• Every year in September, the city opens its streets to millions of visitors for one of the biggest flea markets in the world.
    © Michel Megret / age fotostock
    The Braderie de Lille

    Every year in September, the city opens its streets to millions of visitors for one of the biggest flea markets in the world.

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination France

Lille, the proud capital of Flanders, is sure to win you round to the charms of the north of France. It is an impressive and multi-faceted city that delicately combines its relics from the past with a wholly modern outlook.
It is full of 17th Century Flemish architecture whose sparkling colours brighten up the streets and bring genuine charm to the alleyways of Vieux Lille, the old town that has managed to retain its authenticity over the passage of time. A modern touch is also brought to the city thanks to the cultural complex and business district of Euralille, with its cutting edge glass towers.
Lille is a festive city famed for its street markets and festivals, which provide the perfect opportunity to taste the local cuisine, a veritable anthology of typical flavours from the north of France.

Lille: what to do?

Lille by segway: organised by the city of Lille in partnership with Transpole, segway rides (a futuristic machine consisting of a motorised stand with two-wheels and handlebars, which you stand on, like a lecturer on wheels!) are a fun and ecological way to explore the streets of Lille.
This original and silent machine is a light and easy to use vehicle that will allow you to discover Lille and its stunning architecture in a fun and easy way.
The rides take place every Saturday (from 01/04/2006 until 16/12/2006, except the 02/09) and last about two hours.
Prices: ?20 (£17) per person; discovery offer for 2: ?30 (£25).
It is important to register in advance with the Tourist Office, and provide a deposit and an ID to rent the vehicle.
Information and Reservation: +33 (0)8 91 56 20 04.

The Prés du Hem: initially created as a water supply 30 years ago, the Prés du Hem has now become a beautiful green space.
It's the ideal place to discover nature in four forms: water, birds, navigators and marshes.
The Maison de l'Eau (water education centre) will allow you to discover the lifeblood of the planet by studying its cycle (from clouds to water) in an active way, by participate in field experiments. Water reserve, the Prés du Hem is home to more than 200 bird species that come to rest, feed and lay their eggs here.
Put yourself in the shoes of an ornithologist and follow, notebook in hand and binoculars glued to your eyes, in the footsteps of a guide to discover this magnificent flora and avifauna .
The Ferme des Grands Navigateurs (farm of the great navigators) offers you the chance to follow in the footsteps of famous explorers such as Vasco da Gama, Cortez, Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo. You will also have the opportunity to discover the origins of turkeys, rats, pheasants and even cats!
The marais des contrebandiers (smugglers swamp) will immerse you in the world of fraudsters, who trade tobacco and chocolate, and will allow you to better understand the swamp and its landscape.
And to put theory into practice, the Prés du Hem is also home to the leading inland lake sailing school in France. Private lessons and windsurfing, catamaran and sailing dinghy courses are available, as well as a cruise on board the Armentières 2000
5-7, avenue Marc Sanguier B.P.1 59280 Armentières +33 (0)3 20 44 04 60.

Lille Zoo: Lille Zoo is hidden in the woods of the Citadel, Lille's green lung.
Among the 100 different species (with more than 300 animals in total), the white rhinos and the snow leopards are the main attractions.
The park not only has those two species, but also many different animals in different themed areas.
The tropical pavilion houses tamarinds, marmosets, small primates from South America as well as boas, turtles, pythons and iguanas. Children will be amazed when they discover how various multicoloured birds and lemurs evolve.
White-handed gibbons, siamangs and capuchins can also be seen outdoors.
Just as spectacular, the South American pavilion is where you will find many babies, like terrestrial tapirs, alpacas and Canadian geese.
Avenue Mayhias Delorel 59000 Lille +33 (0)3 28 52 07 00.

