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LILLE

Destination French Flanders: Why Not Choose… Lille?

 

Flemish, Burgundian and Spanish by turns, Lille is bursting with architectural treasures which reflect the city's many faces. Benefiting from an exceptional geographical location near the border with Belgium and close to three European capitals, the capital of Flanders enjoys great cultural vitality.


Culture, Tradition and Modernity: The Perfect Balance

To discover the emblematic monuments of the city, head for Old Lille, more specifically the Grand’Place or Place du Théâtre. The Old Stock Exchange is truly unmissable: it is a real gem of Flemish architecture and the city's main cultural attraction.

Explore Old Lille. This remarkably restored and picturesque neighbourhood has charming, flamboyant architecture. The soft and bold colours of its façades amplify the decorative exuberance and profusion. You will love wandering through its streets filled with diverse 17th-century architecture. Remember to look up, to really appreciate the mixture of brick and stone!

Don't miss Rihour Palace, a vestige of the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy, and one of Lille's oldest buildings. Notre-Dame de la Treille Cathedral is a surprising building, mixing tradition and modernity in an architectural blend that never fails to impress.

Art lovers will adore Lille: the city has one of the largest and most beautiful museums in France. In a sumptuous, late 19th-century building, the Palais des Beaux-Arts boasts prestigious collections of paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics and relief maps. In Villeneuve d’Ascq, LaM, the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, is also worth a visit.

If you have a head for heights, climb to the top of the City Hall belfry! Standing 104m high, it is the perfect place to see the Lys Valley and even the Mountains of Flanders on a clear day.

Also not to be missed is the Citadel of Lille, the most remarkable of the monuments built by the Marquis de Vauban. You should also take the chance to relax a little in Lille's green lungs: the Bois de Boulogne, which joins onto the Citadel Park.


Top 10 Must-Sees

 

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The Old Stock Exchange: built in 1652 to 1653 by Julien Destrée, it is indisputably the most beautiful monument in the city. Its 24 identical houses around the cloister and the infinite variety of caryatids on its pilasters will make you stop and stare. The same opulence can be seen in the ornate windows, with their curved or triangular pediments, decorated with cartouches and festooned with plump fruits, in the Flemish Renaissance style.

The Grand’Place: in the heart of the city, the Grand'Place (or Place du Général de Gaulle) is where all of Lille's locals come to meet. Four women watch over it: the Goddess in its centre, commemorating the siege of Lille by the Austrians in 1792, and the three women atop the Voix du Nord building. These three graces represent the region's three provinces: Artois, Flanders and Hainault.

The Rihour Palace: started in 1453 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, the Palace is one of the few remaining buildings in Lille displaying flamboyant Gothic architecture. On the ground floor, the Guard Room is now home to the tourist information office. On the first floor, the Conclave Room and the Sacristy with its superb stained glass windows are used to host events.

The Palais des Beaux-Arts: undoubtedly one of France's richest museums. In a superb 19th-century building, it houses prestigious collections of European paintings (Rubens, Van Dyck, Goya, Delacroix...), 19th-century French paintings (David, Courbet, Puvis de Chavannes...), 19th-century sculptures (Rodin, Claudel, Carpeaux...), 17th-century and 18th-century ceramics, a Middle Ages and Renaissance department, and a large collection of drawings (including 40 sheets by Raphaël), as well as 18th-century relief maps of around fifteen northern French and Belgian towns fortified by Vauban.

The City Hall and its Belfry: built between 1924 and 1932, the City Hall is inspired by Flemish architectural tradition, with its triangular-gabled houses, yet the material used is resolutely modern: reinforced concrete. Inside is an exceptional collection of contemporary artwork decorating the staircases, corridors and municipal halls.

Euralille: inaugurated in 1994, this neighbourhood with its futuristic towers is centred around Lille Europe high-speed train station, Lille Grand Palais (a conference centre, exhibition hall and concert hall) and the Euralille shopping centre. Several renowned architects and urban planners helped to create it.

The Citadel of Lille: the work of Sébastien Leprestre, Marquis de Vauban. It was built from 1667 to 1670, by order of Louis XIV, who had just conquered the city. Originally, it was a small town surrounded by five bastions, forming a star. Its construction required 60 million bricks, 3 million stone blocks and 70,000 pieces of sandstone.

La Piscine, André Diligent Museum of Art and Industry: in the exceptional setting of the former art deco swimming pool built by Albert Baert in 1932, this museum invites you to discover its unusual collections of applied arts (drawing, textiles, ceramics) and fine arts (19th-century and 20th-century paintings and sculptures).

LaM, the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art: the museum combines two beautiful examples of architecture, surrounded by a sculpture park. It boasts three prestigious collections from the 20th and 21st centuries, making it a unique museum in France and northern Europe.

The Villa Cavrois: with its striking architecture, the Villa Cavrois is the emblematic work of key modernist architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. It was designed and built for Paul Cavrois, a textile industrialist from northern France, and his family. It became an official historical monument in 1990.


Festivities and Food Galore!

In the small local cafés (estaminets), regional specialities take centre stage. Carbonnade (beef stew with beer and gingerbread), Waterzoï (poultry or fish in cream with vegetables) and Potjevleesch (white meat terrine in jelly) go perfectly with an artisan beer brewed in the region.

On the dessert menu, you will find sugar tart, crème brûlée, or waffles filled with vergeoise (brown sugar made from sugar beet syrup).

Finally, no good meal is complete without a glass of Jenever, a liqueur made using cereals and flavoured with juniper berries.


Cultural Events

 

October to June: Jazz en Nord Festival

Dozens of concerts, with everything from blues to gospel, including soul, rock, pop and reggae influences, to bring the whole spectrum of jazz to the general public.

April: Les Paradis Artificiels

This contemporary music festival offers exceptional and explosive programmes every year!

May: Les Transphotographiques

For over ten years, this month-long festival has offered a thematic selection of over 60 exhibitions, in the Euro-region. It has played a recognised role in the international photography scene.

September: Grande Braderie de Lille

One of the largest gatherings in France and the biggest flea market in Europe!


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