Lille (Dutch: Rijsel) is a medium-sized city in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of northern France with a very large student population. This city has a strong industrial background, but, after some difficult years, it is now known throughout France for its handsome city centre and its very active cultural life.
Lille is France's fifth largest metropolitan area. It is located to the country's north, on the Deûle River, near the border with Belgium.The whole metropolitan area of Lille, both on French and Belgian territory (Courtray, Tournai) was estimated in 2007 at around 1,885,000 inhabitants, ranking as one of the major metropolitan areas of Europe.
Most visitors will probably arrive by train due to the major international railway hub situated there. It is possible to land at the Charles de Gaulle Paris airport and then continue by train, but do not try this at the Ryanair's Paris airport (Beauvais) as there is no train connection at all and the only bus is back to Paris itself.
The Lille Lesquin International Airport is small but convenient for entering Lille or travelling on to nearby areas across the border in Belgium. Both major and budget airlines operate scheduled services. Unlike larger airports there is hardly any walking as the checkins are directly inside the entrance and the security gates are directly behind the checkins. However, there may be a walk from the gate area to the aeroplane if it is parked on the taxiway rather than at a jetway. A direct coach connects to central Lille (stops outside the main railway station) in 20 minutes, and runs once an hour costing 7 Euros (return ticket is 9 Euros). A taxi would cost about 20 Euros.
Lille lies on the Brussels-Paris-London connection. TGV and Eurostar trains stop here. The journey to Brussels takes little more than 30 minutes, to Paris about an hour, and to London about an hour and 25 minutes following the new high speed train link to London St Pancras which opened in October 2007. Coming in by ferry from Calais, train connections run fairly regularly, though it can be hard to get accurate times online. The journey takes about an hour and a half. (SNCF website allows one to check train timetables) Lille is also linked by TGV (fast trains) to Lyon (3 hours), Nantes (4 hours), Strasbourg (3.20 hours) and Marseille (5 hours).
If you are traveling from London, Eurostar is the best option to reach Lille through the Channel Tunnel and it will take around an hour and a half from London St Pancras International Station to Lille by Eurostar. These Eurostar trains usually continue to Brussels.
Another option is to take the TER or the regional, slower moving trains, where a ticket can be purchased fairly cheaply to many locations throughout France and Belgium. The transit bureau for the Nord-Pas-de-Calais offers weekend "Trampoline" passes, where a round trip on TER trains between Lille and several Belgian cities can be purchased for a set price (between 20 and 40 Euro), and you can choose your own train times. Be careful though--depending on the train, cities may be referred to either their French or Dutch names, which can get confusing.
Lille has two subway lines that connect the centre of the city with several suburbs. It also has many bus lines that go throughout the city and two lines of cable trains that go to Roubaix and Tourcoing which are other important cities of the region.
- Transpole Public transportation in Lille, In French, English and Dutch.
Lille has a very nice city centre, excellently suited for a city trip. Most of the sights can be combined in a walking tour.
- La Vieille Bourse (1653). Right between two picturesque squares, Place du Général-de-Gaulle and Place du Théâtre, this former commercial exchange still plays a central part in the life of the city. You may find booksellers and flower markets in the inner court.
- The main square, Place du Général-de-Gaulle, better known as the "Grand'place", has many lovely historic houses, like the neo-Flemish headquarters of local newspaper La Voix du Nord, and a fountain with the statue of a goddess, "la Grande Déesse" (1843).
- Place Rihour, surrounded by restaurants, houses the tourist information centre inside its main attraction, the Palais Rihour (1453).
- The town hall is worth a look and can be combined nicely with a visit to the Porte de Paris (1692).
- The Opera (1923) and the Chamber of Commerce (1921) are located close together on Place du Théàtre and offer magnificent sights, especially when lit-up at night.
- Take a stroll through the old quarter of the city, known as Vieux Lille, and enjoy the quiet, cobble-stone streets, the variety of stylish designer shops, gourmet restaurants, and the modern Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Treille. More notable streets like Rue de la Monnaie and Rue Esquermoise are definitely worth the trip.
