Lille is situated in northern France, close to the border with Belgium – and it feels a mix of cultures, which is unsurprising given Lille’s eventful history. Very often besieged during its history, it belonged successively to the Kingdom of France, Burgundian State, Holy Roman Empire of Germany, the Spanish Netherlands and then definitively attached to Louis XIV’s France following the War of Spanish Succession. But again in 1792, Lille was under siegeduring the Franco-Austrian War, and in both 1914 and 1940 as it was occupied during the two world wars. Despite all this destruction, Lille is an absolutely beautiful city. It hasn’t got major landmarks to compete with the likes of Paris, but it’s perfect for taking things slow, sampling the local food and enjoying a bit of culture.
Here are 5 things I loved doing during a slow, sunny weekend in the city, and I hope you will too.
1. Take a stroll around Vieux Lille
Vieux Lille (the old town) is a beautiful area. It’s known for its redbrick houses and the ornate, 17th-century Old Stock Exchange, as well as Notre-Dame de la Treille cathedral, the Theatre and The Charles de Gaulle Birthplace Museum documenting the life of the former President, which was interesting and definitely worth visiting.
2. Explore the Grand Place
Lille has always been a market town at its core. And here, within the old town, is the hub of the city’s medieval trading heartbeat – the Grand Place. It’s not quite the same as Brussels’ namesake, but is beautiful none the less. Here you can grab a coffee, or a Croque Monsieur for breakfast and just enjoy watching the world go by amongst all of the beautiful buildings.
3. Enjoy the incredible cakes at Patisserie Meert
The cakes and confectionery here were AMAZING. This Patisserie was founded in 1761 and is viewed as one of the best in Lille. There is a shop at the front, another area where you can order patisserie to takeaway and then a little cafe as well where you can go in to eat. We looked round the shop, ate in the cafe, and got items to take away we liked it so much!
4. Get cultured at the Palais des Beaux Arts
A few minutes’ walk from the centre, there is an art museum which includes work by Raphael, Donatello, Van Dyck and Tissot to name but a few. It also has the most amazing corridors and huge lights!
5. Sample the local Creperies and Boulangeries
I mentioned Patisseries earlier, but the creperies and boulangeries are amazing as well. Have a freshly baked croissant for breakfast, a savoury crepe for lunch, head for patisserie in the afternoon and then finish with a dinner of beef bourguignon or raclette. Lille really is the perfect place to eat your way around!