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Best things to do in Lille, France

Lille is a small yet charming city in northern France. Due to its close proximity to Belgium (around 18 kilometers), Lille showcases a blend of French and Belgian culture, evident in its architecture and cuisine. While it may not be one of France's most well-known or visited cities, there are plenty of things to do in Lille.

In addition, thanks to its proximity to cities like Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, and even London, it serves as a perfect base for exploring other parts of Europe. If you're considering a visit to this French city, feel free to take a look at this guide to make sure you don't miss out on any of the best places to visit.

Table of contents

Where to stay in Lille

where to stay in Lille
Where to stay in Lille

Here are some recommendations for the best hotels in Lille across various budgets. Keep in mind that Lille is not a budget-friendly city for accommodations, so if you have a tight budget, it might be challenging to find an ideal place to stay. All the hotels listed below are located in the city center or within walking distance.

Things to do in Lille, France

As I mentioned before, Lille is not a very large city. Instead, what I love about it is that, despite its size, there are plenty of things to see and do. Additionally, there are activities to suit all tastes! Below, I will show you the must-visit places in Lille.

1. La Grand Place: General de Gaulle Square

lille france
Grand Place
grand place lille
Lille, France

The Grand Place is in the centre of Lille. It is the city’s historic and main square. It is bordered by painstakingly maintained buildings of various colours, many of which are historical landmarks, such as the Théâtre du Nord and the Vieille Bourse. The Colonne de la Déese (Column of the Goddess) on a circular fountain lies in the centre of the area.

Today, you can find a large number of shops and restaurants in the square. I recommend going up the stairs in the Théâtre du Nord to get a higher vantage point and enjoy a view of the square. Another option is to sit on the edge of the fountain and take in the surroundings while watching people go by. This simple activity becomes a truly magical experience in such a place.

🏥 Remember that it is very important to travel with the best travel insurance, since you never know if you are going to suffer any inconveniences during your stay. Without adding a lot of money to the final budget, you can go with the peace of mind that if something happens to you, all your expenses will be covered, as well as having a team of people who will help you. I always use and recommend Heymondo travel insurance, where I can offer you a 5% discount on your travel insurance..

2. La Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange)

Vieille Bourse
Old Stock Exchange

Located between the Grand Place and the Place du Théâtre, you’ll find the Vieille Bourse, the most prestigious building in the city. It has a square structure and is composed of 24 identical houses joined together to form a large inner courtyard. If the exterior of this building grabs your attention, don’t hesitate to go inside through one of its four entrances.

Inside, you’ll often find small markets selling books, paintings, and antiques. Don’t be surprised if you come across intense chess matches being played. Perhaps what you’ll find most intriguing about this building is that it was constructed during the Spanish rule of the city. In my opinion, the Vieille Bourse is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Lille.

3. Explore Vieux-Lille, one of the best things to do in Lille

vieux lille france

Vieux-Lille is the most beautiful neighborhood in the city, thanks to its architectural charm and cobblestone streets. My advice is to simply wander through its captivating corners, discover the city’s best restaurants, and explore charming shops. If you want, you can join this 2-hour guided walking tour around Vieux-Lille. Or maybe you want to add this Lille city tour to your to-do list in Lille.

4. Fine Arts Museum of Lille

Palace of Fine Arts
Source: Velvet / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Palais des Beaux-Arts houses the second-largest art collection in France, with around 60,000 works, just behind the Louvre. It was also one of the first museums built in the country. In addition to the permanent collection, there are usually temporary exhibitions as well. Keep in mind that the museum is closed on Tuesdays if you plan to visit.

The opening hours are from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM on Mondays and from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM from Wednesday to Sunday. The museum is located in the vast Republic Square in Lille.

🎟️ If you plan to visit multiple tourist attractions, it may be worthwhile to purchase the Lille City Pass to save some money. It provides free access to major attractions, public transportation, and discounts at shops and restaurants. You can book the Lille City Pass in advance here.

5. Citadel Park

things to do in lille
Citadel Park

Parc de la Citadelle is the largest green area in the city. The citadel located within the park was built between 1667 and 1673. Vauban dubbed it the “queen of citadels,” and it truly lives up to its name, boasting immense beauty. Inside the park, you can also find canals and various pathways to stroll along and get lost in.

