Lille is a must-visit historical city in northern France. The city has long been a popular destination thanks to its rich history, vibrant culture and charming blend of Flemish and French influences. Once an industrial hub, it has been transformed into a bustling centre, with architectural marvels like the Grand Place and the iconic Palais des Beaux-Arts. Lille’s cobblestone streets of its Old Town wind through picturesque neighbourhoods revealing hidden gems, lively markets and cosy cafes where you can sip coffee and watch the world go by while chatting to friendly locals.
The city’s past is etched in landmarks such as the Citadel of Lille, a testament to its strategic importance throughout history. Contrasting the historic is Lille’s ever growing modernity that thrives in areas like Euralille, a popular district filled with contemporary architecture and high-end shops. Lille is the perfect destination for art enthusiasts as it has many museums showcasing masterpieces from renowned artists from across the centuries, and an excellent cultural scene. Lille is a city with much to offer visitors, regardless of the time of year. Here are 20 unmissable things to do in Lille.
- Lille, France
- Plan Your Trip
- Top Tours
- 20 Things To Do In Lille
- 1- Visit Palais des Beaux-Arts
- 2- Explore The Old Town
- 3- Wander Through Parc de la Citadelle
- 4- Explore Grand Place
- 5- Meet The Animals At Lille Zoo
- 6- Shop At Wazemmes Market
- 7- Visit La Piscine Museum
- 8- Shop At The Flea Market
- 9- Stroll Along The Deûle Canal
- 10- Explore The Lille Cathedral
- 11- Attend A Performance At Lille Opera
- 12- Climb The Belfry Tower
- 13- Visit LaM
- 14- Discover The Natural History Museum Of Lille
- 15- Learn About French History At Charles de Gaulle’s House
- 16- Attend An Event At Zenith Arena
- 17- Wander Through Jardin des Plantes
- 18- Enjoy Traditional Pastries At La Maison Meert
- 19- Explore La Vieille Bourse
- 20- Experience The Nightlife In Rue de la Soif
20 Things To Do In Lille
1- Visit Palais des Beaux-Arts
Palais des Beaux-Arts is a museum dedicated to the fine arts, modern art and antiques.
The museum was established under rulings from Napoleon I to preserve French art and history, and was opened in 1809 inside a former church.
The museum outgrew the church and finally got its own building in 1885.
Edouard Berard and Fernand Etienne-Charles Delmas designed the building in the baroque revival style.
The museum houses a vast collection of 17th century paintings including works by Van Dyck and Reubens.
Palais des Beaux Arts is at Pl. de la République, 59000 Lille.
- Lille Driving Tour by Convertible Citroen
- Private custom tour with a local guide
- Tasty treasure hunt
2- Explore The Old Town
Spending some time in Lille’s Old Town is the perfect destination to get to know the city.
The area had its origins as a wheat market and is filled with beautiful examples of 17th to 20th century architecture.
The square in the Old Town is the Flemish heart of the city, with narrow cobblestone streets leading away from this central area.
The streets are lined with red brick buildings, some of which are vastly important to Lille’s history.
In the Old Town you will find the Hospice Comptesse museum, Vieille Bourse and Charles de Gaulle’s Birthplace.
The Old Town is also where the city holds many of its celebrations including Christmas and Easter festivals.
3- Wander Through Parc de la Citadelle
Enjoy a walk in nature at Parc de la Citadelle, which is an ideal destination for a spring or summer picnic, or to simply relax and enjoy your surroundings.
The park is the largest in the city at 60 hectares (123 acres), and is the most visited park.
Surrounding the park is the Deûle Canal which offers picturesque views and a pleasant walking and cycling route.
Inside the park are the Bois de Boulogne Woods and Lille Zoo.
The park is filled with many interesting and at times rare trees including Corsican Pines and Giant Sequoia.
Parc de la Citadelle is at Voie Piétonne du Bois de la Deûle, 59130 Lille.
- Lille: City Highlights Scavenger Hunt and Walking Tour
- Lille: First Discovery Walk and Reading Walking Tour
- Lille: 2-Hour Segway Tour
4- Explore Grand Place
Grand Place is the main square in Lille and is a popular meeting place for locals.
The square is surrounded by 17th and 20th century architecture, historical buildings and welcoming cafes.
In the centre of the square is a statue of the Godess Déesse which commemorates the Lille resistance against Austria during a siege in 1792.
Buildings on the square include the Old Stock Exchange that today serves as a secondhand book market, and the Théâtre du Nord.
Grand Place is at 59800, Lille.
5- Meet The Animals At Lille Zoo
Nestled inside Parc de la Citadelle is Lille Zoo.
The zoo is home to 450 animals from 100 species, with habitats over 3.5 hectares (8.6 acres).
The zoo aims to educate and inform its visitors not only about the species but about species protection and conservation.
There are seven themed zones within the zoo including a tropical house, South American aviary and Valley of Monkeys.
Lille Zoo is home to red pandas, tapir and rhinos.
A day at the zoo is a great thing to do in Lille for families as they offer many activities indulging Animal Teatime.
Animal Teatime allows visitors to prepare a fun and tasty food game for the animals before watching them enjoy their game.
Lille Zoo is at All. Arlette Gruss, 59000 Lille.
6- Shop At Wazemmes Market
Wazemmes Market is the perfect place to experience local life in Lille.
Within the market are a vast number of food and produce stalls, and sells selling everything from textiles to flowers.
The market is renowned for being very colourful, and it attracts many tourists to its stalls each year.
