A Weekend in Lille France | Lille City Break Guide For First Time Visitors
Looking for what do on a weekend in Lille France ? Here is a detailed guide on best things to do in Lille including seeing the beautiful Old Stock Exchange, the second-hand book market, Palais des Beaux-Arts, exploring the Grand Place, Meert plus more
I've been wanting to visit Lille for sometime after seeing it's beautiful ornate stock exchange building and whimsical book market.
I've visited Paris several times and wanted to visit a city that was a bit slower-paced, more relaxing. Plus easy to get to on the Eurostar - and in walked Lille.
If your first question is 'where is Lille?', then you're about to find out! Lille is a city in the beautiful French Flanders near the Belgium border. It was founded in 640 and was ruled by the Flemish, Burgundians, and the Spanish before being conquered by the French.
With all the different influences it encountered, Lille has become a unique flavour of this contemporary city.
The town is characterised by its many 17th century houses and its historic square - Grand Place. Lille is now a thriving university city that has become the cultural hub of French Flanders.
There are endless amounts of things to do and see, so keep reading to find out what you should be up to during your weekend in Lille France.
Is Lille Worth Visiting?
Spending 2 days in Lille is well worth the trip. It's a great city for architecture lovers as it contains a very different style to that of any other French City. Its Flemish-style buildings are uncommon in France and make for unique sightseeing excursions.
Lille's rich cultural history makes it all the more interesting. A fascinating art gallery, as well as festive events and market are some of the best places to witness the culture so embedded in Lille society. There's always something happening in this historic city, so you can be sure you won't run out of things to do during your Lille weekend trip.
If you only do a day trip to Lille, you would not get to see all the main Lille attractions and will be rushing from one sight to the next. If you 48 hours in Lille, you're able to enjoy all the cities points of interest at a relaxed pace.
How to Get to Lille from London
If you're planning a wonderful trip to Lille, you're going to need to know how to get to Lille. Being a cultural hub and a historic town, there are many ways you can get to the city.
A Eurostar to Lille from London through the French countryside is possibly the best way to start your Lille weekend trip.
If you're taking the Eurostar from London St Pancreas to Lille, you can expect a trip to take around 1 hour and 29 minutes. There are eight trains that make this trip per day, which means catching a ride is easy and convenient.
You can expect to pay around £60.50 for a return ticket, which is well worth it. To book this type of bargain, I booked my tickets well in advance — approximately 6 weeks before your trip.
Lille has two train stations in the city centre, located a mere 400 metres from one another. They serve as both subway stations and tram stations, making it an all-in-one transport hub.
Lille has it's very own airport located just 10 km from the city centre - Lille-Lesquin International Airport. Planes fly in from over 70 different destinations, making it easily accessible to most travellers.
From the airport, you can take a 20-minute bus or taxi ride to the city centre.
Getting Around in Lille
Lille city has a comprehensive network of public transport systems, making it very easy to get around during your Lille weekend break.
There are two metro lines, two tram lines and 60 bus routes that make the city easily navigable. To make your life even easier, all these transport options are available with the same ticket. If you purchase a day pass for just €4.90, you'll be able to enjoy 24 hours worth of public transport within Lille.
If you'd like to enjoy the view while getting a fair amount of exercise, then renting a bicycle from the V'Lille service is a great option. These bikes can be found all over the city, making pick-up and drop-off a smooth transition.
Happy Moov is a transport system particularly popular amongst tourists. It's a bicycle taxi service that allows you to be peddled through the city without exerting any effort at all.
If you're on a budget during your 48 hours in Lille, then you'll be pleased to know that it's a very walkable city. Many of its main attractions and landmarks are within walking distance of each other. Walking allows you to take in the views and experience the city in an extra special way.
Where to Stay in Lille
If you're looking for where to stay in Lille, you're in luck. A variety of fantastic accommodation options present themselves to all kinds of travellers — no matter your budget.
Numerous trendy neighbourhoods offer vibrant atmospheres and different cultural influences. Vieux Lille East, Wazemmes, Gare Saint Sauveur, and Quartier Sébastopol are just a few of the areas you should be considering for your short breaks to Lille.