- A bit farther from the city centre is la Citadelle, an interesting example of defensive military architecture, built by Vauban, a famous French military architect, under the reign of Louis the Fourteenth. In the same area is a zoo (free of charge) and a lovely park.
- Musée des Beaux-Arts. A famed museum covering European art from 15th - 20th century.
- Museum of Natural History. A large collection of stuffed mammals, insects, fossils, etc.
- Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse. A former hospital now presenting art.
- Musée d'Art et d' Industrie de Roubaix : La Piscine. A 20th century art museum hosted in a beautiful "Art déco" (start of 20th century) former swimming pool.
- LAM - Lille Art Modern Museum. Modern art, outsider art, contemporary art.
- Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle. The birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, Leader of the French Resistance and later President of France.
- The subway in the long-distance train station Lille Europe is an attraction on its own. In the large stairway's hall, the walls are entirely covered with a big mural.
- The annual Christmas Market is a must for visitors. However there are bigger & better Christmas markets in the UK. The lights, atmosphere, local shops & restaurants is still worth a visit.
- The open market, Marché de Wazemmes, is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning, but the busiest day is definitely Sunday. Vendors sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, books and stationery, suitcases and shoes, even perfume and undergarments! Be sure to pick up a bag of fresh clementines, a bright bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, some rotisserie chicken and roast potatoes for lunch, and a glass of beer at one of many little pubs surrounding the market.
- La Braderie is an annual street fair held every September, for which millions of people come to Lille. You will find everything: paintings, antiques, ornaments, furniture. Inhabitants are partying, eating mussels with French fries and drinking, in a very fun atmosphere.
- Once a month, there's a big reggae event in Wazemmes called Chalice Sound System. Check their MySpace to know when the next event will be. If you're in Lille, it's really worth it.
- Go for a drink in style at the Hermitage Bar, in the Hermitage Gantois luxury hotel . The place is open to the general public providing you're dressed and behave appropriately, and is one of the most refined spots to enjoy a drink in Lille (priced accordingly). The hotel also hosts art exhibitions that you can enjoy free of charge.
As a student city, there are many schools and universities. You can attend bachelor, master degrees in Lille or ask for a student exchange.
- Business schools: ESC-Lille, Edhec, IAE Lille, IESEG School of Management, etc..
- Engineer: École centrale de Lille, ENSAM, ICAM, ISEN etc..
- University: Lille 1 (Scientific), Lille 2 (Medicine,Law,Political Science,Management,Sports) (and the IEP Lille), Lille 3 (Human Sciences, Arts and Letters), Lille Catholic University (Multi-disciplinary)
For any foreign students wishing to come to Lille, the following website could come in handy : Web Site du Crous
- ICL-Clarife is the language centre for the Institut Catholique de Lille, France's largest private university. Located in the heart of Lille, ICL-Clarife organises complete French language and civilisation study programmes for non-Francophones. Web Site ICL-Clarife
- The pedestrian streets just past Grand Place (rue de Béthune, rue Neuve, Rue du Sec Arembault, rue des Tanneurs, etc.) offer popular clothing chain stores such as Etam, Pimkie, Zara, H&M, Sinéquanone, as well as small pubs, restaurants, and two (huge) movie theatres. Some of the buildings that house these stores have beautiful 30's-40's architecture.
- Euralille is Lille's largest shopping centre and offers popular clothing chains, as well as the Carrefour hypermarket. Situated between the two train stations, Gare Lille Flandres and Gare Lille Europe, and right in the heart of the city near dozens of hotels, Euralille is easily accessible to travellers coming into the city.
- Le Furet du Nord (Place du Général de Gaulle) is the largest bookstore in Europe, it appears to be one of the most touristic "monuments" in the city. It has 8 floors and offers more than 420,000 titles.
- There are dozens of upscale boutiques (e.g. Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Hugo Boss, Kenzo) and trendier, independent stores located in Vieux Lille.