The Natural History Museum of Lille: originally consisting of palaeontological, mineralogical and zoological specimens, the museum has a rich collection of 110,000 zoological specimens and tens of thousands of palaeontological and mineral samples, some of which are unique in the world.
Discover 1,500 mammals, 15,000 regional and exotic birds, nearly 1,000 reptiles, amphibians and fish, as well as 5,000 mollusc shells.
Some of the 100,000 insects and arachnids exhibited are live specimens, unlike the great auk, the marsupial wolf, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the North American passenger pigeon, which are on display but are extinct species.
In the geological collection, landscapes that have disappeared from the Nord-Pas-de-Calais area, such as coal forests or coral sea (-400 million years), will reappear before your eyes.
National History Museum of Lille: 19, rue de Bruxelles 59000 Lille. Tel.: +33 (0)3 28 55 30 80.

The Matisse Museum: before moving to Paris then ending his days in Nice, Matisse lived in the green countryside of Cateau, where he was born in 1869.
Fond of his home town, Henri Matisse created this museum more than fifty years ago in the Fénelon Palace, which was once the palace of the Bishops of Hainaut-Cambresis
Nowadays, the museum traces the life and work of the artist, which were entirely dedicated to pictorial art. More than 170 of Matisse's works are exhibited at the centre of the museum, which was renovated and reorganised in 2002 in order to better showcase the works.
Henri Matisse himself donated most of the works himself to his home town: paintings, drawings, sketches and sculptures. Over time the collection has grown with works donated by his family, the heritage fund, and by Auguste Herbin (master of geometric abstraction). A tour called 'in the footsteps of Matisse' has been created to explore the various locations of the region, in the North and Aisne (Cateau-Cambresis, Bohan, Saint Quentin, etc), where Henri Matisse spent his childhood and teenage years.
Matisse Museum: Palais Fénelon 59360 Le Cateau-Cambrésis +33 (0)3 27 84 64 50.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Lille: between 1991 and 1997, the late 19th century building was renovated in order to create a setting worthy of the collections on display.
Spread over 22,000m2, the works are grouped by school: Flemish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian and French.
Two collections in particular stand out in this pictorial landscape, covering the 16th to the 20th century: the Flemish collection, with artists such as Rubens among others, and the French 19th century collection, with works by David, Delacroix, Géricault, Corot and Courbet.
This collection of 2,000 paintings is renowned worldwide and many specialists and art historians come to consult it, or to study the 4,000 sheets contained in the Drawing Room. Among these 4,000 sheets are 30 drawings by Raphael, and 200 to 300 Italian drawings from the 16th century.
Another particular feature of this museum is that it contains several works that have marked the history of painting: Belisarius Begging for Alms by David, the first neo-classical painting (exhibited at the Salon of 1781); After Dinner at Ornans by Courbet (Salon of 1849), a realist painting going against the Romantic Movement at the time; Le Sommeil (Sleep) by Puvis de Chavannes (Salon of 1867) heralding Picasso's Blue Period.
In addition to the permanent collections, the museum is very active and offers many temporary exhibitions (Goya, Rubens and Berthe Morisot), which have significantly contributed to its international reputation.
Museum of Fine Arts: place de la République 59000 Lille +33 (0)3 20 06 78 00.

The Hospice Comtesse Museum in Lille: founded in 1237 by Jeanne de Constantinople, the building is one of the last testimonies to the era of the Counts of Flanders.
It is in this beautiful setting, with a succession of monumental buildings representing the architecture of Lille from the 15th to the 18th century, that you will find the Hospice Comtesse Museum. Originally a hospital, it was converted back to a hospice during the Revolution before becoming an orphanage.
The museum has large spaces with collections of artefacts that aim to reproduce the life of the Augustines, who ran the hospital during the 17th and 18th century.
Here you will find many objects recounting everyday life and the history of Lille's society during the Ancien Régime and the French Revolution.
Open every day except Tuesday. Monday from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, Wednesday to Friday from 10:00am to 12:30pm and 2:00pm to 6:00pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00am to 6:00pm.
Hospice Comtesse Museum 32, rue de la Monnaie 59800 Lille +33 (0)3 28 36 84 00.