If you’re visiting Lille during the summer and the weather is nice, having a picnic in Parc de la Citadelle can be a perfect plan. Head to a supermarket, grab a good baguette, your favorite cheese, and some cold cuts. I’m sure you’ll thoroughly enjoy this simple activity.

6. Theatre Square, Lille (France)

Theatre Square Lille
Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie

Place du Théâtre is located just behind the Grand Place. In fact, before the construction of the Vieille Bourse in 1652, these two squares formed a single square. The square gets its name from the old theater that was destroyed by fire in 1903. Today, instead of a theater, you can find the Grand Opéra de Lille, built between 1907 and 1913. Another notable building in this square is the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie.

7. Visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille

Lille Cathedral
Lille Cathedral

Construction of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Treille began in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1999 that its construction was completed. What is most intriguing about this cathedral is its blend of styles. It features a contemporary-style facade and a neo-Gothic interior. You will find it in the famous neighborhood of Vieux-Lille.

8. Vieux Murs Street

things to do in lille france
Vieux Murs Street

Rue des Vieux Murs is my favorite street in the city. Yes, I insist that you go and see this beautiful street if you visit Lille. I remember that one day, while strolling aimlessly, I came across it and fell in love. The colorful banners hanging from side to side, the art galleries, and the aromas from the restaurants create a captivating atmosphere.

9. Enjoying a treat at Méert Patisserie, a must-do in Lille

lille what to do
Source: Benoît Prieur

Méert Patisserie is the most famous pastry shop in Lille. Located on Esquermoise Street, Méert opened its doors in 1761. It now has establishments in Paris and Brussels as well. The shop features a tearoom and even a restaurant. What is their specialty? Gaufres fourrées.

You cannot leave Lille without trying them. If they don’t pique your interest, you can opt for any other delicious treat or simply visit the shop to have a look around. It is definitely worth it.

10. Visit Lille’s City Hall and climb its Bell Tower

places to visit in Lille
Source: Velvet / CC BY-SA 3.0

Lille’s City Hall, known as l’Hôtel de Ville, was constructed between 1924 and 1932. It is inspired by Flemish tradition and features a distinctive architectural style. The bell tower stands tall at 104 meters, making it the tallest in Europe, and it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

You’ll be delighted to know that it is possible to visit the bell tower and enjoy panoramic views of the city. Inside the City Hall, you can also explore a great collection of contemporary artworks.

11. Stroll through Lille’s shopping streets

If you’re in the mood for some shopping, Lille offers several options. One of them is the Euralille shopping center, which houses numerous stores, restaurants, and a Carrefour supermarket. Another option, which I highly recommend, is exploring Rue Béthune. It’s a beautiful walkway where you’ll find well-known clothing stores. Lastly, if you prefer luxury shopping, I suggest heading to Vieux-Lille, where you’ll find brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Lacoste, and more.

12. La Porte de Paris

Porte de Paris
Porte de Paris

The Porte de Paris was rebuilt in the late 17th century as an Arch of Triumph to celebrate the victories of Louis XIV. Its structure consists of two distinct facades: the entrance and the exit of the city. It is considered a masterpiece of military art. It was designated as a historical monument in 1875.

13. Enjoy the nightlife in Lille

Lille is a city with a vibrant nightlife thanks to its large student population, many of whom are international students. If you’re in the mood for dancing, meeting new people, or simply enjoying some drinks, I recommend two streets: Masséna and Solferino. Here, you’ll find a casual and youthful atmosphere. If you prefer more upscale venues, I recommend exploring the nightlife options in Vieux-Lille.

Tips for visiting Lille

Below you can read a series of tips to organize your visit to this beautiful French city.

How to get to Lille, France

Lille has its own airport, but flights can be quite expensive. My recommendation is to fly to Brussels Charleroi Airport (with Ryanair, you can find very cheap flights) and then take a bus from the airport to Lille. The ticket price is usually around 15 euros, and the journey takes just under 2 hours.

If you are already in this area of Europe, Lille is well-connected by buses, trains, and also has the TGV (high-speed train). Another popular option is BlaBlaCar, a carpooling service frequently used for travel between cities.

Where to eat in Lille

where to eat in Lille
Crêperie Beaurepaire

As I mentioned before, Lille (France) is very close to Belgium, so you’ll be able to find the best of both countries’ cuisine. Don’t leave Lille without trying moules et frites (mussels and fries), crêpes and gaufres (waffles), welsh, or raclette. If you’re interested in this topic, keep reading, as I’ll tell you the best places to eat these dishes.