Food lovers will find hundreds of little patisseries selling more cakes then they knew existed, as well as a number of chocolate shops. Guillaume Vincent (12 Rue du Cure Saint Etienne), sells exquisitely decorated chocolates that, judging from their taste, must have about 90% cocoa solids.
One of the more popular and affordable (but greasy) eating options are the multitude of kebab shops around the city. For a few Euro, you can get a hearty sandwich with shaved chicken or lamb with a side of frites. A local speciality is the kebab with "Fricandelles," or sausages that are native to this region. These are a great (and more local) alternative to a fast food chain for a quick bite.
Delicious stuffed waffles to be enjoyed at Meert (probably the most beautiful pâtisserie in France) on the Rue Esquermoise right next to the Grand-Place (place du Général de Gaulle) (Station: Rihour on Line 1), as well as at the new location at the Piscine (Museum of Arts and Industry) of Roubaix (Station : Gare Jean Lebas on Line 2)
- Le Flams, 8 rue du Pas (nearLa Grand Place). From 11.90€ for the "all you can eat" flammekueche menu (Alsacian speciality. Crème fraîche, onions, and bacon on a thin crust of dough). Yummy.
- Pâtisserie du Lion d'Or, Place du Lion d'Or. This pâtisserie has all sorts of goodies, including THE best croissants in Lille.
- You can try some of Lille's famous "estaminets" (typical restaurants) : for instance rue de Gand has two nice restaurants : T'Rijsel and Chez la vieille. The atmosphere is very agreeable, and you can taste some of Lille's typical dishes : Potje'vleesch, Carbonade flamande etc... But you must know that these restaurants, being rather notorious in Lille, are very popular, and it is strongly recommended to book a table two or three days before the day you plan to eat there.
- Brasserie Flore, place Rihour (just beside La Chicorée, near 'Rihour' subway station.). Large choice of good meals. Menus from 13,50€..
- Crowne Plaza Euralille, 335, Boulevard de Leeds, 59777 Euralille. Newly opened in December 2002, this modern hotel has light airy rooms with long rectangular windows, giving excellent view over the city of Lille. Opposite Lille Europe train station, just a short walk to the historic heart of the city. Restaurant offering excellent buffet meals and "à la carte".
- La Chicorée, place Rihour (just beside le Flore, near 'Rihour' subway station). Food served nearly 24/24 and 7/7. Typical meals, typical beers. But do not expect to find excellent food here : this restaurant may just be useful if you don't know where to have dinner at 3 in the morning...Do not miss the awesome plate collection on the walls. Each was signed by an artist or a famous person, as La Chicorée is the place were they usually eat after the show. You might even meet someone famous if you try it after 2 or 3 am!!! It's also the place where a lot of casual people eat at night, after their job, after a trip in café, after a show... It's of course rather popular with tourists, but if you wish to appreciate Lille's cuisine at its best, try some other place. Menus from 13,50€.
- L'Omnia, 9 Rue Esquermoise. You won't miss the entrance of this restaurant/bar, which is situated close to la Grand Place. Ramps and murals combine to create a perspective that makes you feel like you're Alice in Wonderland. Inside the decor appeals to the same childish sense of wonder- all red lights and plush, appropriate to this ex-theatre and ex-brothel (you'll find the history of the building on the placemats). The food itself is affordable- the lunch time menu starts from 9 euros. I had the 'potjevles', a regional speciality I would recommend only to the adventurous. Otherwise, I can vouch for some chicken tikka skewers being very enjoyable. The bar also seems to be very proud of their wide range of beers, and the wine was reasonably priced and good.
- Pubstore, 44 rue de la Halle. This somewhat intimate restaurant is a great place for lunch or dinner. Candles on each table make it a nice spot for couples to have a quiet dinner. The menu, found under the glass tabletop, is full of diverse, delicious dishes. Each dish also has a clever name, usually a play on words.
- L’ Gaïette, 30, rue Masséna. The menu in this restaurant focuses on regional specialties and is written in Ch'ti, the local patois/dialiect. Great food and a warm, friendly waitstaff make this restaurant a great place to have dinner.