The Old Stock Exchange: it was in the 17th century, under the initiative of dealers and brokers of the city who wanted to meet and hold meetings without anyone knowing, that the magistrates of Lille and the sovereign, persuaded by the latter, decided to build a stock exchange, identical to that of Antwerp.
In March 1652, construction began under the supervision of municipal architect Julien Destré. The building was finished in October 1653. In 1921, thanks to its classification as an historical monument, the Old Stock Exchange underwent renovation. This was follwed in 1989 by the restoration of the interior and exterior façades, the courtyard and the galleries, undertaken by the Mécénat sponsorship association.
This policy of development and preservation has lasted to this day. The latest restoration is recent and the Old Stock Exchange, jewel of 17th century Flemish architecture, is now made up of 24 houses which surround the cloister, all identical with richly decorated façades.
This building, which is part of the beautiful landscape of Calais, is now a meeting place for chess players, florists and booksellers, and the site of various events, particularly in the spring, with the famous festival 'Festival du Printemps de la Vieille Bourse' which started back in 1995.

The Citadel of Lille: nicknamed 'Queen of the Citadels' by Vauban himself, the citadel of Lille was the work by the military architect.
The building's foundation stone was laid on the 17th June 1668. On 15 October 1670, it was capable of withstanding a siege. Although it was the first of many to come, Vauban saw this as his most accomplished citadel, and a marvel of the art of military defence.
It was built as a five-pointed star and it is located in the most marshy and lowest area of Lille.
A stronghold was built at each point of the star, in conjunction with the wide and deep ditches, which makes this citadel almost look like an island.
The assembly of these defensive structures (ditches, bastions and ramparts) make this building a defensive monster, right in the centre of a complex flood system.
Louis XIV himself came to admire this work with all of his court. The names of the gates and bastions have kept a record: the door through which you enter the citadel is called the Royal Gate, but there is also the Dauphine's Gate, Turenne's Gate, Anjou's Gate, Queen's Gate, and last but not least, the King's Gate. Nowadays, many visitors come to visit and sample the delights of the citadel, situated in a green area where you can also find the Bois de Boulogne woods, the zoo and the Vauban Garden.

Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral: the fruit of Viollet le Duc's imagination and years of work on medieval architecture, the Cathedral Notre Dame de Treille was built to be the perfect Gothic cathedral.
Theorist of Gothic architecture, Viollet le Duc designed the project as a reflection of many subjects: human history and culture, the material and spiritual, the resources and technologies from the late Middle Ages and today.
However, this global vision underwent many changes over time and to this today, the cathedral remains an unfinished project. The west façade, originally designed with a rose window and two large towers, will never see the light of day.
Construction of the cathedral began in 1860 and it was not until 1990 that the decision to finish it, by completing the west side which remained unfinished, was taken. The task of designing a façade which would be in keeping with Viollet's perfect cathedral and the works carried out during the following eras fell to artist Ladislas Kijno.
Nowadays we can admire an architectural composition combining a basic material, stone, and new technologies. The result is stunning.
The grey and sober stone façade is separated, in the middle, by a gate which looks like a veil rising towards the sky. It is supported by a metal structure with lines supporting a modern rose window which goes perfectly with the rest of the building.

  • A very welcoming city.
  • The cultural and historical wealth.
  • There isn't necessarily a lot of sun.


Lille is festive and welcoming, so do not forget to immerse yourself in the way of life here. What better way than to head to the friednly bars and restaurants to make new friends.

Le Sébastopol: the Sébastopol: Jean-Luc Germond orchestrates his dishes with flair. The turbot with parsley and herbs, the oven roasted skate and its gravy, the cucumber cream and red fruits puff pastries will make your taste buds sing.
1, place de Sébastopol 59000 Lille Tel.: +33 (0)3 20 57 05 05 Fax: +33 (0)3 20 40 11 31

The Network Café: this disco bar welcomes all of Lille's trendy youth. Half pints cost ?4 (£3) and cocktails cost ?7 (£6)
15, rue du Faisan 59800 Lille Tel.: +33 (0)3 20 40 04 91

The T'Rijsel: among the restaurants in Lille, the T'Rijsel, in a rustic tavern setting on Gand Street, offers a selection of Flemish specialities at a very affordable price.
T'Rijsel, rue de Gand.

