Looking for things to do in Lille, France? I’ve got you covered! Dad and I try to schedule in at least one trip together every year and last year, we decided to go on a day trip to Lille. I’d only ever been shopping in Lille once, but that wasn’t in the city center, so to prepare for our getaway I made a list of things to do in Lille and I mapped them out on a Google map of Lille that I could easily access on my phone.
Want to do some Lille sightseeing with me? Come along!
Things to do in Lille, France
1. Place de Charles de Gaulle
The Place Charles de Gaulle, named after the French general and later president De Gaulle who was born in the city, is the central square in Old Town Lille. Bars and restaurants surround the square, making it a great place to do some people-watching.
2. Book market on Vieille Bourse
The Vieille Bourse or “Old Stock Exchange” is one of the places to visit in Lille. The building dates back to the 17th century and consists of 24 identical houses built around an inner square. If you go in the morning, it’ll be rather calm and you’ll be able to admire the architecture, but in the afternoon, secondhand book sellers open their stands and people come to play chess here.
3. Opéra de Lille
You can find the Opera of Lille on the Place du Théâtre. Even if you don’t go in for a performance (we didn’t), the building’s facade is pretty impressive and when the weather’s nice, you can see people sitting on the steps leading up to the entry doors.
Old Town Lille is great for shopping. Yes, you can find some of the big retailers here, but I recommend diving into streets like the rue de la Grande Chaussée (for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès), the rue de la Clef and the Rue Masurel (for independent boutiques and trendy stores), the rue Basse (for antiques), the rue Nationale, the rue de la Vieille Comédie and the Place Rihour.
That last square is also where you can find the Lille Tourism Office in case you’d like to get a map of Lille or some tourist information.
5. Check out the Notre Dame de la Treille
As far as Lille attractions go, the Notre Dame de la Treille is quite something. Not simply because it’s a cathedral, but because to me it looked like it was patched together out of different pieces of church. There’s one bit that looks really old, then one bit that looks like it’s been added later but in a rushed way and then there’s the facade: grey and modern-looking, but not inviting at all.
I’m a fan of “tight” architecture without any fringes, but this facade… I wasn’t convinced.
By the time we got to the cathedral, I was also getting hungry, so we didn’t go in. Instead, we headed for our next stop…
6. Have lunch at Tous les Jours Dimanche
Tous les Jours Dimanche – translated as “Every day Sunday” – is a fun bistro at 13 rue Masurel. I found out about it while researching where to eat in Lille. At first, I was a bit hesitant to go in as the menu hanging by the door seemed rather limited, but I was pleasantly surprised once we got inside.
Tous les Jours Dimanche is much bigger than it looks from the outside, but it’s compartmentalized in such a way that no matter what table you’re sitting at, it always feels cozy and you get the impression of having food in someone’s living room.
The restaurant has an open kitchen, personnel is friendly and the food is good. I had a lovely quiche and, if I recall correctly, my dad had steak.
I think we got lucky to get a table around lunchtime on a Saturday because the place was rather full. So maybe it’s best to go a bit early or later if you want to be sure to snatch a spot.
7. Have a merveilleux at Aux Merveillieux, 67 Rue de la Monnaie)
Apparently, merveillieux (pastries with merengue, lots of whipped cream and chocolate) are typical for Lille and Aux Merveillieux (67 Rue de la Monnaie) was the place to get them, so I did! I opted for a small version of the classic, but Aux Merveillieux also sells “modern” versions with different kinds of flavors. Yum!
8. Walk over the Place aux Oignons
The Place aux Oignons is one of those cute little squares that’s just pretty. There’s nothing special to see here, but it’s a lovely spot and it’s close to all the fun streets of the Old Town, so you might as well go and have a look.
9. Check out the Citadelle de Lille from afar and feel like a child again at the amusement park
The Lille Citadel is located in the center of a big park park, but can’t be visited. You can see the building from afar and walk around it’s high walls from a bit of distance, but it’s still military domain and so a no-go zone for tourists and locals alike.
Lille Zoo is located in the same park and so is a fairground for children. Just outside the park, you can walk through the Jardin Vauban.
10. Check out the Palais des Beaux Arts, 18 Bis Rue de Valmy
The Palais des Beaux Arts or Fine Arts Museum of Lille is quite an impressive building, but when we were there, the facade wasn’t visible due to an event taking place on the square in front of the museum. The permanent collection, taking in 22,000m², consists mostly out of works from the 17th until the 19th century. Because of its size, the museum is often called the Second Museum of France, with the Louvre being the first. It’s one of the things to do in Lille for art lovers.
11. Walk through the Porte de Paris and take a photo of the Mairie de Lille on the Place Augustin Laurent
The Porte de Paris (“Gate of Paris) is an Arc de Triomphe built in the 17th century to commemorate Louis XIV conquering the city. I found it a bit special as the other Arcs I’ve seen around Europe in places like Berlin, Paris and Barcelona were all pretty “open”. This one looks more like a building.
Across the street from the Porte de Paris, there’s something we’re familiar with here in Belgium too: a belfry. Belfries are something typical of Belgium and the north of France and Lille’s belfry can be seen by City Hall at the Place Augustin Laurent.
Some fun facts about Lille, France
1. In the Middle Ages, Lille was part of the County of Flanders.
2. Lille was Cultural Capital of Europe in 2004.
3. Lille has a completely automated subway system. This means you won’t see any subway drivers!
4. The name “Lille” evolved from “L’Île”, meaning “island”. The city originated on a tiny island in the river Deûle.
Hotels in Lille, France
Wondering where to stay in Lille? Booking.com has an extensive list of Lille hotel options for all budgets and needs.
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
How to get to Lille, France
Lille-Lesquin International Airport is located only 10 km away from Lille’s city center and 20 minutes by airport shuttle. Another option is to fly into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Lille has two train stations: Lille Flandres Station and Lille Europe Station. The former is where you arrive on regional trains from within France or on the high-speed train to Lille from Paris. The latter is where you can get in when arriving on the Eurostar from Brussels or London to Lille or on high-speed trains from within France.
For timetables, prices and tickets for train travel within Europe, check RailEurope
We drove to Lille as it’s only about an hour and half from Leuven. There are plenty of underground parking lots near the Old Town, so we just searched for one on Google Maps before leaving and entered that address in the GPS.
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