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Travel / Tours / France / Lille
Visit Lille in France
  City tours
  La Vieille Bourse (old stock exchange)
  L'Opera (opera house)
  Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Treille (cathedral)
  P'tit Quinquin
  Musee des Beaux Arts (museum of fine arts)
  Porte de Paris
  Pâtisserie Meert (patisserie and tea room)
  Christmas market
  Further information


Lille is the fourth biggest city in France, with about 220,000 inhabitants. It is the main city in the region north of Paris and is close to the border with Belgium. Control of the city has changed many times, mainly as a result of marriages rather than invasions. It has been ruled by counts of Flanders, dukes of Burgundy, the Hapsburgs of Austria, and by the King of Spain. The French king Louis the Sixteenth besieged the city in 1667 and took it after nine days, after which it has remained part of France. Louis built a citadel here to strengthen its defences (this is still used by the army, and is only open to public visitors by special arrangement).

It is very easy to reach here from southern England: by Eurostar it is just 1 hour and 40 minutes from London Waterloo (alternatively 1 hour from Paris, or 40 minutes from Brussels) to the Lille-Europe station. Some other trains arrive at the Lille-Flandres station.

The most famous citizen of Lille was Charles de Gaulle, who was born at 9 rue Princesse in 1890. He is famous for his call to resist the occupation by the Nazis in 1940, and was French president from 1959-1968. He died in 1970. The main square in the city (Grand'Place) is also named Place du General de Gaulle in his honour.

AA Essential Lille
Publisher: AA Publishing
Date: January 2006
Lille (Bradt Mini Guides)
Author: Laurence Phillips
Publisher: Bradt Travel Guides
Date: June 2005

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The main guided tours of Lille start outside the Office du Tourisme de Lille (Tourist Information Centre), which is located on the ground floor of the Palais Rihour (metro station: Rihour). On Saturday afternoons from 2:30-4:30pm there is a two-hour walking tour of the old part of the city (in English). There is also a 50-minute minibus tour (City-tour) which leaves at the start of each hour each day - this has an audio guide available in several languages. Buy tickets for either tour inside the Tourist Information Centre.

Tourist information at the Palais Rihour

Guided walking tours of Old Lille

City Tour buses leave from outside the Palais Rihour ...

... with video and audio guide

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The goddess can be seen on top of a column in the centre of the main square (known as Grand' Place or as Place du General de Gaulle). She is holding a cannon fuse in her right hand, and represents one of the proudest moments of the city's history. In September 1792 the city (which was already part of France) was surrounded by 35,000 Austrian soldiers but refused to surrender. Lille managed to hold out and the Austrians eventually lifted their seige.

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La Vieille Bourse is the city's finest building, dating from about 1652. At that time Lille was part of the Netherlands: the two lions above the entrance gate are a symbol of this (in the centre you see the "fleur de lys", which is the city's emblem). Inside the cloister there are usually bookstalls. The stone engravings show a variety of interesting designs.

La Vielle Bourse

Above the entrance gate

The cloister inside


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L'Opéra (in the Place du Théatre) opened in 1923 (replacing another theatre built in 1785 which burnt down). Both the interior and exterior are beautifully decorated.

Front of the opera house

Apollo and the Muses

(c) Lille Tourism
Inside the auditorium


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Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Treille is a Catholic cathedral next to Place Gilleson. The façade was completed in 1999.

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P'tit Quinquin is a lullaby composed by Alexandre Desrousseaux in 1853. The words tell the story of a poor woman who is working as a lacemaker to support her baby. After the writer's death a memorial was put up at the entrance of Square Foch (a short walk from Place Rihour). This statue has become a famous landmark in the city.

P'tit Quinquin statue (Square Foch)

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The Musée des Beaux Arts (Place de la République) is considered to be one of the finest art museums in France outside Paris.
Paintings by Monet and Renoir are among the collections inside the palace. There are also displays of fine statues and ceramics.

Monet's painting of the Houses of
Parliament (London) in fog

"Le baiser" (the kiss)
by Gustave Crauk

"Descent from the cross"

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The Porte de Paris is a triumphant arch completed in 1692, built to mark the capture of Lille in 1667 by the French king Louis the Sixteenth (the "Sun King"). As symbols of strength there are statues of Mars (the god of war) on the left and Hercules on the right.

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Typical meals from this region include moules frites (oysters in cream sauce, served with French fries), waterzoï (a fish soup) and potjevlesh. These can be enjoyed with a Belgian beer, such as Leffe.

Seafood is a local speciality

Sitting outside is popular

Leffe Blonde

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La Pâtisserie Meert is a famous pastry shop and tea room (located at 27 rue Esquermoise, near Place du General de Gaulle). One of its specialities is its homemade waffles filled with Madagascar vanilla, enjoyed by General de Gaulle when he was living here.

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Euralille is a large indoor shopping centre, located near to the Eurostar train station. It includes over 140 shops on two levels.

Wazemmes street market takes place every Sunday morning.

The Braderie is a large street market in Old Lille, held on the first weekend in September (all day on Saturday and Sunday, ending at midnight on Sunday). It is Europe's largest flea market, with about 10,000 stalls and more than 1 million visitors.

Euralille shopping complex
(c) Lille Tourism
Wazemmes street market

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There is a Christmas Market in Place Rihour each day between late November and late December . There are usually about 80 different stalls. A Big Wheel is set up in Grand'Place (Place du General de Gaulle).

In 2008 the market will be open daily from Wednesday 19 November 2008 until Tuesday 30 December 2008 (most activity takes place before Christmas Eve, which is on Wednesday 24 December 2008). At the time of writing full details had not yet been released, but usually the market is open from 11am-8pm and is open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, with a special late night opening (until 10pm) on the first two Saturdays in December.

Stalls fill Place Rihour ...

... selling a range of Christmas goods

The Big Wheel in Grand'Place

Crowds fill the main squares

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Useful websites:
Lille Tourist Information:
Destination Lille:
Euralille shopping centre:
Palais des Beaux Arts:
Lille Christmas Market: (in French only)

Independent travel to Lille:
- The fastest way to travel to Lille from London is by Eurostar train from St Pancras International (1 hour 20 minutes): Shop/Company/Eurostar
- It takes about 6 hours to travel by Eurolines coach from Victoria Coach Station in London to Lille. For timetables and to buy a ticket online, see: Shop/Company/Eurolines.
- The nearest airport is Lille airport (10km from the city centre):

Weather forecast for Lille:

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Anderson Tours: Travel/Tours/Company/AndersonTours
Tours to France: Travel/Tours/France
Eurostar services to France from London: Shop/Company/Eurostar

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