Welcome to Lille
Is it French or is it Flemish? It is hard for the visitor to
decide when visiting Lille, which has been officially part of
France for 350 years but still at its core retains the ambience of
the medieval wool towns of Flanders. The historic core of Vieux
Lille is filled with grand architecture and cobble-stoned streets
and squares, with a 'Grand Place' reminiscent of both Brussels and
This confusion of cultures does not detract from this bright and
beautiful city, set in the north of France, which was capital of
Flanders during the Middle Ages. With the advent of the Eurostar
fast train service from London, Lille, a major stop on the route to
Paris, has been revived as a weekend break destination, and has
plenty to offer longer-term tourists who arrive at its
international airport as well.
Vigorous shopping takes place along its commercial
thoroughfares, and some attractive sights beckon visitors, like the
neo-Gothic Notre Damme de la Treille Cathedral, and the Hospice
Comtesse, a former hospital housing a museum of Flemish art,
furniture and ceramics. Old Lille is pleasant to stroll through,
with its cobbled streets and mixture of shops, restaurants and
Those whose taste runs to art will also find a feast here, with
Monet and Renoir being permanent tenants at the Musée des
Beaux-Arts, and works by Picasso, Braques and Derains along with
more modernistic marvels are on display at the Musée d'Art Moderne
in the suburb of Villeneuve d'Ascq just outside the city.
Many visitors, though, are here for the beer. The best Belgian
beers are on tap and served up in most of the popular bars, to wash
down the delicious local cuisine, which focuses on seafood and rich
sauces. If your main aim is to eat, drink and make merry in a
historic environment, Lille is the place to be.
The best thing about Lille is that its local populace is not
only welcoming, but adept at enjoying life, as can be witnessed by
visiting any of the many bars and bistros (known as estaminets) in
this fun city, which belies its reputation as the grim northerly
cousin of pretty Paris.
Information & Facts
Lille's climate is mostly pleasant throughout the year, but
summer (June to August) is the warmer time to visit with
temperatures averaging 68°F (20°C). Winter temperatures can reach
32° F (0°C) in January and the wind can make days very cold.
Rainfall is evenly spread over the year, but particularly in autumn
Most of the centre of Lille is pedestrianised and well
signposted, ideal for walking. The city has a good public transport
system, with two metro lines traversing the city, two tram lines
travelling from Lille to Roubaix and Tourcoing and buses covering
60 different routes. The buses, tram and metro run every day
(except 1 May), from 5.30am to around midnight. A single adult
ticket costs around EUR1.25 for the entire network. A City Pass,
costing EUR20 for one day, EUR30 for two days or EUR45 for three
days allows free entry to museums and monuments and unlimited use
of public transport. Taxis are widely available from the airport
and the Lille Europe train station, which is centrally located at 1
Gare De Ville Europe near the main square. Renting a bike is also a
good option in summer.
French is the official language.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can
be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels,
though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major
credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques,
particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and
last Sunday in October).