- Le Compostelle, rue saint-Etienne. May offer some good dishes in a beautiful environment.
- The Barbue d'Anvers, rue St Etienne. Flemish cuisine.
- L'Huitriere, rue des Chats Bossus. Behind the early 20th century art-nouveau fish store lay one of the best seafood and fish restaurants in the country, appreciated by many famous people. The upscale restaurant is definitely closed, but you can still have oysters (and other small seafood) with a drink on the 1st floor
- Coming Out. LGBT-friendly bar. This relatively new bar has a diverse clientele. Virginie and Alain, the friendly, personable owners and operators, are there every day, working hard to make their clients happy, and they are! Red walls, blue lights, and a black bar create a very cool environment with ample seating in comfortable chairs. Open from 5 PM on, stop in for a beer or a cocktail (the specials are written on the chalkboard on the wall), or ask about their Karaoke or other special nights.
- Maison du Moulin D'Or (Morel & Fils), 31 Place du théâtre, ☎ +33 3 20 55 00 10. This place used to be "une bonneterie," which is still reflected in the decorations inside. Dress forms, wooden dolls, cloth, and beautiful colors (soft sea green and pink) are found throughout two floors. A great place to stop for a coffee or beer when you're out and about.
- The Drugstore, 21 Rue Royale, ☎ +33 3 20 12 00 53. Very small, groovy lounge with two floors and a few tables outside when the weather warms up. Ambient music and orange lighting complement the vintage-looking movie and music posters on the walls. My advice: grab a table upstairs - the chairs are comfy and you can see down onto the street and people-watch. This bar is more for cocktails than beer, and their happy hour special offers all their cocktails for 6 Euros.
- Café Oz/The Australian Bar, 33, Place des Bettignies, ☎ +33 3 20 55 15 15. Café Oz / The Australian Bar, 33, Place des Bettignies. Very cool bar with a lively atmosphere, good mix of music played, and a mélange of Francophone and Anglophone bartenders. They also have a terrace open during the day when the weather warms up for those who wish to enjoy an afternoon refreshment. Check their website or head on in and ask about their various happy hour specials, which fluctuate depending on the day/season.
- On Rue Masséna, you will find countless bars, nightclubs, and restaurants including small delicious kebab stands that are open late until the wee hours of early morning.
- Salsa the night away at Le Latina Café on 42/44 Rue Masséna, where you will find all things Cuban including portraits of Che Guevara, hot Spanish tunes, and their famous Havana Club Mojitos. As well, indulge in a Desperado (tequila beer) or two. Drinks are a bit pricier, but the ambiance makes it all worth it.
- Pub Mac Ewan's on 8 place Sébastopol offers about 140 different beers. Starting at €1.90.
- Alliance Lille. luxury hotel in the center of Lille. Seminars organization.
- Citadines City Centre Lille, Avenue Willy Brandt - Euralille, ☎ +33 3 28 36 75 00, fax: +33 3 20 06 97 82, e-mail: email@example.com. The residence is near to the railway station. Each apartment houses a bathroom with a separate toilet, a separate kitchen area complete with stove, microwave, fridge and dishwasher, and TV with cable channels. 5 apartments are equipped for people with reduced mobility. Daily rates starts from €96.
- Lille Hostel. A HI hostel, about €17.30/night.
- Nord Hotel. Situated in the southern part of Lille, about a ten minute ride on the subway away from the centre of town. When first arriving, the area seems a bit intimidating, but is actually quite quiet. Fairly basic accommodation. Small, clean room and friendly staff. €60/night for a twin room.
- Hotel Brueghel, ☎ +33 3 20 06 06 69. Peacefully overlooking a church, but in a very central location. about €80/night, 3/5 Parvis Saint-Maurice.
- Mister Bed City Lille, 57, Rue de Béthune, ☎ +33 3 20 12 96 96. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Central location, basic but clean. Approx €50.
- Greece, 21 Rue Jules Ferry, 59370 Mons-en-Barœul, ☎ +33 320-334-625, fax: +33 320-332-892, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.