L'Huitrière: The Huitrière is the gastronomic temple of Lille. It is located at 3 Chats-Bossus Street, and despite the menu's relatively high prices, the fish and seafood-based dishes will surprise you.
L'Huitrière, 3, rue des Chats-Bossus.

L'Illustration: the Illustration, at 18 Royal Street, is a small friendly bar that welcomes mostly students and artists in a turn of the century setting.
L'Illustration, 18, rue Royale.

L'Irlandais: at the Irish (160 Solferino Street), you will be immersed in a Celtic atmosphere.
L'Irlandais, 160 rue de Solferino.

Le Bastringue: this café is a typical café from the North region of France: the Jenlain (local beer) flows all day long and the Sebourg (another famous beer from the Duyck brewery in Jenlain) is just as popular. As for the staff, the boss is as nice as the waitresses are lovely.
Le Bastringue: 168, rue Solferino Lille +33 (0)3 20 57 60 22.

Le Bistrot: now here's a night club for those who cannot stand night clubs! Here, instead of playing the latest hits at full volume, the DJ makes you move to the rhythms of The Stones, U2, Bob Marley and Dutronc. And when you get hungry from all the dancing and you want to get a little snack, all you have to do is order a plate of cold meats or cheese?that should be enough to call a truce with nigh clubs!
Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30pm to 6:00am. Entry is free, a beer costs around ?3 (£2.50) and cocktails around ?6 (£4). Le Bistrot: Autoroute Lille-Tournai. Templeuve Exit.

To avoid

In some neighbourhoods, such as the ones in the south of Lille, it is better to avoid taking the subway late at night.

Lille: what to eat?

Come taste the specialities of the region:

Potjevlesch: this dish only has one drawback...its name can only be pronounceable when you have your mouth full. Of Flemish origin, and typical of Dunkirk, this dish is traditionally served the Sunday before Mardi Gras and on Mardi Gras itself, before starting the fast.
This potjevlesch (which means 'meat dish'), is a mix of white meats (chicken,rabbit, veal, pork) marinated in beer with garlic, thyme, celery, bay leaf and juniper berries for twenty-four hours.
The first thing step is to cover the edges of the bowl with bacon (bard it), and then add a layer of marinated meat, cover it with onions and bacon strips (repeat this step twice).
Once this is done, pour a glass of gin over the preparation and add the pork rind and then finally the gelatine and the filtered marinade.
Put it in the oven for three to four hours, then leave it to rest and cool down, and serve it cold.

Maroilles tart: when serving this dish, it's best to avoid saying its name so that no one tries to run away at the mere thought of this cheese (for some it stinks, for others it's 'full of character').< br/> It is only after the guests have finished devouring this tart that you should reveal the composition of the dish, which has a sweet smell of cooked cheese. Once you've revealed your secret, be prepared for a look of astonishment on your guests' faces, surprised by the absence of the particular distinctive flavour of this cheese.
The strong taste of Maroilles fades away once cooked, leaving only its finesse and texture.
To make this recipe, you must first make a leavened dough which will be covered with slices of Maroilles cheese and a layer of crème fraîche. You don't need to add salt, the Maroilles cheese is salted enough. After cooking it for about half an hour in a hot oven, all that is left to do is enjoy it.

Vieux Gris de Lille: in the 19th century, this cheese, made in Thiérache, was sold to minors in and around Lens. They would eat it while drinking coffee or gin. So that it could be preserved for long journeys, the cheese was salted, and then desalted once it arrived in Lille or Lens. This changes its appearance: the crust becomes greyish and the body a creamy white.
It has a stronger and more pungent than the Maroilles.

Lucullus: in the early 20th century, it was tradition in the region of Valenciennes to serve beef tongue at funeral meals.
It was a restaurant owner who had the idea of combining the traditional smoked beef tongue with foie gras and to name this delicatessen the Lucullus (after the famous Roman general who was known for his taste for luxury and good food).
Lucullus can be eaten as an starter with toasted bread or served with an onion jam or even with candied chicory. Its production has remained traditional to this day.

