Lille in the Northern part of France is the fifth largest urban area in France. The city is considered the heart of French Flanders thanks to the many influences from both Belgian and French culture. My first introduction with Lille was during a field trip with school in 2004, when the city was selected Cultural Capital of Europe. During that visit I learned a lot about the rich history and culture. While we were exploring I noticed that Lille also had a big shopping culture, but unfortunately there was no time for that back then. However don’t feel sorry for me. The many trips over the years made up for that big time and provided me with plenty of restaurant tips too. So without further ado, my tips for a city trip to Lille.
Make a pitstop in Roubaix to visit Musée La Piscine
Roubaix is located in the Lille Metropolitan Area and mostly known because of the cycling classic Paris-Roubaix. However the city is more than just cycling! It actually houses a very special museum. La Piscine is located in a gorgeous Art Deco building that was once the municipal pool of Roubaix. The museum offers its visitors an original setting for its collections of applied arts (drawings, textiles and ceramics) and fine-arts (19th and 20th centuries paintings and sculptures).
Lunch at Bernard & Léon
Then it was time to leave for Lille. As it was around noon we decided to go for lunch first. Bernard & Léon is one of the most popular spots in Lille. Minutes after opening people are already queuing to grab lunch there. Honestly, the place is just amazing. The colors, the decor, the dishes, the wooden trays … (Yes. I’m a sucker for details like that)! Everything is chosen with great taste and the result is gorgeous. Bernard & Léon is where you need to be if you are into delicious bowls and pastry. To let you have a taste of both, they have created the “La Gourmande” formula (bowl + drink + dessert) for € 14,20, which we taught was a very nice deal! I decided upon the Bernard signature bowl, a homemade lemonade and banana bread for dessert. All super yummy!
Explore Vieux Lille
The historical center, Vieux Lille, is characterized by 17th century brick town houses and adorable cobblestone streets. Lille is a compact city and you can easily explore most of the highlights on foot.
The first stop upon our sightseeing adventure was The Place Charles de Gaulle, named after the French general and later president De Gaulle who was born in the city. Lille’s main square is surrounded with lively bars and restaurants, which makes it a great place for people-watching.
We passed by La Vielle Bourse, the city’s stock exchange which was built 1652. Nowadays you can find book sellers and a flower market in the inner court.
The neo-classical Opera House is situated on the Place du Theatre, Lille’s other picturesque square. Here you can enjoy concerts, theatre and ballet all year round. Well at least in normal circumstances…
From thereout it’s a five minute walk towards the Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral, which I found quite unique thanks to its combination of modern and old features.
If you like to know more about local architecture make sure to check out the Musée de l‘Hospice Comtesse. Back in 1237 it was founded by the Countess of Flanders as a charitable gesture to poor people. Nowadays it’s a museum with many Flemish paintings and tapestries.
After that we decided to stroll around the old town a bit. A big part of Vieux Lille’s charm lays in the fact that you can just wander around the city and come across some very lovely corners and spots.
In Lille there are plenty of nice restaurants. And yes, because the city is located on the border of Belgium and France it combines the best of both worlds. If you are looking for the typical French/Belgan cuisine I would recommend you to head to the Rue de Gand or the Place aux Oignons.
Dinner at La Bellezza
I heard a lot about the Italian restaurants from the Big Mamma group, and when doing my Lille research I find out that there was a venture in the city, so I really wanted to dine there. La Bellezza serves family cuisine in a joyful Italian vibe. The dishes are made with seasonal produce sourced, directly from small producers in Italy. Being the pizza lover that I am I decided to go for the ‘Regina Instagram Pizza’. I was very curious because of the name, but was really happy with my choice as the pizza was really yummy. We arrived at the restaurant half an hour later than opening time and it was already packed. When we left people were waiting in line to get in, so if you want to eat here, better book a table in advance!
Bonne Nuit! Sweet dreams!
Usually I prefer to stay in hotels, but as the trip was kind of a last minute decision and hotel rates were very high, we searched for a more budget friendly solution. On Airbnb we found ‘Appartement Bohéme’. Unfortunately a bit out of the historic center, but clean and very cozy. If you rather stay at a hotel, I can recommend Mama Shelter Hotels.
For ‘le petit-dej’ I suggest you head towards one of the many bakeries and get yourself some croissants and chocolate breads. You’re in France after all you guys, you might as well enjoy it! Bon Appetit.
Visit de Palais des Beaux Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts, often called the Second Museum of France, is a short walk from Vieux Lille and a must-do for art lovers. The permanent collection, about 22,000m², contains mostly works from the 17th until the 19th century.
Walk through de Porte de Paris
Further down the road you will find one of Lille’s most impressive landmarks; Porte de Paris. This Arc de Triomphe was build in the 17th century to celebrate Louis XIV conquering the city.
On our way to lunch we passed by the impressive, gothic Saint Maurice Church. It took more than 400 years to build it. In 1914 it was classified as a historic monument.
Lunch at We Are Ara
If you are looking for a healthy lunch spot, We Are Ara is where you need to be! Poké bowls, salads, sandwiches with poached eggs and avocado, coffee and juices: the entire menu looks absolutely delicious! I had the Coconot Chicken Bowl and it was good, but I would have liked it better with a bit more seasoning.
Shop till you drop
Shopping is one of the top things to do in Lille. You can find some of the big retailers around Place Charles De Gaulle, but I recommend exploring streets like the Rue de la Grande Chaussée (for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès), the Rue de la Clef and the Rue Masurel (for independent boutiques and trendy stores) and the Rue Basse (for antiques).
One of my favorite streets in Lille is the Rue Esquermoise, a hotspot for foodies. Not only can you find the luxurious patisserie Meert here, but also plenty of other chocolate and delicacy stores.
Euralille is the place to be for shopaholics. At the moment they are 108 stores at Euralille, both from chains and independent boutiques. You will also be able to find stores in the mall that we don’t have in Belgium (like Sephora!). Hooray for that!
Apero at Mama Shelter Lille
Shopping got us thirsty, so we figured we would check out the rooftop bar from the Mama Shelter Hotel just across the street from Euralille. I stayed in Mama Shelter Paris a few years ago and absolutely loved it!
Dinner at Le Blue Canard
Le Blue Canard is located in the Rue Pierre Mauroy. The menu isn’t very elaborate (choice between meat, fish or veggie dish), but the dishes are very fresh and tasteful. There’s also a very nice wine and beer selection available. Service was very hospitable and friendly. For sure I would return here, when I go on another shopping spree in Lille.
- Travelling to Lille from Ghent is super easy and will take you about an hour by car.
- Every hour there is also a direct train from Ghent Sint Pieters to Gare Lille Flandres.
- Covid-19 measures: in France it’s mandatory to wear a face mask upon public transportation, in shops and when you are moving around in restaurants (so while taking your seat and going to the bathroom).
- Currency: €