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Pocket Guide: Lille

Visiting Lille

Lille is a university city in the Flanders region of Northern France. The city has a history stretching back over 1,000 years and has been both a mercantile centre and a key industrial enclave. Nowadays, it’s fast becoming a hub of culture and is known for its charming 17th century gabled brick houses and friendly locals. Lille is made vibrant by its student population and has a buzzing nightlife as a result, yet there’s also much to enjoy by way of the arts, shopping and dining. Due to its closeness to the Belgian border, the city is a fascinating mixture of French and Flemish cultures. Lille is also within convenient travelling distance of Paris.

Where to stay in Lille

When deciding which of the many hotels in Lille to choose from, you have a number of interesting areas to consider. Many visitors gravitate to the old town area around the Grand Place (the main square), which is the hub of city life. Also known as La Vieux Lille, the old town is filled with cobblestoned streets, restored 17th century buildings, designer shops and a variety of restaurants. The area around Rue Massena has a lively nightlife and is popular with students, and Rue Solferino is also a student magnet. If you’re looking to stay somewhere a little arty and cutting-edge, then head to Wazemmes, a chic bohemian enclave filled with creative types. Another pleasant location is the Vauban-Esquermes, which is situated on the banks of the Deule river, further out from the centre of Lille. This is the site of the old La Citadelle fortress with its fascinating military architecture, plus a beautiful park. Whichever Lille hotel you choose, you’re bound to have a fun time in this vibrant city.

Accommodation choices in Lille

Hotels in Lille offer accommodation to suit a range of budgets. This includes the 5 star Hotel Barriere Lille which is situated near to the airport and includes three restaurants, a spa and a casino. A mid-price option is the Grand Hotel Bellevue near the Grand Place in the city centre. Facilities include a lounge bar, Wi-Fi and flatscreen TVs. Hotel du Croise offers budget accommodation less than one mile from the Grand Place. Facilities include free Wi-Fi in public areas, a balcony or patio with each room and satellite TV. There are many good Lille hotels so you are spoiled for choice, it’s just a question of deciding which area and facilities are right for you.

What to do during your stay in Lille

Lille is busy throughout the year with festivals, music and cultural events. The old town area is a history lover’s paradise, and is home to the city’s neoclassical opera house and Lille Cathedral. It’s also the location of the Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest and finest galleries in France, with works by Rubens and Manet. The old town is also the home of La Vieille Bourse, the 17th century stock exchange that is now a charming hub of bookstalls, flower sellers and chessboards. Other attractions include the Natural History Museum and Hospice Comtesse Museum.

The arty Wazemmes area has a bustling Sunday market selling delicious north African and Middle Eastern food, among other wares. The La Citadelle area on the Deule river has some unmissable attractions, including a 17th century fortress in the shape of a star, the Vauban garden, Rameau Palace and La Citadelle park, which includes the city zoo and the Bois de Boulogne woods. You may also enjoy climbing the belfry of the Hotel de Ville as it offers a sweeping view of the city, and it’s also worth visiting the house where former French president Charles de Gaulle was born. The Lille City Pass is a great way to see the city as it gives you free entry to various attractions, unlimited city-wide travel and discounts for eating places and shops, such as the Galeries Lafayette department store.

Nearby attractions to Lille include the Flanders battlefields and Brussels, capital of Belgium, which is a 58-mile journey from the city. Highlights of Brussels include the Grand Place market square, the gothic Hotel de Ville, the City Museum, Heysel Park and Mini-Europe leisure park. Whatever you decide to do on your visit to Lille, you’re sure to be charmed by the blend of fascinating history and youthful energy in this booming city.

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