The renowned star-shaped Citadel is not just a fortified military base with a mind-blowing history but is also a self-contained town. Built by order of King Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, it currently houses around 1,000 soldiers and foreign legionnaires at any one time. Aside from select open days, the public is only allowed on guided visits, so remember to book a spot in advance.
Citadel of Lille, Avenue du 43ème Régiment d’Infanterie, Lille, France, +33 04 43 05 12 90
A visit to a French market is a feast for the senses and a visit to Lille’s lively and colourful Wazemes Market is no exception. They offer mounds of seafood, regional cheeses, and irresistible charcuterie as well as exotic textures and flavours from far and wide that cater to the international clientele of this melting-pot district.
What started as a gay pride parade in the 1990s has grown in support and scope. It has also gradually become more of an ‘awareness celebration’ attracting a variety of different institutions and causes from all walks of life who are all free to express their differences but above all, highlight what brings them together… and to discover that Lille really knows how to throw a party.
With a long tradition that harks back to the 12th century, the Braderie de Lille is the largest open-air flea market in France. Those who are not into vintage finds and rummaging through antiques, the real fun happens around the main event. There are dozens of performances, music, street parties, and dancing to enjoy instead.
At Singing Studio, have a private studio for a karaoke party for groups of four people and more. For those who prefer a larger audience, participate in their collective lounge party.
Singing Studio Lille, 777 Pont de Flandres, Lille, France, +33 03 20 15 87 89
Lille has a long and thriving brewing culture that picks up to fever pitch each October during beer week. Discover and taste local beers and enjoy the program of special events, bike rides, conferences, and games. It’s a fun time for twentysomethings to meet the locals, make friends, and expand their beer appreciation.
Lille is home to one of the main art institutions in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts. These halls are inhabited by works by the most celebrated masters of the 15th to 20th century including Goya, Rubens, Monet, and Rodin.
Palais des Beaux-Arts, 18 Bis Rue de Valmy, Lille, France, +33 03 20 06 78 00
Find a fascinating museum focused on Flemish history with priceless paintings, tapestries, and sculptures in a converted hospice founded in 1237 by Countess Jeanne de Flandre. Visit the treatment rooms, kitchens, the chapel, and the former nuns’ dormitory as well as an elegant garden that still cultivates the same medicinal plants that were used to treat patients back in the day.
Hospice Comtesse Museum, 32 Rue de la Monnaie Lille, France, +33 03 28 36 84 00
Want to see the main sights without feeling like a tourist? Turn Lille into a playground. With the help of a roadbook, travel freely through an iconic district of Lille. Following the points and questions on an itinerary, discover not only historical landmarks but also ‘secret’ places and legends along the ‘Unusual Rally‘ and try to reach the final destination.
An emblematic institution founded in 1761, Méert is the most famous patisserie in Lille mainly because they make the gaufre fourée, a thin and delicate waffle filled with vanilla cream. It was a favourite of illustrious Lille native General Charles de Gaulle. The pastry shop is beautiful and pretty much anything on offer is finger-licking delicious.
Méert, 27 Rue Esquermoise, Lille, France, +33 03 20 57 07 44
The Old Stock Exchange is one of the most handsome buildings in Lille. There is a great second-hand and antique book market here during the day and on Sunday evenings, the place comes alive with tango dancers.
There’s a place that is gaining a loyal following in Lille with natural and organic makeup and beauty products. At Mademoiselle Biloba, guests acquire a love for natural ingredients in short workshops that teach how to make high-quality products that range from organic soap to a customised eyeshadow or a base that matches one’s skin tone perfectly. Get tonnes of bonus tips and beauty secrets as well.
Mademoiselle Biloba, 104 Rue Saint André, Lille, France, +33 09 67 14 39 75
Awaken a hidden talent at Ze Fabrik, a hub where budding DIYers can learn, share, discover new skills, and help fellow artisans along the way. Buy all the necessary materials on site, and make use of all the tools at hand and the pick the brains of the experts. Their offerings include lighting, clothing, furniture, and jewellery. Who knows? It could be the start of a fruitful career.
ZODIO Ze Fabrik, 193 Rue Nicolas Appert, Villeneuve d’Ascq, France,+33 03 20 74 23 25
Some energy is needed to climb to the 104-metre (341.2-foot) high tower, but the panoramic view is totally worth it. The City Hall Belfry is one of the most recognisable architectural symbols in Lille and the highest in the entire region.
The small regional restaurants serving Flemish specialties are called estaminets. Try one of the typical dishes such as carbonade, a beef stew cooked in beer, waterzoï, a poultry or fish dish with a creamy sauce, a steaming bowl of mussels and fries, or potjevleesch, the local terrine in aspic.
Lille has a long brewing tradition, but another typical local drink is genièvre, an eau de vie distilled from grains and flavoured with juniper berries usually served as a digestif to finish off a meal.
When Lille was European Capital of Culture in 2004, the Maisons Folies’ special spaces were built all across town in converted buildings. These spaces house museums, art galleries, and special event venues. From painting workshops to a spa, find all sorts of interesting activities and uses today.
Maison Folie Wazemmes, 70 Rue des Sarrazins, Lille, France, +33 03 20 78 20 23