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Lille Lille France French Holidays


Lille (Rijsel in Flemish), like so many other towns in northern France, conjures up images of heavy industrialisation and the post industrial depression that has swept across the coal mining districts of Europe since the late twentieth century. However, Lille is not all about gloomy, smoggy suburbs and factories. It has a charming and discerningly restored old quarter, known as Vieux Lille, with winding cobbled streets and a gamut of good value for money restaurants.

There is a new métro system in the town, and a buzzing art and music scene, both of which testify to the city's determination to move forward and take positive steps to abandon its depressing image. In fact, Lille (in unison with Genoa) is European Capital of Culture 2004, so many buildings have been restored to celebrate this fact.

Lille airport information

All of these improvements mean that Lille is fast becoming a hot tourist destination. It is only an hour away from Paris by train, and there is an hourly service to the capital from Gare Lille Flandres, which was originally the Paris Gare du Nord station building and in 1865 was rebuilt brick by brick in Lille. Lille Europe station is the TGV and Eurostar Lille station.

Even though Lille is France's fifth largest city, it is quite possible to walk around it without taking the métro or relying on buses. Most of the main attractions are contained within a fairly small area of the city.

The flea market in the courtyard of the Ancienne Bourse (old exchange building) sells books and flowers every afternoon, and makes you feel as if you have stepped into a Roman market scene. Just around the corner is the Baroque style Opéra building, which was built in the early twentieth century and refurbished for the 2004 celebrations.

The old town has much charm and the streets rue d'Angleterre, rue du Pont Neuf, rue de la Monnaie and the place Lion d'Or are brimming with cafés, boutiques, little restaurants and interesting period features to keep you there for at least a whole afternoon, if not a whole day. The medicinal garden at Hospice Comtesse, a twelfth century hospital used until 1945, is delightful, and you might even catch a concert in the Salle des Malades there.

The house at 9 rue Princesse is where Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890, and it is now a museum.

If you want to do some serious shopping, or find bigger cafés and brasseries, head towards rue de Béthune, which leads to the Musée des Beaux Arts at place de la République. In the gallery you will find works from Goya, seventeenth century Flemish painters and the Impressionists.