While the Flemish influence in food and architecture is undeniable, the French attitude is still very present. Lille is compact, easily walkable and jam-packed with art and design museums, high-end fashion shops, and bistros that take their craft beer selection very seriously.
Lille's currency is the Euro (€). €1 = £0.83 and $1.10 (as of 2022).
Top 5 things to see
Place du Général de Gaulle (Grand-Place)
The heart of Lille, the Grand-Place is a striking square dripping with opulent Flemish-style architecture. It's more open and less restrictive than Brussels and there are considerably fewer people too. The Lillois (locals from Lille) revel in it and will often sip their locally-brewed beer or coffee on its vast terraces. The Colonne de la Déesse (1845) stands somewhat unassumingly in the middle of the square, paying homage to the siege from the Austrians in 1792.
Although its architecture is not eye-wateringly magnificent as Brussels', we prefer it in Lille.
Photographic streets to look out for include:
Rue de Gand
Re de la Monnaie
Rue de la Clef
Palais des Beaux Arts
Founded in 1892, the Palais de Beaux Arts is home to France's second-largest collection of art after the Louvre in Paris. Paintings from some of the world's greatest painters can be found here, from Ruben to Van Dyck and more. Its basement is full of wonders too, from archaeological discoveries to 18th-century scale models of former Flemish towns.
Tickets cost €7.
The star-shaped block you see on Google Maps north-west of Lille? That's the Citadelle, a 17th-century military base from 1667 after Louis XIV conquered Lille. Only guided tours allow you access.
Surrounding the Citadelle is Lille's largest park, aptly named Parc de la Citadelle. Many of the locals will bring picnics and sit by the river, often with striking Port Napolèon in the background. Nearby is Lille Zoo, which is free admission and worth an hour or two.
A neo-gothic 19th-century cathedral north of Grand-Place. Its facade is seemingly Scandinavian, reminding us of the Hallgrímskirkja in Iceland. The interior is mesmerising and awe-inspiring, while its exterior is illuminated at night.
Take a day trip to Dunkirk
30 minutes from Lille is Dunkirk, a small coastal city synonymous with the evacuation of troops in World War II. Majorly destroyed by the German army, Dunkirk has rebuilt itself into a thriving city that celebrates the extraordinary bravery and heroism. Visit the museums dedicated to honouring the troops from across the world who gave their lives for the future.
Trains from Gare de Lille-Europe takes 30 to 60 minutes and costs up to €18.
Lille City Pass
The Lille City Pass gets you into all attractions throughout the city and comes with unlimited use of public transport. This can either be bought at a tourist office in the city or the website below.
24 hours = €25.
48 hours = €35.
72 hours = €45.
Where to eat and drink
The food of Lille is undeniably Flemish inspired – strong cheese and gamey meats characterise traditional dishes. The city's picturesque streets are filled with delicious bistros and brasseries serving hearty dishes to hungry locals - and affordably too! For a truly Flemish dining experience try carbonade flamande – a rich meal of braised beef cooked with beer, onions, brown sugar, and gingerbread.
Meert 1677 is a beautiful cafe, chocolatier and confectionary in the heart of Lille. Originally founded in 1677, the pastries are a treat, as is the architecture! This is a must visit.
Tamper know their coffee! This chic cafe playing soft jazz in the background and serving fresh French toast alongside its strong coffee will set you up perfectly for the day ahead!
Marché de Wazemmes in the Wazemmes district showcases France's ethnic diversity. Its strong North African influences combine with the fabulous produce developed in the local region. Make a picnic on a sunny day and head to the Deûle close by and sit on the river bank.
La Clairière is often voted as the best vegan restaurant in Lille. Its two/three course midweek lunch menu (€14/€18) is a great option for light and healthy food to keep you going while exploring Lille. The plant-based menu is colourful, charming and is made from 100% sustainable produce.
Bistrot Lillois is nestled unassumingly on Rue de Gand and is the number 1 place to visit. Bistrot Lillois is a rustic bistro serving simple, classic Flemish dishes. It's a fantastic experience.
Papá Raffaele is the spot if you're in the mood for something modern with a twist. The queues are out of the door at peak times but move quickly. No reservations allowed.
Le Barbier qui Fume is one of the city's most popular barbecue joints in a former barbershop. You'll be able to smell it down the road - believe us! It'd be best to book a table ahead of your visit.
For the adults
Aux Arts is a chic wine bar on the corner of Place de Conservatoire. Grab a table close to the bar for an excellent view of the well-priced wine list handwritten on the huge chalkboard. Le Braz is an intimate wine bar with an exposed brick interior that needs to be visited too!
La Capsule serves up the city's best local beer in the world-renowned region. Spread across three floors with 28 beers on tap and over 100 by bottle, La Capsule gives you a whirlwind tour in beer.
La Pirogue is one of the best cocktail bars in the city, with tropical vibes too.
Le Privilege is Lille's top LGBT bar and clubbing scene, set in a. format bookshop with vaulted ceilings. Tuesdays are retro night and Wednesdays are drag karaoke.
Tipping isn't required in Lille.
Lille is generally considered a safe city. Be careful walking by the train stations at night and just your belongings close to you, as with anywhere.
Two Passports Top Tip: Rue de Gand has you covered!
Rue de Gand is arguably Lille's most picturesque street, and is where the locals visit for the best bistros, restaurants and bars in the city. Bistrot Lillois (recommended above for dinner) is one of many cute places to eat and drink - this is a must-visit street in the city!
When to Go
Low Season: October to February
Dark, cold and wet, but good deals to be had if you wish to visit in these months for the odd chance of nice sunshine and crisp mornings.
Shoulder Season: March to May, September
Spring blooms, temperatures rise, and days get longer. However, there are periods of wet and windy weather, so best be safe and bring a coat with you. Good deals and low tourist numbers make it a good time of the year to visit.
High Season: June to August
A beautiful time to visit the city. Lille basks in the sunshine without it being too hot to explore. Take some local produce to the Citadelle or by the river for a lovely picnic. Tourists will increase, especially via Eurostar. Book ahead for the cheapest deals possible.
How to Get There
Lille Airport (LIL)
LIL is a small airport that only serves domestic flights in France, as well as flights from southern Spain, Italy and North Africa. The city centre, 6.5 km south, is only accessible by shuttle bus and taxi - there is no direct train.
The Lille Shuttle take 20 minutes and costs €8.
Travelling by train
Paris to Lille takes 1 hour and costs €23. The train station you'll arrive into is Lille Flandres.
Travelling by Eurostar
This is the best option if it's available! From London St Pancras International, it's less than 90 minutes and you're in the centre of Lille, starting at €67 return. From Belgium, there are two direct trains to Brussels (35-minute journey, €32 for a single) and Antwerp (2h 15m journey, €32 for a single).
The station you'll arrive into is Gare de Lille Europe.
Travelling in the city
Lille is a completely walkable city. There is a metro, but this is primarily used by commuters travelling into the city for work.
Uber does operate, so if you don't want to walk around late at night, this is an option!