Chicory: chicory has been known since ancient times as a regenerator and mild regulator for the body.
In the late 18th century its taste was compared to that of coffee, and it was used in the same way: as a hot drink, consumed alone or with coffee. It was also during that time that it became popular in French households, following the 1806 ban placed by Napoleon on British ships.
Sowed in April, in the sandy and alluvial ground of Flanders maritime, its roots are harvested in October then washed, cut into strip, dried (known as 'cossettes'), roasted (which gives them their nutty, caramel flavour) then cooled and crushed.
Despite the famous reputation of Pas-de-Calais chicory, today, there are only two companies that carry out this process.
Chicory is good for health because it is low in calories and it contains fibres, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Its most common use is in the morning, at breakfast, with milk and sometimes coffee, but it is also served as an iced frappé.
It is also used by chefs for cooking and marinating meat, for sauces, creams, terrines and even chocolates and ice creams.
On menus, you can find chicory bavarois, chicory crème brûlée, chicory crepes with apples and even ostrich steak with chicory.

Lille: what to buy?

We would suggest that you try some maroille cheese but it can be difficult to transport in the car boot (even more so if it's not yours) or on the train due to its smell. To be sure that you get something, there are two other Lille specialities that can be transported without worry.

Meert Tradition: the Meert Tradition building dates back to the 18th century, judging by the architecture of the two floors with all the features of the era, although the ground floor was transformed in the 19th century.
The interior and exterior design of the ground floor is the work of architect Benvignat and sculptor Huidiez.
It was in 1761 that Delcourt, the chocolate confectioner, moved in to 27 Esquermoise Street. It was when Rollez, his successor, took over the shop in 1773 that the business' reputation grew, mainly due to the ice creams which quickly became famous.
Attracting more and more people, the house became a privileged place for high society in Lille. The Count of Lille even wrote about it in the 'Feuille de Flanders' which the lover sings to his mistress... I am a gourmet and I sing of Rollez .
It was in 1839 that the works by Rollez would make pastries what they are today.
In 1849, Meert took over the patisserie and became, in 1864, the 'official supplier to his Majesty King Leopard I'.
It is this same Meert who left his famous recipe for waffles filled with vanilla to his descendants. The clientèle quickly included heads of State, General de Gaulle among them, as well as royal families and personalities.
Two tearooms were subsequently opened, the first created by the architect Cordonnier in a Louis XVI style.
While it is true that the décor is extravagent, and that it alone is worth a visit, the Meert Tradition house is primarily known and appreciated for its waffles.
Created in 1849 in the studios of Esquermoise street, the vanilla filled waffles are still handmade today.
First, they are placed between two waffle irons. Then, the cutting is done by hand. It is with this process that gives the waffle its final shape. Finally, it is then filled with vanilla cream from Madagascar.
The recipe for these waffles has been kept a secret since its creation.
Of course, the confectionery also offers other delicacies which are equally good. The dream list of delicacies offered is enough to make your mouth water: chocolates, caramels, marshmallows, fruit jellies, nougats, orangettes, mendicants, grillotins, chocolate bars, gingerbread, candied orange peel, petits-fours, marzipan bread, speculoos, dragees, palets de dame biscuits.
Meert Tradition: 27, rue Esquermoise 59800 Lille +33 (0)3 20 57 07 44.

Le Pain de nos Ancêtres: this bakery awakens memories of yesteryear: the bread is baked on a wood fire and just oozes authenticity.
There is a wide range of special breads: lard breads, whole grain breads, nut breads etc. And the tarts! They are delicious! And they too, have been made the old-fashioned way.
You can savour a sugar tart, a leek tarts, Maroilles tarts, chicory tarts, quiches?
Not to be missed!
Le Pain de nos Ancêtres: 26, rue des Bouchers - 59800 Lille +33 (0)3 20 54 02 14.

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