For an authentic and affordable Flemish adventure, look no further than the pretty northern French city of Lille.

For many people, Lille is little more than a transfer stop on the Eurostar. But ditch the train and explore this dynamic metropolis, and you’ll quickly get more than you bargained for. 

Nestled on the border of Belgium, the pretty northern French city is quickly becoming a popular destination thanks to its great food, diverse architecture and cultural quirks. 

Capital of the Hauts-de-France region, the city is built on the banks of the Deûle River in Flanders and has gained traction with travellers craving an authentic, affordable Flemish experience – a world away from the bright lights and flamboyant trappings of Paris.

With a vibrant international community, bustling university and regular outdoor markets, Lille is full of heart. Here are six reasons to add it to your bucket list. 


Le Vieux Lille (Old Town)

To get a feel for Lille, nothing beats a stroll through the city’s attractive Old Town. Wander through the cobblestone streets of Le Vieux Lille and you’ll see everything from colourfully restored bourgeois terraces to decorative façades and baroque spires. 

Look out for Flemish influence in the pretty red and brown brickwork, dating back the 1600s. We recommend sticking around until after dark when this area of town starts to come alive with after-work drinkers and revelling students. 

Le viuex lille

Historic highlights

Arguably the most ornate building in the city, begin your historic trail at the 17th century La Vieille Bourse – a renaissance mansion, and former stock exchange, famous for its decadent gold and red façade. 

From here, it’s a hop, skip and jump to the Grand Place, a market square boxed in by iconic buildings like the Théâtre du Nord and art deco Voix du Nord. For the best rooftop city views, scale the UNESCO World Heritage Beffroi de Lille at the Town Hall. 

The Vieille Bourse in Lille is the former building of the Lille Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Multitudinous museums

As fascinating inside as out, Palais des Beaux-Arts is a sprawling museum set within a 19th century Belle Époque summer palace. Today, it houses works from great artists ranging from Monet to Picasso, and can easily command a full day of perusing. 

For something more contemporary, visit the modern cultural centre of Maison Folie Wazemmes or Lille Métropole Museum of Modern Art (LaM). If you’re more interested in cultural history, check out the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle or Musée de l’Institut Pasteur de Lille. 

Derniers rayons du soleil

Myriad markets

Touting everything from flowers to fabrics, Marche de Wazemmes is one of the largest markets in France. Open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday until 2pm, it’s a great place to mix with locals and bag a bargain. 

If you’re on the hunt for regional produce, check out city centre-favourite Marche Sebastopol on a Wednesday or Saturday, while book lovers will adore Marche de la Vielle Bourse.

Food markets

French-Flemish fare

The birthplace of Franco-Flemish cuisine, Lille offers hungry visitors the best of northern French fare – from beer-stewed beef to fresh-caught shellfish. For some everyday dining, sit shoulder-to-shoulder with locals at tavern Estaminet T’Risjel.

Seafood lovers will find themselves right at home at gourmet L’Huîtrière, serving the finest fish around, and fromage fanatics need look no further than Le Broc’. Got a sweet tooth? Maison Meert will meet all your dessert desires. 

Aerial view of Lille Lille Nord Pas de Calais

Notable nightlife

As darkness descends, the city comes to life. For a seemingly endless array of pubs and bars, Rue Masséna and Rue Solférino are the go-to areas, while Le Vieux Lille offers colourful cafés and lesser-known venues of a quirkier variety. 

As popular for its upbeat atmosphere as its extensive wine list, start your night at Lille institution, Chez Fred. People watch at bar-cum-café Peek-a-Boo and fist pump to big-name DJs at late-night Magazine Club. Then feed the hangover in the morning. 

Lille nightlife

Want to explore more of the region? Here’s our rundown of the best attractions in northern France.

Choice Hotels in Lille