Lille is known for many things, and yet Lonely Planet still named it as probably the most underrated major city in France. Why? Well, this got to mean that there is so much unspoken about the charm, wealth and beauty of the capital of Hauts-de-France region. And, since it was under our noses from the moment we moved to Belgium, this one warm, but cloudy Wednesday afternoon we decided to go and take a look at the biggest French city around!
Some of the Facts
For long years Lille was haunted by its grey and industrial past, until 2004 came and city has reborn like a phoenix from the ashes. Well, maybe I exaggerated a bit.. But the thing is that the medieval heart of the city was built, cherished and nourished in the glorious days of culture and prosperity. However, almost all of the things around it was the result of grey and smokey Industrial Revolution. To illustrate this, there are only about 220 thousands of residents living in the city of Lille. And more than million in its metropolitan area!
Nevertheless, post-industrial Lille decided to fight its weakness and by the beginning of 21st century this city was nominated to be European Capital of Culture 2004. After that great things followed! Now Lille is a brightly shining cultural center of Northern France full of unique types of entertainment, luxuriant tastes and wide shopping possibilities.
What is more, located just more than 10 kilometers away from the Belgian border, Lille is in the middle of Paris-Brussels-London triangle. Just an hour with a high-speed train and you are already there exploring the cultural hub of Northern France!
Some of Our Experience
We all love France, don’t we? Well, I certainly do. Very much! I even believe that there is no city that would be not worth visiting in France. With those lovely bakeries, coffee shops and small, cozy restaurants, croissant smell in the air and flowers everywhere, every French town and city I have visited, left me charmed. And Lille is not an exception!
It is a city that owns one of the most beautifully ornamented main city squares in the region. Some of the facades there looks like made from sugar, others – with a bit of magical spirit mixed in the cement! Majestic Town Hall and Opera House only strengthens the magical atmosphere in the air of the Grand Place. With pedestrian street full of shops and cafes, heart of Lille is a lovely and entertaining place to get lost for a while.
In addition, city holds number of great and entertaining places to discover. The most unique place around Lille is La Piscine Museum in Roubaix. It is a museum of art and industry located in the former swimming pool built in the classy Art Deco style. Looks simply splendid! And with the variety of things to admire – from art to fashion – it is something exceptional to visit in the Northern France. However, as usual, by the time we were in Lille, this unique place had totally slipped from our minds! But we sincerely hope that it won’t slip from yours and you, Dear Reader, will have an opportunity to explore it.
Also, personally we really enjoyed the walk around green and peaceful area of Lille Citadel, which neighbors with city’s zoo, lovely Vauban park and river Deûle. The interesting thing about this place is that forts of Citadel is constructed to look like a star while watching from the sky. What is more, whole Citadel park is cloaked with the waters of river Deûle. Giant star surrounded by water – it sure looks great from up above!
I have to be sincere with you, Dear Reader. It is not Paris, my beloved Rouen, Bordeux or Marseilles. Lille won’t blow your mind away. But. But is is lovely and it sure will warm your heart for more than a day!
Number of great French museums, extraordinary Cathedral, lovely squares and parks, the biggest flea market in Europe and many other things along with the ones mentioned above are waiting for you in Lille, Dear Reader.
While browsing about Lille, I found a thought which sums up my opinion about Lille quite good: Lille is a perfect detour on your way from astonishing Paris to vibrant Brussels.
Hope that you will take it!