Browse books and learn to tango
A visit to the second-hand book stalls at the market in the Vieille Bourse, the old stock exchange, is a treat on many levels. The building, erected in 1653, is one of the most beautiful in the city, the book vendors have real treasures on offer and you can easily spend one or two hours just browsing. Also, if you time your visit for late afternoon on a Sunday during the summer, you can learn from the tango dance demonstration and try your own sensuous latin moves.
La Vieille Bourse, Place Charles de Gaulle, Lille, France, +33 891 56 20 04
Wander around the zoo
A walk around Lille’s zoo can be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Set in the beautiful park surrounding the famous star-shaped Citadel fortress, the zoo houses about 350 animals from 100 different species. Besides, you can’t beat the price – admission is free.
Zoo de Lille, Avenue Mathias Delobel, Lille, France, +33 03 28 52 07 00
Join a street party in September
If you happen to be in Lille for this special event, you’ll have your pick of inexpensive fun in what is basically a city-wide street party. One of the most renowned flea markets in the world takes place in Lille every September. The Braderie de Lille is an annual street festival and secondhand/antiques market that takes over the entire centre and features over 10,000 vendors, as well as food, music, and live entertainment.
Take a bike tour
This is an inexpensive way to get around Lille and create your own tour of the city. V’Lille is a network of bike share stations, where you simply pick up a bike that you hire on the internet or directly at the card reader on the stand. The first 30 minutes are free of charge, so if you go from station to station and exchange your bike every half hour, you can enjoy a tour of Lille of less than €2 for the day.
Have a hothouse rendezvous
Lille has a wonderful historical botanical garden, created in the 16th century. The park has since expanded to its current 27 acres, and includes a tropical greenhouse with fascinating exotic species in a climate-controlled environment – the perfect spot for a lovely stroll holding hands if it’s a bit nippy outside. Entrance is free.
Jardin des Plantes, 306 Rue du Jardin des Plantes, Lille, France, +33 03 28 36 13 50
Share some sweet treats
You can enjoy the best of Lille without the need to spurge on a full meal – just go straight for the sweets. The most famous pastry in Lille is the legendary gaufre fourrée, a delicate, skinny waffle filled with vanilla cream, still made in the traditional way by Maison Méert. Two cups of coffee or hot chocolate with some delicate waffles and you’re in foodie heaven.
Méert, 27 Rue Esquermoise, Lille, France, +33 03 20 57 07 40
Browse the December Christmas market
Lille is home to the best-loved Christmas market in the north of France. The Grand Place turns into a magical wonderland with a huge ferris wheel, chalets offering gifts, crafts, gastronomic treats, street food, and a programme of music and performances.
Look at contemporary art
There are great museums, art galleries and exhibitions in Lille, and one such exciting spot to visit is the former mail sorting office that has been converted into the Tripostal art space. Its huge galleries on three levels hold cultural events, host the most important contemporary art collections in the world, and provide a showcase for emerging talent.
Le Tripostal, Avenue Willy Brandt, Lille, France, +33 03 20 14 47 60
Go to a food market
Food markets in France are a treat for the senses. You’ll be greeted by an explosion of aromas, colours and textures, and interesting and new things to taste and discover. Vendors are always ready to explain, offer tastings and provide tips on how to enjoy their offerings. Gather some tasty ingredients together to make a delicious, and affordable, picnic.
Picnic in the park
Lille has many gorgeous parks to spread out your picnic blanket and indulge in your favourite treats. Packing your picnic is affordable, fun and a great way to sample regional specialties without spending too much. It can be as casual or as epicurean as you wish to make it.
Spend time in the station
Let’s just start by saying that all the exhibitions, concerts, and shows held at the Gare Saint Saveur are free of charge. This cultural hub has a projection room, exhibition space and a restaurant, and is always renewing its programmes of fun and enlightening art events.
Bar and games
There’s a bar in Lille called La Luck where, for an admission of €5 each, you can play some of the hundreds of unusual games. Test your coordination, hidden talents, and teamwork… and laugh until your bellies hurt. The staff can help you choose your game and even talk you through the rules. They also offer a selection of informal food and drinks at reasonable prices.
1 bis rue Princesse,Lille, France, + 07 70 21 57 71