Historic town square under a soft evening light, featuring a towering belfry, and classic European architecture with colorful facades, as people enjoy the outdoor seating of a cafe.

Top 9 Things to Do in Lille: A Must-Read for First-Timers

Last Updated on June 3, 2024 by April Nicole

Things to Do in Lille
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Located in the heart of Northern France, Lille is a vibrant city that blends rich history with a lively modern culture.

Often overlooked in favor of its more famous neighbors, this charming city is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

For first-time visitors, Lille offers an array of unforgettable experiences, from exploring ancient streets in Old Town (Vieux Lille) to indulging in the local culinary delights.

In this blog, we’ll guide you through the must-visit spots that capture the essence of Lille’s spirit.

If you are in a hurry, here’s a summary of things to do Lille France :

How to Get to Lille from Paris

Traveling from Paris to Lille is straightforward, with several transportation options available. Here’s how you can reach Lille from Paris:

  • By Train:
    • High-Speed Train (TGV): The TGV from Paris Gare du Nord takes about 1 hour to reach Lille. For timetables and ticket booking, click here for more information.
  • By Car:
    • Driving: The drive from Paris to Lille takes about 2 to 3 hours. Plan your route and check road conditions here. To view rental car prices for Lille, click on this link!
  • By Bus:
    • Long-Distance Bus: Buses are a budget-friendly option, with the journey taking about 3 to 4 hours. For schedules and booking, click here.

What to Do in Lille in One Day

Explore the Grand Place

Things to Do in Lille: Vibrant city square bustling with people, flanked by historic buildings with ornate facades in a mix of baroque and classical architecture, under a clear blue sky.

The heart of Lille beats in the Grand Place, officially named Place du Général-de-Gaulle. This historic square is surrounded by architectural marvels, each narrating a piece of Lille’s rich history. Dominating the scene is the Vieille Bourse, a 17th-century Renaissance masterpiece, once the bustling epicenter of Lille’s commerce.

Stop to see the Théâtre du Nord, which is housed in the old guardhouse from 1717 in Lille. More contemporary buildings, such as the art deco Voix du Nord building next door, which was constructed in 1936 and features a tall crow-stepped gable, have also incorporated the traditional Flemish design.

Discover the Treasures of La Vieille Bourse

Things to Do in Lille: The Vieille Bourse, a 17th-century ornate building in Lille, France, basks in sunlight, highlighting its baroque facade as patrons enjoy a café terrace in the square.

La Vieille Bourse, a true jewel of Lille, stands gracefully at the edge of the Grand Place. This 17th-century architectural marvel, renowned for its Renaissance flair, was once the bustling center of the old stock exchange. Today, it captivates visitors with its inner courtyard, a picturesque spot where book lovers and flower enthusiasts gather amidst the backdrop of ornate facades.

The Vieille Bourse’s inner beauty is as striking as its exterior. Each archway and carved detail tells a tale of Lille’s rich commercial history. The courtyard transforms into a vibrant second-hand book market, offering a unique opportunity to find rare books and vintage treasures. This historic building is more than just a landmark; it’s a living, breathing part of Lille’s culture, hosting various events that keep the spirit of the old trading center alive.

Visit the Palais des Beaux Arts

Things to Do in Lille

The Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille is a must-visit for anyone interested in European art. This prestigious museum, second in size only to the Louvre in Paris, is housed in a stunning 19th-century building. Its extensive collection features a remarkable range of European paintings, sculptures, and ceramics, highlighting the works of renowned artists like Rubens, Van Dyck, and Goya.

Besides its permanent collections, the museum regularly hosts engaging temporary exhibitions, offering something new with each visit. The spacious, light-filled galleries of the Palais des Beaux Arts provide a serene backdrop for an enriching cultural experience, appealing to art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike.

Indulge at Meert

Things to Do in Lille: Elegant interior of a traditional chocolate shop with ornate gold ceiling and wood-paneled walls, showcasing a variety of chocolates and confectionaries on display counters, with customers browsing the selection.

Meert, a legendary patisserie in Lille, is a delightful indulgence for anyone with a sweet tooth. Established in 1761, this iconic establishment is renowned for its delicious waffles, a culinary emblem of the city. These aren’t just any waffles; they’re filled with Madagascar vanilla, offering a unique taste that has been cherished for centuries.

Stepping into Meert is like entering a world of gourmet wonder. The elegant interior, with its vintage charm, sets the stage for an exquisite experience. It’s not just about the waffles; their array of pastries and chocolates are equally tantalizing, making Meert a must-visit destination for connoisseurs of fine French desserts.

Tour Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle

Things to Do in Lille: Luxurious seaside villa with a columned balcony overlooking a calm bay, accompanied by a mature pine tree and a solitary white chair set on a gravel path.

The Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle is a significant historical site in Lille, offering a unique glimpse into the early life of one of France’s most iconic figures. This house, where Charles de Gaulle was born in 1890, has been meticulously preserved and transformed into a museum. It provides an intimate portrayal of the family life and upbringing that shaped de Gaulle’s character and destiny.

Visitors can explore the family’s living quarters, adorned with period furniture and personal memorabilia. The museum also offers educational exhibits about de Gaulle’s political and military career, making it a fascinating visit for history enthusiasts and those seeking to understand France’s past.

Admire the Palais Rihour

Nighttime view of a lively pedestrian street in Lille, France, with the illuminated Palais Rihour, people dining at outdoor terraces, and historic architecture under a dusk sky.

The Palais Rihour, with its Gothic architecture, stands as a testament to Lille’s historical richness. Built in the 15th century, it once served as the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. Today, this landmark is a focal point for tourists seeking to connect with Lille’s medieval past.

Visitors can admire the intricate stone work and the preserved remnants of the original structure, which provide a window into the Gothic era. The Palais Rihour also houses the Lille Tourist Office, making it a convenient starting point for exploring the city. Its blend of historical significance and modern utility makes it a must-visit destination in Lille.

La Piscine Museum

Spacious gallery featuring an array of classical statues displayed around a reflective pool, with visitors admiring the art under a striking stained glass ceiling.

In Roubaix, next door to Croix, there’s a creative cultural attraction housed in what was formerly an indoor swimming pool. The pool was designed in a stunning art deco style and finished in 1932.

It closed in the 1980s but returned as a fantastic venue to display a vast library of textile samples collected from Lille’s numerous textile manufacturers. With a collection that dates back to 1835, the museum offers a refined setting for you to engage with Lille’s industrial history.

Experience the Marché de Wazemmes

Outdoor market scene with a variety of clothing and goods on display under makeshift stalls, set against the backdrop of a historic brick building, with shoppers milling about in a tree-lined street.

The Marché de Wazemmes is a vibrant and colorful market, a hub of activity that captures the essence of Lille’s lively spirit. Located in a multicultural neighborhood, this market is a melting pot of cultures and flavors, offering a wide array of goods from fresh produce to exotic spices, textiles, and handicrafts.

Visiting the Marché de Wazemmes is an experience for all the senses. The lively chatter, the rich aromas of street food, and the vivid colors of fresh fruits and vegetables create an atmosphere that’s quintessentially Lillois. It’s the perfect place to mingle with locals, sample regional specialties, and pick up unique souvenirs.

Unusual Things to Do in Lille

For those seeking off-the-beaten-path experiences in Lille, the city offers plenty of unusual attractions.

  • Hospice Comtesse Museum: Once a medieval hospital, now a fascinating museum showcasing local art and history set against the backdrop of its historical architecture.
  • Gare Saint Sauveur: This repurposed freight station is now a buzzing cultural center, hosting an eclectic mix of art exhibitions, music events, and film screenings.
  • Jardin des Géants: A magical garden filled with giant, sculptural plants, offering a whimsical and serene escape in the heart of the city.
  • Le Furet du Nord: Step into one of the world’s largest bookstores, a paradise for book lovers with its vast collection and unique atmosphere.

Each of these destinations offers a unique glimpse into the less-traveled paths of Lille, perfect for adding a unique twist to your visit.

Free Things to Do in Lille

Even on a budget, Lille offers a variety of experiences that don’t cost a thing. Here are some engaging activities you can enjoy for free:

  • Wander Through Old Lille: The historic streets of Vieux Lille are a delight to explore, with their stunning blend of Flemish and French architecture, at no cost.
  • Visit Notre-Dame de la Treille Cathedral: This architectural marvel combines a modern facade with a serene interior, offering a peaceful retreat.
  • Enjoy Lille’s Public Parks: The city’s parks, like the verdant Citadel Park, are ideal for leisurely strolls or picnics amidst nature.
  • Participate in Free Events at Gare Saint Sauveur: This cultural hotspot often hosts free events, including concerts and art exhibitions.
  • Experience the Lille Christmas Market: If you’re looking for things to do in Lille at christmas, the Lille Christmas Market is a wonderland of holiday spirit, with its enchanting lights, decorations, and the joyous ambiance, all free to enjoy.

These activities provide a delightful taste of Lille’s culture and beauty without straining your wallet, proving that the best experiences often come free.

