A view of Place du Charles de Gaulle at dusk, under a blue sky, with the Column of the Goddess in the centre and the La Voix du Nord offices in the background.

A visit to Lille in northern France

In Days Out, Europe, France, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types by JanisLeave a Comment

If it’s a day trip or mini-break, you’re spoilt for choice in Lille

If you’re looking to visit France and you feel that you would like somewhere more sedate than Paris, then I can highly recommend Lille.

A view of Place du Charles de Gaulle at dusk, under a blue sky, with the Column of the Goddess in the centre and the La Voix du Nord offices in the background.

Place du Charles de Gaulle, Lille

It has beautiful architecture within colourful grand surroundings, and the café culture is delightful. You can brush up on your French and immerse yourself in moules frites or waffles (definitely waffles for me).

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What is even better for those heading from the UK is that Lille is just a relaxing train ride away. In fact, from London, it only takes 1 hour and 22 minutes on the Eurostar, no time at all.   You could even visit as a day trip.
Lille's Chamber of Commerce facade, including the belfry.

Chamber of Commerce

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The Regional differences

Once you arrive, Lille is your oyster, and the mains sights and shops are within easy walking distance of each other.

You’ll be sampling the exquisite French patisseries and enjoying the warming aroma of the freshly baked baguettes, wafting from the boulangeries in no time.

The art deco styled Le Carnot Café & Brasserie in Lille.

Le Carnot Café & Brasserie

Lille is located in the northern Hauts-de-France region; therefore, it has gained influences from its Flemish Belgium neighbours across the border.
 
This is one of the reasons I love visiting France, is that you gain such a strong feel of the true essence of where you are. These regional variances are so often what makes any country.

With Lille, it has embraced the Flemish culture that is knocking on their doorstep.

Sitting in the bars and cafés, you peer around, so many of the locals are enjoying a beer. As opposed to the cheeky glass of wine that is partaken in a lot of other French regions.

A candid shot of women enjoying beer at outside a café in Lille.

Beer anyone?

You’ll also notice that on so many menus there will be a Carbonnade flamande as the plat du jour. This is a Flemish dish primarily made with beef and beer. It’s win, win really, well perhaps not for everyone.

There’s Paris too

If you’ve been tempted to hop on the Eurostar to discover Paris too, then take a peek at our 15 ways to allure you to the beautiful city of Paris. You’ll love it there also.

A helpful guide

I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books.  I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.


Around the old town

There was no time for dilly-dallying over lunch, Gary, and I took to the streets. We strolled around the old town admiring the elegant buildings and enjoyed window shopping in charming boutiques along the narrow cobblestoned lanes.

The scene of cafes that line the edges of Place Charles de Gaulle in Lille, northern France, underneath beautiful ornate buildings with the town's Clock tower in the background

Place Charles de Gaulle

We love history and architecture, so visiting Lille ticked so many boxes for us.

Architectural details including balconies and window surrounds in Lille, Northern France

Detailed architecture throughout the Old Town

Within the Grand Place, there are some incredible buildings, all shapes and sizes, rubbing shoulders with each other. The 17th-century Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange) was built between 1652 and 1653 and is particularly eye-catching

Lille's Old Stock Exchange with the Belfry of the Chamber of Commerce in the background.

The Vieille Bourse or Old Stock Exchange

Also, within Lille’s Grand Place is La Voix du Nord (Voice of the North) a regional daily newspaper.
 
La Voix du Nord was one of the underground newspapers founded in France during the German occupation in World War II. The paper first appeared in Lille in April 1941

The Column of the Goddess of the Place du Charles de Gaulle at dusk under a blue sky.

Colonne de la Déesse

The 'La Voix du Nord' offices in Lille at dusk.

La Voix du Nord

Taking pride of place in the centre of Place du Charles de Gaulle stands the ‘Column of the Goddess’. This commemorates Lille's resistance to the Austrian siege in 1792.

Something to make your travels easier?

  • 6-Port Desktop USB Charging Station

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  • Portable Charger 2 USB Ports Power Bank

  • Bose SoundLink Revolve, Portable Bluetooth Speaker

  • USB rechargeable LED Flashlight

  • Collapsible Water Bottle

Have you seen?

If you’re travelling through France keep a lookout for 12 of France’s incredible UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you may want to add some of these to your trip.

Place du Théâtre

Strolling further around the Old Town you’ll sure to head towards the Place du Théâtre. This is another stylish, elegant square and you’ll instantly be drawn to the Opéra de Lille.
 
This beautiful neo-classical opera house has been designed with Belle Époque detail on the front, and it is so striking.
 
The Opera was built between 1907 and 1913, internal and external renovations have taken place since the last was completed in 2004.

The Opéra de Lille in Place du Théâtre next to Belfry of the Chamber of Commerce in Lille.

The Opéra de Lille

There are so many colourful buildings in Place du Théâtre and one that is very prominent and can be seen for miles if the Chamber of Commerce and its Belfry.
 
The Chamber of Commerce in Place du Théâtre was built between 1910 and 1921 in the neo-Flemish style. The belfry stands at around 250 feet (76 metres) high and is decorated with four clock faces.

The Belfry of the Chamber of Commerce in Lille.

Belfry on the Chamber of Commerce

The Belfry of the Chamber of Commerce in Lille at dusk.

Belfry on the Chamber of Commerce at dusk

Lille has been through some turbulent times over the centuries, and in 1792 the Austrians invaded. Their artillery destroyed many houses around the city, during the eight days of the siege; however, Lille didn’t surrender.
 
On the building opposite the Chamber of Commerce, you are still able to see Austrian black cannonballs lodged into the side of the wall.

A shot of a building in Place du Théâtre, including the shop Morel & Fils, that still has the cannonballs lodge in the wall from the siege of Lille.

Building in Place du Théâtre with Cannonballs in the wall

Discover more

If you want to find out more about Lille’s history and updates on events in the city, then have a browse through the Lille Tourism website.
 
While in Lille, why not catch a performance at Opéra de Lille, here is their official website.

A little more Lille

The construction of Lille Cathedral first started in 1854. However, due to disputes and lack of money and wars, the cathedral wasn’t fully completed until nearly 150 years later, in 1999.
 
The Cathédrale de la Treille has a mixture of styles including neo-gothic. However, what makes it so eye-catching is the white marble within the modern façade.

The modern facade of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral in Lille.

Lille Cathedral

Take a wander further around the city, and you’ll find some other lovely spots, particularly around Lille’s parks. If time allows there is also a Citadel and zoo for you to visit.

A walking tour

If time is of the essence and you want to ensure you soak up all the delights of the Old Town, then jump on this reasonably priced 2-hour walking tour.

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Deûle River around the Citadel and zoo

La Braderie (flea market)

If you love rummaging around flea markets, you’ll need to book early. On the first weekend of September, Lille hosts an annual Braderie. It is the largest flea market in Europe and attracts over two million visitors, in one weekend.

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Inspired to visit Lille?

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About the Author

Janis

Janis, the co-founder of Our World for You, was born in London and raised in Kent and the Isle of Wight. Along with Gary her partner, they have been travelling part time since 1995. In 2016, they decided that enough was enough with the 9 to 5, so armed with the knowledge and experience that they had gained on their adventures, that they wanted to inspire others to travel the world near and far.

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