the border between France and Belgium, this city combines
Flemish charm with French allure. Despite its size, Lille has often
been seen as a cursory Eurostar stop before arriving into Paris
– a city to pass through instead of a destination in itself. But
recently the capital of the Hauts-de-France region has been gaining
well-deserved recognition and is gradually making a name for itself
as a cultural hub within Europe.
In the district of French Flanders, wander through cobbled
streets, stopping off at cafés and bars to soak up the quaint
village atmosphere. Every autumn Lille hosts La Braderie, Europe’s
largest flea market which dates back to the 12th century, and
during summer months the city’s three lush botanical gardens are
filled with picnicking locals.
Art connoisseurs, wander through the grounds of the Musée d’Art
Moderne, d’Art Contemporain et d’Art Brut (or more simply, LaM) for
modern art and a sculpture park. Alternatively, head to the Palais
des Beaux-Arts de Lille for more traditional fine art by van Dyck,
Rubens, Goya and Picasso.
Eldorado – a cultural fiesta hosted by the city. Since becoming
the European Capital of Culture in 2004, Lille has hosted regular
events embracing global cultures. This year, Lille has paired with
Mexico to explore the vibrant history, legacies and legends that
shape Central America. Make your way around Lille’s Maisons Folie
to find exhibitions, events and installations themed around the
myths, conquests, journeys and dreams surrounding the mystery that
Who to take with you
Someone with an eye for design. In 2020, Lille will become the
World Design Capital. Beat the crowds and explore the city’s
innovative design, beautiful buildings and sustainable
infrastructure before the city becomes overrun with eager
architects and school trips.
When to go
Go at the end of April
to catch the opening parade of Eldorado festival. Music, floats,
costumes and a party atmosphere create a parade that’s not to be
Where to stay
If you’re looking for a quaint, French village hotel, stay at
Clarance Hotel. Located in an
18th-century townhouse, this hotel combines its five-star boutique
status with a French chateau feel. For a more modern affair, book a
room at the centrally located and gloriously opulent Grand Hotel Bellevue where high
ceilings, elegant decor and a belle-epoque vibes exude from every
Most likely to bump into…
Students. A university city, Lille’s student population have
ensured that there is much to do come nightfall. Clubs and bars are
dotted throughout the city centre, while cosy cafés provide the
perfect spot for a hangover brunch.
Essentials to bring with you
Keep it casual but classy as you flit between Lille’s Maisons
Folie in this floaty skirt.
How to get there
You can reach Lille in one hour and 20 minutes on the Eurostar
from London King’s Cross.