Hôtel Barrière Lille - This hotel offers 5-star accommodation right in the heart of the city. The luxurious hotel contains three restaurants, a hotel theatre, fitness centre, casino and spa. If you choose to stay here while you visit Lille, I'm sure you'll find it hard to leave.
Best Western Urban Hotel and Spa - This modern hotel is located in the Moulins district, and is just a 5-minute walk from the metro station. The onsite restaurant serves a continental breakfast each morning and French cuisine throughout the day.
Airbnb - Airbnb offers a variety of budget options in Lille and gives travellers a far more homely experience. If you're up for a home away from home style vacation, Airbnb is the way to go.
These are just a few of the places to stay in Lille.
Weekend break to Lille | How to spend a weekend in Lille France
1 Day in Lille Itinerary
So, what is there to do in Lille this weekend? If this question has been weighing on your mind, I'm here to answer it.
LaM - Museum of Modern Art
LaM is Lille's Museum of Modern Art and is home to over 6700 pieces from the 20th and 21st century. You can expect to see works by artists such as Picasso, Braque, and Paul Klee, as well as a large portion of artworks from lesser-known artists.
After exploring inside the art gallery, you can venture into the Verdant Sculpture Park to get a closer look at some 3D masterpieces. The LaM is one of the top things to see in Lille France.
Once you've exhausted yourself while exploring the gallery, grab a coffee at the onsite cafe. They also serve up a delicious range of French cuisine, which is the perfect option if you're feeling a little peckish.
Palais des Beaux-Arts
The Palais des Beaux-Arts is one of the largest museums in the whole of France and is dedicated to fine art, antiques, as well as modern art. I was surprised about this, as I always thought that the largest museum in France was the Musée du Louvre.
The museum was built at the beginning of the 19th century under Napoleon I, to popularise art.
Pop into the municipality-owned art gallery to see masterpieces that have been created over the past three centuries. You'll also find artworks that date back to the renaissance period.
If you show your Eurostar ticket at the entrance, you can enjoy two-for-one entry, otherwise, you can expect to pay 7 Euros per person for entrance.
The Saint-Maurice Church is a Roman Catholic Church that took over four centuries to build. It's a gothic style building that's construction started in the 14th century and only ended in the 19th century.
The building contains beautiful stained-glass windows and ornate statues that give the church its incredible atmosphere. The church is magnificent from the outside, but taking a step inside gives you a glimpse into centuries past.
Explore the Grand Place
The Grand Place is a central square in the city that has acted as a meeting place for hundreds of years. It's a great place to take in the 17th- and 20th-century architecture. And admire the Goddess statue that commemorates the Lille Resistance that took place in 1792 against the Austrian siege. It Grand Place is a top sight to explore during your 48 hours in Lille.
Visit the Old Stock Exchange (The Vieille Bourse)
You'll also find the Old Stock Exchange building in this square. It was built in 1652 and is by far one of Lille's most architecturally impressive building and is made up of 24 identical houses built around the inner square.
There is a second-hand book market held inside the building, which can be great fun to peruse. The books are in French, though and bookmarked is open in the afternoon.
You'll also see chess players testing out their skills with other chess masters. During the summer months, you'll get the chance to enjoy passionate Tango demonstrations.
Around the square, you'll also find the Grand Garden which was used to house soldiers in centuries past. It's now home to the Theatre du Nord, which is an ideal place to catch a show and fully immerse yourself in French culture.
If you're looking for the best places to visit in Lille, then Old Lille is the perfect place to explore. It's filled with historic houses that contain a strong Flemish influence. Stroll through the cobbled streets, taking in what is possibly the most picturesque part of the city.
After familiarising yourself with the maze of streets that connect this area, pop into one of the lively bars or restaurants that give the area a reputation for having a great nightlife scene. Exploring Old Lille is by far one of the best things to do in Lille at night.
If you're looking for a more sophisticated start to your evening, then Fifi's Wine Bar offers a variety of wines for a well-versed pallet and snack platters that are sure to satisfy.
Book Here | Vieux Lille 2-hour walking tour
2 Days in Lille Itinerary
If you're wondering what to do in Lille, France during your second day in the city - I've got you covered.
