A Solo Traveller's Guide to Lille

©Fred Romero / Flickr
©Fred Romero / Flickr
Easy access by Eurostar from London and Brussels and the eminently walkable old part of town are just some of the reasons why Lille is a great destination for a solo trip. Even if you are travelling for work, why not try to take some extra time before or after to enjoy the food, shopping, culture and the many surprises that the city has to offer?

Join a tour

When you are travelling alone you tend to pay more attention to your surroundings and notice things you would otherwise miss when you are in conversation with a travel buddy, so embrace the experience. A fun way to visit the city is to join a guided tour, either on foot, or on a bike. The Tourism Office can point you to a bike tour offering 9km of easy bike paths to unveil the hidden treasures of Vieux-Lille, the modern Lille Europe district, and the main landmarks with about a dozen stops for comments from the guide and to take photos.

La Grande Place, Lille ©Laurent Guesquiére / OTC Lille

Visit a museum

There is a surprising depth and breadth of cultural venues on offer in Lille. Among the most notable of Lille’s museums are the Fine Arts Museum, second museum of France for the richness of its collections; the Hospice Comtesse Museum, a former hospital dedicated to the Flemish art; the Natural History Museum whose collection is unique in France or the Charles de Gaulle’s birthplace. These are perfect spots to lose yourself for an entire afternoon to refuel the mind and spirit.

Lille's Fine Art museum ©Grégory Lejeune / Flickr

Check out special events

When you attend an event – even if you are all by yourself – by default you already have a common theme to spark a conversation. After all, you are there for the same reason as everyone else! There’s plenty on offer in Lille all year round depending on your interests. Food, music, heritage, film, and naturally the major events that Lille is famous for. Highlights include the Braderie flea market on the first weekend in September and Christmas Market and its dozens of wooden chalets full of gift ideas, as well major art exhibitions at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, in the LaM in Villeneuve d’Ascq or La Piscine Museum in Roubaix.

Celebrating in style ©Olivier Duquesnes / Flickr

Shop like a local

One of the boons of travelling solo is that it is easier to blend in with the everyday cityscape, and mingle with the locals. Markets are a perfect way to catch a glimpse of local colour, learn about food, discover a rare book in the second-hand stalls at the Vieille Bourse, spot a bargain in the great brocantes, and shop for something unusual or quirky to take back home.

Book market at the Vieille Bourse ©Laurent Ghesquiére / OTCL Lille

Think ahead

Lille is legendary for its warm hospitality. If you are a solo female traveller you probably have to take a few more precautions, as in any big city, being aware that there may be cultural differences related to flirting. What is perceived as friendly smiles and enthusiastic conversation in one culture can be perceived as an encouragement and lead to awkward situations in another. After dark stay within the touristy streets, leave the more colourful neighbourhoods and markets for well-frequented daylight hours.