Where to Eat in Lille

Lille’s culinary scene is as diverse and vibrant as the city itself. Here’s a guide to some of the best dining experiences, catering to various tastes and budgets:

  • Traditional French Cuisine at Aux Moules: For a taste of traditional Lille, head to Aux Moules, where you can savor classic French dishes like moules-frites in a cozy, bistro setting.
  • Indulge at Meert: Already mentioned for its famous waffles, Meert is also a great spot for a luxurious lunch or a sweet treat in an elegant atmosphere.
  • Budget-Friendly Eats at La Ducasse: Offering hearty portions at reasonable prices, La Ducasse is perfect for travelers looking for a filling meal without breaking the bank.
  • Fine Dining at L’Hermitage Gantois: If you’re in the mood for a splurge, L’Hermitage Gantois offers exquisite dishes in a stunning, historic setting.
  • Street Food at Marché de Wazemmes: For a casual and lively dining experience, the food stalls at Marché de Wazemmes offer a variety of options from local favorites to international cuisine.
  • Vegetarian and Vegan Options at Be Yourself!: This cozy cafe not only has a welcoming ambiance but also a menu full of delicious vegetarian and vegan options.

Whether you’re seeking traditional French flavors, fine dining, or casual street food, Lille’s gastronomic landscape has something to satisfy every palate.

Where to Stay in Lille: Accommodations for Every Budget

Lille offers a range of hotels to suit every traveler’s budget and style. Here are top picks for budget, mid-range, and luxury stays:

  • HotelF1 Lille Centre Grand Palais: This no-frills hotel offers basic yet comfortable rooms at very affordable prices. It’s ideal for travelers looking to save on accommodation without sacrificing location.
  • Mercure Lille Centre Vieux Lille: Nestled in the heart of Old Lille, this hotel offers a more upscale experience with spacious rooms and contemporary decor, all at reasonable prices.
  • L’Hermitage Gantois: For a luxurious stay, this 5-star hotel, set in a 15th-century building, offers elegance and historical charm. It features fine dining options, a spa, and beautifully appointed rooms.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Lille France

Lille, a charming blend of history and modernity, offers an enriching experience for every traveler. Its vibrant culture, rich history, and diverse culinary scene make it an ideal destination. This guide aims to ensure your visit to Lille is as captivating and memorable as the city itself.

France Travel Planning 🇫🇷

For any trip to be successful, preparation is key. Do it the easy way:

Accommodation 🛌

  • Booking.com – Find diverse accommodations, enjoy easy booking with great deals, and rely on real reviews and 24/7 support.
  • Expedia.com – With its user-friendly interface, it simplifies the process of booking hotels and holiday packages to France.
  • VRBO.com – Your go-to platform for unique and comfortable vacation rentals in France.

Transportation 🚘

  • DiscoverCars.com – Offers a seamless booking experience, ensuring you find the ideal car for your adventures in France.
  • GetTransfer.com – Is the ultimate solution for your travel transfer needs, offering an efficient, flexible service and comfortable transportation.
  • Trainline.com stands as a quintessential tool for savvy travelers seeking to navigate France’s extensive rail network with ease and confidence.
  • Skyscanner.com – Simplifies your travel planning with its user-friendly interface, offering a comprehensive comparison of flights.

Attractions, Activities and Tours 🇫🇷

  • Viator.com – Stands out as a trusted resource for travelers seeking unparalleled experiences across the globe.
  • GetYourGuide.com – Offers an extensive collection of tours, activities, and attractions in France.
  • ParisCityVision.com – This tour company specializes in crafting exceptional experiences across Paris and France.

Communication 📱

  • Orange Sim Card – Discover seamless connectivity on your French travels with an Orange Holiday Europe Sim Card, a top choice for tourists.
  • Airalo.com – The world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving travelers access to eSIMs (digital SIM cards).

Travel Insurance ✈️

  • SafetyWing.com – Travel with peace of mind knowing you’re protected in almost every corner of the world.
  • Travel Insurance Master – Visit their website to discover the ideal insurance plan that aligns with your travel dreams.

These are only a few of my favorites; for more, see my comprehensive guide to the top travel booking websites for France.

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7 Comments

  1. OMG! You brought alive my Lille memories from 2018-19. I miss Northern France so much; what a lovely place it is. I miss the waffles of Meert. Now I am craving for them.

  2. Your post on things to do in Lille is a comprehensive guide for travelers exploring this charming city in France. From cultural attractions to culinary delights, your recommendations cover a wide range of experiences, ensuring there’s something for every visitor to enjoy. Thanks for sharing these insightful suggestions and insider tips – they’re sure to enhance anyone’s trip to Lille. Keep up the excellent work in providing valuable travel insights and inspiration!

  3. I have never been to France, but I would like to visit one day! Lille seems like a nice place. Sometimes I wish I lived in Europe.

  4. I’d love to visit all the museums first thing. Those are always my favorite part of traveling.

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