Explore Lille Citadel
This star-shaped citadel was built under the reign of Louis XIV in 1667 in order to further fortify the city. The citadel has stood the test of time and is still used as a military base to this day. Unfortunately, this means you can't enter, but it's just as beautiful to see it from the outside.
The structure was built with 3 million stone blocks, and 60 million bricks, which gives you an indication of its impressive size.
Walk across the beautiful bridge, and see the intricate artworks engraved onto the stones above the entranceway. This alone makes this impressive structure worth the visit, if not to visit an integral part of French history.
Visit Lille Cathedral
The Lille Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church and considered a national monument to France. It's the perfect example of Gothic Revival architecture. The cathedral took almost 150 years to build, with its construction starting in 1854. The church was finally finished in 1999 and is every bit as beautiful as the imaginings of the 19th-century architect.
The interior of the building is very eye-catching and happens to be free to visit, which is an excellent bonus for travellers looking to stick to a budget.
Climb Town Hall and Belfry
The Belfry is one of the most famous architectural structures in Lille, and it's attached to the city hall. This tower boasts being the tallest in the entire region. It stands an impressive 104 metres above street level and provides stunning panoramic views of the city.
The best part about the Belfry is that you can climb the 400 steps right to the very top, or if you're not up for the exercise, you can take the elevator. Either way, you'll be enjoying once-in-a-lifetime views of Lille. The entrance to the Town Hall is a little hard top find, but it is to the left side of the building and you’ll have to push the buzzer to be let in.
Opening Hour | every day from 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5:30 pm (last climbs at 12:30 & 5 pm)
Closed on January 1st, May 1st, November 25th & December 25th. Free during Heritage Days.
Book Now | Town Hall and Belfry entry ticket
Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce was built between 1910 and 1921 and featured an impressive 76-metre high Belfry. The building which contains a mixture of Dutch and Neo-Flemish styles is decorated with beautiful frescoes.
It was built to replace the Old Stock Exchange but is a must-see building during your time in Lille.
Lille Opera House
The Lille Opera is a Neo-classical building that was inaugurated in 1923. It's a grand looking building with pillars and detailed sculptures, as well as a red carpet that runs along the interior staircase. Gorgeous chandeliers hang from the ceiling and add to its nostalgic atmosphere.
The Opera displays theatrical performances, live music, and contemporary dance. If you want to get a real feel for the culture of Lille, attending a show is imperative.
Best Restaurants in Lille
For the ultimate foodie experience, you're going to need to know where to eat in Lille. Here are just a few of the best restaurants in Lille that are sure to impress.
La Bottega is an Italian restaurant with three establishments throughout the city. They serve a unique variety of Italian dishes with their speciality being pizza, of course. All their ingredients are sourced from Italy, making for a truly authentic dining experience.
Maison Meert is a tea-room located right in the heart of Old Lille. They serve an incredible array of pastries, chocolates and baked goods that are an absolute delight to the senses.
They're especially famous for their waffles, but not the type of waffles that automatically spring to mind. These waffles are thin like biscuits, as well as being sweet and crunchy. They're best served with a hot beverage on the side and enjoyed as a brunch snack or after-dinner dessert.
The pastries at Meert are undeniably delicious, but the service is slow, and the staff their are snobby. I'm just keeping it real with you guys.
Crêperie de la Vieille Bourse
If you're in the mood for some genuinely French delights, then a visit to the Crêperie de la Vieille Bourse for a galette or a crepe is a must during your Lille trip. It's situated between the Place du Theatre and Grand Place, giving you the perfect view while you indulge in delicious French delicacies.
The quaint atmosphere and picturesque booths that line the inside of the restaurant make you feel like you've truly stepped into olden-day France. If you're looking for an Instagrammable eatery in Lille, this Creperie would have to take the cake.
Ending off a weekend break to Lille
Now that you know what you should be getting up to, where you could be staying and the best foodie restaurants in the city, you can start booking your trip to Lille.
A weekend in Lille is the perfect amount of time to explore the historical sights and indulge in a couple of French meals that are worth savouring. You can visit all the best landmarks and still have a few relaxing moments to sit back and enjoy this Lille travel guide.
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