Lille France is a perfect city for a short city break for people who love culture and good food. These are the best things to do in Lille.
Lille (also known as Rijsel) is a city in the north of France, almost on the border with Belgium. It is also seen as the Paris of the North, given the impressive museums and beautiful buildings in the city center.
Is Lille a fun city for a city break? Absolutely! The city feels a bit like a fun mix of Belgium and France and there is plenty to see and do in the city. You will certainly enjoy yourself during a weekend away.
The best things to do in Lille
What to do in Lille? And what are the most beautiful sights in Lille? 13 tips!
Explore Vieux Lille
Vieux Lille is the beautiful historic city center of Lille. A perfect place to go for a stroll in the afternoon, view the beautiful buildings, go shopping in the lovely boutique shops and settle down on a terrace for a delicious glass of wine.
Tip: do you also want to learn more about history when you’re visiting Lille? Then this guided walking tour is highly recommended.
Musée des Beaux Arts
The Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) has a very impressive art collection. Expect statues by Rodin and paintings by Rubens and Van Gogh.
It’s also a beautiful building and feels like a sort of miniaturized version of the Louvre (they say it has the second largest art collection in France after the Louvre), but a lot cheaper. When I visited this museum the permanent exhibition was mixed with modern works, a very cool contrast.
Climb the clock tower of the Town Hall
Like almost every French city, Lille also has a Hôtel de Ville, a town hall. Next to the town hall is a belfry (bell tower) with a length of 104. This impressive tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can climb it. From here you are guaranteed a beautiful view of the city!
- Buy your ticket for the clock tower of the town hall.
Jardin des Géants
A bit hidden behind Lille Europe station is the Jardin des Géants. A city park (or city garden) that was laid out in 2009, so it’s not that old. Many special water features, a forest of bamboo, and some very interesting art, like giant faces made of plants. I think you could call this garden art? A great place to take your camera.
Place du Général-de-Gaulle
Place du Général-de-Gaulle (also known as La Grande Place) is the large central square in Lille and here too there is plenty to see. In the center is a large statue and around it, you can see are many impressive historic buildings. This is also the place where you can regularly admire the famous Ferris wheel.
Discover the street art (works)
As you will notice while reading this list full of great things to do in Lille, this is truly a city for art lovers. Not only are there many beautiful museums, there is also a lot of street art to discover. In addition to graffiti murals, there are also interesting statues to be found in the squares and in the streets, such as the huge flowers that you can find near the station.
The most striking building on Place du Général-de-Gaulle is Vieille Bourse, the stock exchange building from the seventeenth century. This is always a fun place to visit, but especially fun for book lovers. A large book market takes place here in the afternoon, where you can find new and (really) old books.
Enjoy the delicious food
France is, of course, famous for its food. And because Lille is approximately on the border between France and Belgium, they also have really good drinks! There are so many wine bars and (Belgian) beer cafes for you to check out. And in addition, you will find very nice restaurants on every street. Your tastebuds will thank you!
Parc de la Citadelle
West of the city center is Parc de la Citadelle, a park with several beautiful sights. In the middle of the park, you’ll find the Citadelle de Lille from the seventeenth century. In the south, you will find Parc Zoologique de Lille, a small zoo that you can visit for free. Parc de la Citadelle is, therefore, a very nice place to enjoy yourself for an afternoon.
Porte da Paris
From the clock tower of the town hall, you have a nice view of another beautiful building: the Porte da Paris. This arch used to be part of the old city wall and is located in the middle of a roundabout. A nice gate to walk through.
Musée La Piscine
Musée La Piscine is one of the most beautiful Lille sights, but it is not officially located in Lille but in the suburb of Roubaix. You can get here in half an hour when you take the metro and it is definitely worth taking this ride.
La Piscine Museum is an old swimming pool that has been transformed into an art museum. A major eye-catcher is a room with a large pool, where many statues have been set up. A visit to this museum is a must for architecture and art lovers.
Art in the metro stations
And if you do go to La Piscine, you might as well get off every now and then at a metro station. You can find super cool art in many metro stations, including this huge mural in Lille Europe.
Porte de Roubaix
Parc Henri Matisse is located near the station. Although the park itself is not that special (especially a lot of grass, which makes it a good place for a picnic), there is one interesting landmark: Porte de Roubaix. This building dates from the seventeenth century and was part of the city walls at the time. Under the gate, you can also spot some old tram lines from the nineteenth century.
Best places to stay in Lille
What are the best places to stay in Lille? Here are a few great options:
- La Villa 30 – Charming B&B in a 1930s building near the center.
- La Maison du Champlain – Chambres d’hôtes – Beautiful B&B in a mansion from 1873. With spa, hammam and hot tub.
- Au 30 – Aparthotel (4*) with beautiful suites and apartments. The apartments have a sauna and other wellness facilities.
Check Booking.com for more great options.
Book a trip to Lille
Would you like to plan a trip to Lille? These websites are useful for booking your trip.
- Lill has a small international airport that can be reached by plane from airports in France, Spain, and Portugal. However, it might be smarter to fly to Paris instead and take a high-speed train from there to Lille. Check Skyscanner for the cheapest flights.
- Lille is very accessible by train from all over Europe. Check Rail Europe for schedules and tickets.
- You can also travel to Lille by bus. Traveling by bus in France is relatively easy. For example, you can take a Flixbus from cities like London, Amsterdam or Paris to Lille.
- Do you want to make the most of your time in Lille? With the Lille City Pass, you have access to more than 30 sights and you can use public transport for free.
- Looking for the best tours and activities? Check Viator and Get Your Guide.
Read more about Lille & France
Would you like to read more about Lille or other cities in France? These are some great travel guides
Lille (Bradt Travel Guide)
You can also find more information about a holiday in France on this website. For example, check out these articles:
- 25 Best cities in France to spend the weekend
- 17 fun things to do in Paris
- 13 Great things to do in Normandy
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