets seem as gay and glittering as those of Paris, with the additional air of snug provincial comfort...” Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald, A Day’s Tour, 1887

Lille is not widely praised. Known for its Eurostar terminus, the city is generally seen as a stopping-off place, somewhere ordinary and vaguely French, to be swiftly abandoned in favour of more famous destinations. But Lille rewards infinitely more attention. As the old capital of Flanders, the city’s border heritage runs through the architecture like an old family resemblance, linking the disparate styles and traditions of Northern Europe. Lille has been Flemish, Burgundian, Spanish, Dutch, French, German and is now French again - but the Flemish influences remain in the narrow houses, the steep grey roofs and the beer and moules et frites. “One gazes with pleasure and some surprise at its handsome streets, where everyone seems to live and thrive,” says Percy Fitzgerald. “The new streets, built on the Paris model...offer the same rich and effective detail of gilded inscriptions, balconies and flowers, with the luxurious cafes below, and languid flaneurs settling down to their absinthe or coffee.” 

The description still stands. Lille is deceptive- at first, perhaps it resembles any small European city, with its old square and pavement cafes, but there is something more welcoming here, a rare friendliness and charm emanating from its people and places. Little cafes rub up against important galleries, Gothic spires pierce the Flemish-oil-painting clouds above Art Nouveau cake shops, and pigeons peck round the cobbles by the Deule river, as couples share plates of oysters in candlelit bars. Lille is relaxing. It isn’t constantly striving to show off its wares, dazzle tourists, or thrust itself onto the world stage. That’s why, even though thousands of train travellers pour through daily, the little city itself still feels like a secret- a place as delightful and unexpected as platform nine and three quarters.

Guide to Lille, FranceGuide to Lille, France


Town Hall Belfry

A pleasant walk from the Grand Place, the belfry sits 104 metres high, like Rapunzel’s tower, and offers wonderful views of the old town, and Porte de Paris, with its 17th century triumphal arch more
Place Laurent Augustin 59800 Lille 03 20 49 50 00 Marie de Lille

La Piscine Roubaix

Built in 1927 and now thought of as one the most beautiful examples of Art Deco design in France more
Rue de l'Esperance 23 Roubaix 59100 Lille 03 20 69 23 60 Gare Jean Lebas

The Old Town

The lovely old town is a tumble of architectural styles, interesting shops and cosy restaurants more
Rue D'Angleterre Lille


Cafe Le Voltaire

Locals sit over newspapers and coffee, little dogs subside by the open door, and the people of Lille pass by the windows, just for your entertainment more
12, Rue Nationale 59800 Lille 03 20 54 82 08 Rihour

Le Coq Hardi

Once Britons have stopped giggling at the name, this restaurant on the Grand Place offers a great deal more than innuendo to enjoy. more
44 Place du Gal de Gaulle 59800 Lille 03 20 55 21 08 Rihour

Le Compostelle

Tucked away down a side street, this beautiful restaurant is sited in the only building in Lille that dates back to the Renaissance more
4 Rue St Etienne 59800 Lille 03 28 38 08 30 Rihour

Guide to Lille, FranceGuide to Lille, France



Some bars are like odd dreams, half-remembered on waking more
13 Rue de la Barre 59800 Lille

Cafe Le Relax

It's what a café would be called in a Warner Bros cartoon, serving Acme beer more
48 Place de la Nouvelle Aventure Wazemmes Lille 03 28 53 52 82 Gambetta

La Part Des Anges

This popular wine bar in the old town offers a fabulous wine list- the cellar jangles with over 20 000 bottles and 1500 different vintages more
50 Rue de la Monnaie 59800 Lille 03 20 13 88 40


Couvent Des Minimes

The restored monastery of the Minimes Brothers is a surprising and successful fusion of 17th century cloisters and modern glass and metal. more
17 Quai du Wault 59027 Lille

Hotel Carlton

An intriguing mix of 18th century-inspired furniture and shiny, modern wooden floors, as though Louis XIV had moved into a New York loft. more
3 Rue de Paris 59800 Lille Gare Lilles Flandres / Rihour


This boutique hotel has kept the medieval cloisters and the 16th century, art-encrusted chapel, and given the rest a respectful but contemporary make-over more
224 Rue de Paris 59000 Lille Marie de Lille

Guide to Lille, France

In The Mood


Germinal- Emile Zola

The Girl You Left Behind - JoJo Moyes

(read review - click here)


Bienvenue Chez Les Ch'ti


Symphony in G minor- Piano Concerto in F Minor -Lalo (Lalo was born in Lille.)


Don’t wear high heels- most of the old town is cobbled, so flat shoes are essential.

Be alert to beggars. The Grand Place can be targeted by distressingly young children, trained to beg at café tables. Keep your bag close, and let the café owner know.

Plan carefully- Lille hosts several festivals. The huge antiques and vintage fair, the ‘Braderie’ takes place on the first weekend of September. Book accommodation well in advance.

Car parking is banned in the city centre on Saturdays- use public transport, and bear in mind that Lille is compact enough to walk around comfortably.

Most shops close on Sundays- it’s a good day for visiting galleries or the Wazemmes market instead.

Try oysters- the city is well known for them and the best place to go is A L’Huitriere with its fabulous seafood mural and Art Deco interior.

Lille is a student city, so bars can get very crowded at weekends- get there early if you want to sit at a table.

Getting Around



Lille’s car parks offer around 20,000 spaces, not including the several pay-and-display areas and underground car parks in the city. A space costs around €1.50 an hour – outer neighbourhoods either have space for free street parking, or have cheaper private car parks. There are six car parks with direct access to the Metro, at stations Port d’Arras, Porte des Postes and CHR B Calmette.


Lille has two Metro lines that cover the whole town, as well as two tram lines and sixty bus routes, including the Citadine bus from the suburbs in and out of the city. Tickets cover the entire public transport network and can be bought at a single-rate of €1.40 a day pass for €4 and a carnet of ten for €11.


Transpole offers an electric bike hire service at Champ de Mars, and l’Atelier du Velo offers a rental service on Avenue Willy Brandt.

Lille Tourist Information Palais Rihour Place Rihour BP 205 - 59002

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