1. Crêperie Beaurepaire

In this restaurant, you can find both savory and sweet crêpes. It’s a great idea to have a savory crêpe as your main course and a sweet one for dessert, don’t you agree? My favorite sweet crêpes and the ones I recommend are the Kinder Bueno and Speculoos flavors.

This crêperie has two locations in the city. However, I recommend going to the one on Saint-Etienne Street as the establishment is much more charming. If you plan to go, I advise making a reservation.

2. Le Domaine de Chavagnac

It is a very elegant restaurant located in Vieux-Lille, specifically at 43 rue de Gand. Their specialty is the traditional cuisine of Southwest France, making it an exceptional place to try several dishes. One thing that caught my attention about this place is its rustic decor. The tablecloths have red and white checkered patterns, and each table is equipped with a toaster.

3. Elizabeth’s

This charming café-patisserie is the perfect place to enjoy a coffee or tea accompanied by a delicious sweet treat. You can find cheesecake, carrot cake, muffins, apple pie, sponge cakes, sandwiches, and more. Trust me, if you take a peek at the counter (71, rue Basse), you won’t be able to leave without buying some delicacies. I recommend going to the ground floor of the establishment as the atmosphere is even more delightful.

4. Estaminet Au Vieux de la Vieille

This is a good place to try the Welsh. And what is Welsh? Although it has Welsh origins (as the name suggests), it is also very typical of this region of France. It is basically a slice of bread soaked in beer, topped with a generous amount of cheese and an egg, and baked in the oven. You can also add a sausage. Yes, I know, it’s pure fat but… it’s delicious!

Day trips from Lille

Lille’s strategic location on the map is one of its strengths (and one of the reasons that led me to do my Erasmus here). Lille is located 225 km by road from Paris, 286 km from London, 120 km from Brussels, and 290 km from Amsterdam.

Here are the main European cities near Lille:

  • Paris. There are two highly recommended options for traveling to Paris. The fast and more expensive alternative is to take the TGV (high-speed train), which takes just over an hour each way. The other alternative, cheaper but longer, is to take a bus, which takes around 3 hours each way. By car, it takes about 2.5 hours. If you decide to do a day trip, don’t miss my guide to visiting Paris in a day.
  • London. The Eurostar train can take you to London in just one and a half hours, but the price is quite high. Another option, which is much longer but more affordable, is to take a bus. You can find very cheap tickets compared to the train, but the downside is that it takes almost 6 hours. Lastly, by car, it takes a little over 4 hours.
  • Brussels. Belgium is very close to France, so you can visit any Belgian city. By bus, it takes only one hour and 40 minutes to Brussels. Other Belgian cities you can easily visit from Lille are Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp.
  • Amsterdam. By bus, it takes a little over 5 hours. Another option is to take the train, which is more expensive but takes only 2.5 hours. If you decide to go by car, it takes about 4 hours. Other cities in the Netherlands you can visit are Rotterdam, Utrecht, or The Hague.

Map of Lille, France

On the following map, I have marked the best things to do in Lille mentioned in this article, as well as the recommended restaurants and hotels. If you click on the accommodation icons, you will be directed to the Booking page.

Don’t miss my travel guide for France if you plan to visit other destinations in the country.

I hope my article on what to see in Lille has been helpful in organizing your visit to this French city. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Until next time!

↠ Book free tours and guided visits on Civitatis or GetYourGuide. I always use these platforms to check what organized activities there are at my destination.

↠ To pay with card in foreign currency or withdraw money from ATMs, I always use this card (there are free and paid plans). It works the best!

↠ Traveling with travel insurance to a destination where you don’t have healthcare coverage is a must. Get your insurance 5% cheaper with this link.

↠ If you want to have cellphone data at your destination from the moment you land and don’t want to waste time, there is nothing like this eSIM. Use the code “comeamaviaja” for a 5% discount.

↠ Check out Booking’s offers, a platform I always use, as I always find very good options thanks to its search engine with filters.

↠ For destinations where I need to rent a car, I always check Discover Cars and Auto Europe search engines. I recommend them!

↠ If you still need to buy flights for your trip, there is no better search engine than Skyscanner (although I always recommend booking the flight on the company’s website).

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