As the name suggests, Vieux-Lille (or ‘Old Lille’) is the old town of Lille situated in the north side of town. Here you’ll find the true Flemish soul of the city: strolling past the red brick buildings as you wind through narrow cobbled streets, you may feel as if you’ve stumbled into an old Belgian neighborhood rather than a French one. This is also where most of Lille’s top sightseeing icons can be found. Check out our list of the best spots to explore in Vieux-Lille!
The Hospice Comptesse, also called Hospice Notre Dame, dates back to the 17th century and was built in 1237 under order of Jeanne, a Countess of Flanders. The hospice became a museum in 1962, and now hosts an exposition on the social and cultural life in Lille between the 17th and the 18th centuries. The rooms’ structure, furniture, paintings and decorations have all been left intact and unchanged, so you may feel as if you’ve traveled back in time when you enter this building. There’s also a garden featuring about 30 different medicinal plants, the same kinds that were likely used when the hospice was still in use.
Hours: Monday 2 PM – 6 PM; Wednesday-Sunday 10 AM – 12.30 PM, 2 PM – 6 PM
Hospice Comtesse, 32 Rue de la Monnaie, Lille, France, +33 3 28 36 84 00
Cathedral Notre Dame de la Treille
The Cathedral Notre Dame de la Treille takes its name from a figure of the Virgin dating back to the 12th century, which is considered an important symbol of the city by Lille’s Catholic citizens. Wealthy inhabitants of the city financed the construction of this Cathedral, which started in the late 1800s but was not completed until very recently in the 1990s. The figure of the Virgin you can now visit in the church is actually a replica, as the original one was stolen in 1959 and remains missing to this day!
Place Gilleson, Lille, France +33 3 20 31 59 12
Charles de Gaulle’s Birthplace and Childhood Home
Lille’s hometown hero Charles de Gaulle is probably the most popular and celebrated man in France. On Rue Princesse in Vieux-Lille you’ll find the house where he was born in 1890 and raised through his early years, which is now a Museum in his honor. This not only hosts the most important objects and belongings of the childhood and teenage years of the French man, but it also offers a detailed recreation of 19th century middle-class dwellings to give visitors an immersive sense of daily life in industrial Lille.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10 AM – 12 PM, 2 PM – 5 PM; Sunday 1.30 PM – 5 PM; Closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle, 9 Rue Princesse, Lille, France, +33 3 28 38 12 05
Saint André’s Church
Those especially interested in Charles de Gaulle’s life and times in Lille should make their next stop the the Church of Saint André, where the famed General was baptized. Saint André was built between the 18th and the 19th century by three different architects, each contributing to a mix of styles and detailing to create an original composition. It is now considered a treasured historical monument in France.
Église Saint André, 123 Rue Royale, Lille, France, +33 3 20 55 45 92
Lille’s old Bourse, so-called after it was replaced by the new Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is probably the most prestigious building in the entire city, named a ‘historical monument’ of France in 1921 when the Chamber closed. The old Bourse is made up of 24 identical houses around a courtyard where the main activities of the city take place, which also serves as a central meeting point of citizens and passersby. This building stands as a testimony of the great commercial and financial activity of Lille during its long history, especially in its trade competition with rivals like Anvers, Ghent and Bruges. One of the more curious highlights of the interior is a statue of Napoleon, considered protector of industry, which was erected when Napoleon III visited the Bourse in 1853.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 1.00 PM – 7.00 PM; Closed on Monday
Vieille Bourse, Place Charles de Gaulle, 59000 Lille, France, +33 891 56 20 04
Situated within the citadel and within walking distance from the city centre, Lille’s zoo stretches across an expanse of 3.5 hectares, divided in 6 thematic areas: the Aviary, the Tropical House, the Valley of the Monkeys, the Isle of Madagascar, American Land, and African Land. The zoo hosts 70 different animal species in all, including the rare white rhino, with a total of 250 individual creatures to discover. The goals of the zoo are to educate the public on matters of biodiversity and endangered species, and to raise awareness of particular species which are fighting extinction. Every year, about one million people visit this zoo and take part in the wide array of fun activities and animations organized here. Best of all, it’s free!
Price: Free admission
Hours: Monday-Friday 10 AM – 6 PM; Saturday-Sunday 10 AM – 7 PM; Closed on Tuesday.
Parc Zoologique de Lille, Avenue Mathias Delobel, Lille, France, +33 3 28 52 07 00
Porte de Gand
Porte de Gand is one of the historical entrances in the ancient walls surrounding the old quarter of Lille. The magnificent façade can be divided into three areas. The bottom area presents three arches, although only the central one was present when the porte was originally built; the other two were subsequently added to improve circulation. The middle and top sections can be identified by the red color of the bricks. The middle section is heavily adorned in decorations and ornaments, among which you’ll see the emblem of the city itself. On the top section is a white central console, which hosts a sweet, small statue.
92 Rue de Gand, Lille, France +33 891 56 20 04
by Giulia Luzi