Travel guide - Lille

The capital of Flanders, the cosmopolitan, modern city of Lille has all the warmth and authenticity of a city built on a human scale, combining a pleasant living environment with cultural dynamism and varied architecture. A combination of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Art Nouveau architecture, this city in the North invites you to stroll through its streets and explore its rich artistic offerings.

Discovering the architectural sites and neighbourhoods of Lille

The cobblestone streets of Lille’s old town offer a lovely glimpse of the area’s Flemish architecture, and the charm of the softly-coloured facades invites you to lose yourself amidst the city’s many boutiques. The market square of Grand’Place has resonated with commercial prosperity ever since the Middle Ages. The Vieille Bourse of Lille, with its cloister surrounded by sculptures, is a prime example of Flemish Renaissance architecture, while the city hall belfry, a UNESCO-listed heritage site, towers over the city. The building’s red bricks and blend of Art Deco and neo-Flemish architecture culminate in a 104 metre-high spire offering a unique view of the city. A legacy from Philippe Le Bon, the Duke of Bourgogne, the vestiges of Rihour Palace’s Flamboyant Gothic architecture will transport you into the past.

Cultural spaces and aesthetic research

Lille is a city caught between classical art and a modern aesthetic. At the Palais des Beaux-Arts you can discover prestigious collections of works by European painters. Rubens keeps company with Goya, while French masters from David to Courbet are also on display. The cultural spaces of Maison Folie de Wazemmes and Maison de Moulins, which often host artists in residence, are crossroads of artistic disciplines where works can be explored through performances, shows and exhibitions. At the Musée d’Art Moderne, LaM, you walk through a lush green sculpture park to reach a museum containing more than 7,000 contemporary masterpieces. Modern art and art brut are intermingled here, with works by Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Klee and Barry Flanagan. The architectural manifest of the Villa Cavrois is a testimony to the city’s taste for design, offering visitors the chance to see inside a home mixing aesthetic research, comfort and light.

Street markets, market halls and other places of trade

Lille is a city whose streets are full of life and bustling with trade. In September, during the Braderie de Lille, locals gather in the streets and the city echoes with the sounds of deals being made on antiques and other used items. The businesslike spirit of Lille can also be felt throughout the year beneath the arcades of Place du Général-de-Gaulle and in the streets of the old town. At the Halles de Wazemmes, you will experience warm, friendly interactions with vendors. As you shop for local and artisanal products, you will have a chance to get to know the inhabitants of Lille a little better. The permanent book market in the courtyard of the Vieille Bourse revives the commercial past of the historic building. The cloister surrounded by sculptures and busts is a favoured setting for the sales of old books.

The cuisine of Lille, from waffles to welsh rarebit

Discover Lille through its estaminets, the traditional Flemish cafes inspired by Belgium, which reflect all the authenticity, simplicity and conviviality of the North. Exposed beams, wood moulding and wicker baskets will make you feel right at home! Discover the cultural and gastronomic heritage of the region at Chez la Vieille or Au Vieux de la Vieille, two restaurants with names as friendly as the atmosphere that reigns inside them. Warm your heart in this no-fuss setting with the famous welsh rarebit, a piece of toast covered with a slice of ham and melted cheese, for a true local culinary experience! For food lovers, Lille waffles stuffed with Muscovado sugar will delight children and adults alike. Make your way to Maison Méert, the official provider for King Leopold the First, to taste these brown sugar delicacies.
Once you have finished exploring, head to the Citadelle de Lille. The “queen of the citadels” as its architect Vauban called it, this building constructed in the 17th century marks the border of Flanders.

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