Parc de la Citadelle, Lille's green lung

Popular with locals and tourists alike for an almost rural stroll, Lille's citadel is the city's green lung. Whether you're with the family, friends or a couple, there are plenty of activities and events to suit all tastes. A picnic in the Jardin Vauban, a drink on one of the barges on the Deûle, walk around the voie des Combattants with your pet or introducing your children to dozens of animal species are just some of the wonderful things you can do at the citadel. Once the city of Lille's defensive fortress, today it's a place where you can let go, do some sport and get away from it all after a day's work or a stroll through the winding streets of Old Lille. Head for the Citadelle, to enjoy it on foot, by bike or with a drink in hand!

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A fortified star surrounded by greenery

Called the "Queen of Citadels" by Vauban, the Lille citadel is the military architect's first work, and construction began on 17 June 1668. Considered by Vauban to be his most accomplished, it is a marvel of the art of military defence installed in Lille. Seen from the air, it creates a five-pointed star in the lowest, most marshy part of the city.

© Sergey Rybin / Shutterstock

At each branch of this star, a bastion was built in association with the wide, deep moats. Louis XIV came in person, with his entire court, to admire this defensive work at the centre of a complex flooding system. As you stroll around, you'll discover that the names of the gates and bastions bear witness to this: the Porte Royale, but also the Porte Dauphine. Just like this royal procession, many visitors nowadays come to enjoy the charms of the citadel, set in a green setting that also includes the Vauban garden and the zoo.

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Between flora and fauna, in the centre of Lille

From the Vauban district, take the footbridge over Lille Zoo to reach the eponymous site. During the summer months, this passageway over the Deûle, the river that runs alongside the Citadelle, is an ideal spot to enjoy a splendid sunset with the colours reflected on the water.

© martin chivers / Shutterstock

While you're out and about in the fresh air, take the whole family to Lille Zoo, where you'll discover hundreds of animals, some of them of surprising species! Rodents, birds, reptiles and mammals share several hectares of green space.

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Practical information

  • Address: Av Mathias Delobel, 59000 Lille
  • Winter opening times: 10am - 5pm except Tuesdays from the1st Saturday of the winter holidays to 31/03 and from 2/11 to 13/11.
  • Summer opening times: 10am - 5pm on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10am - 6pm on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 01/04 to 30/09 and closes one hour earlier in October.
  • Access: Metro line 1 stop République Beaux-Arts then 15-minute walk

A great place to walk

Ideal after enjoying a welsh in one of Lille's estaminets, a stroll around the citadel is a great way to recharge your batteries, just a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. If you're looking for something between land and water, take a stroll along the Deûle, starting at the Pont Napoléon. This is the only covered pedestrian bridge in France, providing a link to the park from Old Lille, and it features prominently in postcard photos of Lille.

© world8 / Shutterstock

Take your time to enjoy this elegant installation, made of iron and stone, before arriving at the allée des Marronniers, where the funfair takes place every year. Stroll along the river in the northern sunshine to the Pont de la Citadelle, where you can continue along the Avenue Mathias Delobel, alongside the zoo, where runners, cyclists and walkers meet.

© Guillaumee / Shutterstock

For a starry-eyed stroll, head for the voie des Combattants, which takes you around the fortresses on a trail that reveals the little hidden gems of the area. Between the woods, the historic footbridges, the marshes and the commemorative monuments, this great relaxing tour will even allow you to meet many lucky pets, walked by their Lille masters.

Jardin Vauban: a picturesque green oasis

© jean schweitzer / Shutterstock

On the other side of the Deûle, the bucolic Jardin Vauban is the perfect place for a picnic in the heart of nature! With its grotto, waterfall, stream and large lawns, the Jardin Vauban is an English-style setting much loved by the people of Lille. During the summer, many groups of friends and families gather here to doze off, share a drink or enjoy a simple snack. It's a highly romantic, leafy getaway that attracts couples looking for an enchanted interlude in the capital of Flanders.

© Christopher Kane / Shutterstock

Gourmet break aboard an houseboat

There are several restaurant barges alongside the quayside where you can enjoy a drink or a meal on the River Deûle. On the Archimède, the chic industrial décor plunges customers into the heart of an exceptional setting, where it's pleasant to have a drink on the roof terrace before sampling dishes from the typical bistro menu.

  • Address: Avenue Cuvier au Champs de Mars, Façade de l'Esplanade, 59000 Lille
  • Opening times: noon - 10.30pm on Mondays, noon - 11.00pm from Tuesday to Thursday, noon - 11.30pm from Friday to Saturday, 10.45am - 10.00pm on Sundays.

Change of atmosphere at Le Bus Magique, a participatory space where conviviality is the watchword! Run by an association, this floating restaurant offers a wide range of cultural and artistic events. In this cosmopolitan setting, the flavours are local and healthy, and the prices fairly affordable. It's the perfect place for a drink as thesun goes down!

  • Address: Av. Cuvier, 59800 Lille
  • Opening times: 9am - 11pm on Thursdays, 9am - midnight on Fridays, 4pm - midnight on Saturdays, 11am - 7pm on Sundays
by Faustine PEREZ
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