The market is a lively hub within the city with live music performances a regular occurrence.
Aside from stocking up on groceries or bric-a-brac, the market also has many food stalls serving delicious dishes to take away.
The market is split into an indoor and outdoor area.
Wazemmes Market is at Pl. Nouvelle Aventure, 59000 Lille.
7- Visit La Piscine Museum
For a truly unique cultural experience in Lille, visit La Piscine Museum.
The museum is set inside a former art deco swimming pool dating from the late 1920s in a suburb of the city.
Following its closure in 1985 due to a fragile vault, the building was acquired and was transformed into a museum.
The museum features an industrial collection, a collection of fine arts and a dedicated exhibition on the history of the city.
The works of art are displayed in the former pool.
In order to preserve the beauty of the former swimming pool building, many areas of its art deco interior have been saved including its mosaics.
In the former pump room is a restaurant and cafe.
La Piscine is at 23 Rue de l’Espérance, 59100 Roubaix.
8- Shop At The Flea Market
One of the best ways to get a unique souvenir during your time in Lille is to visit the flea market
Lille’s flea market is one of the largest in Europe and is held annually during the first week in September.
The flea market spans a huge 100km (62 mile) area of antiques, vintage, bric-a-brac and more.
The whole city is transformed during its unique flea market as sellers from across Europe descend to sell their wares.
The flea market also brings many street food stalls and live musicians to Lille.
Flea Market is held every September across the city.
9- Stroll Along The Deûle Canal
Stretching from Lens to Lille is the is the Deûle Canal; the canal is high gauge and is one of the oldest in France.
Deûle Canal is 34.8 kilometres (21.6 miles) and includes three locks.
The canal surrounds the city and is a popular destination for locals looking to relax in nature.
Running alongside the canal are footpaths that are frequented by cyclists and those simply out for a stroll.
10- Explore The Lille Cathedral
Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Carledral is a Neo-Classical and Gothic cathedral in Lille.
Works began on the cathedral in 1854 and continued until 1999 when the western facade, constructed from white marble, was finally completed.
One of the most beautiful parts of the cathedral is the Kijno produced Rose window which, when the sun hits it, illuminates the cathedral interior with colourful light.
The cathedral also includes a unique doorway.
George Jeanclos, a Holocaust survivor and sculptor, made the door to depict human suffering through his use of barbed-wire vines.
Inside the cathedral crypt is a museum of religious art that is open every weekend.
Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral is at Pl. Gilleson, 59800 Lille.
11- Attend A Performance At Lille Opera
Opéra de Lille is a must-visit musical venue and a great thing to do when visit the city.
The opera was originally in the Grand Théâtre which sadly was destroyed by fire in 1903.
Louis-Marie Cordonnier designed the new opera house in an Italian style with grand neoclassical rooms.
Following a period of turmoil and temporary closure the opera was reopened in 2003.
The opera house practices open opera, a program that aims to encourage all creatives and artists to perform at the opera, and encourages people from all walks of life to visit and enjoy a performance.
Lille Opera is at Pl. du Théâtre, 59000 Lille.
12- Climb The Belfry Tower
Climbing to the top of Belfry tower, or Beffroi de Lille is a great thing to do in Lille.
The tower has UNESCO World Heritage status and has been a popular destination for decades.
The tower is part of the Hôtel de Ville and stands at 104m (341ft) high.
Emile Dubuissom designed the tower in the art deco and Flemish Neo-Renaissance style, with works completing in 1932.
There are 100 steps, plus a lift or further steps, to reach the top of the tower.
From the top there are 360-degree views across the city, Lys Valley and even the Flanders Mountains on a clear day.
Belfry Tower is at Pl. Simon Vollant, 59000 Lille.
13- Visit LaM
A great thing to do in Lille for art lovers is a trip to LaM; Lille Métropole Musée d’art Modrne, d’art Contemporain et d’art Brut.
The museum is located 20 minutes away from the city centre and is surrounded by a lush green sculpture park.
There are more than 7000 works of art in the museum from the 20th and 21st centuries.
Roger Dutilleul and his nephew Jean Masurel founded the museum based on Dutilleul’s love of cubist art.
Inside the museum are works from Cézanne, Braque, Picasso and Miro.
LaM is at 1 All. du Musée, 59650 Villeneuve-d’Ascq.
14- Discover The Natural History Museum Of Lille
For a great family day out head to the Natural History Museum of Lille.
The museum was founded in 1822 inside Hôtel du Ville before being moved to its current location in 1902.
There are more than 450,000 objects displayed in the museum covering geology, zoology, ethnography and science
One of the most popular exhibitions in the museum is the Large Glass Wall, where 32 stuffed animals and relevant scenery are displayed.
The museum has recently opened a Cabinet of Curiosities that displays 20 objects of interest from the museums reserve collection.
Included in the Cabinet of Curiosities are plants, animals, fossils and human-made objects.
Natural History Museum is at 23 Rue Gosselet, 59000 Lille.
15- Learn About French History At Charles de Gaulle’s House
Visit the home of one of the most important figures in French history at Charles de Gaulle’s House.
The house belonged to Charles de Gaulle’s grandparents, and is where he was born in 1890.
The bourgeois house dates from the 20th century, and despite it not being de Gaulle’s permanent childhood home, he frequently visited the house throughout his childhood and saw Lille as a key part of his identity.
Charles de Gaulle was. Soldier, colonel, Chief of the Free French, Head of the French Resistance and finally president.
His influential life is told through the fully restored and preserved building.
Charles de Gaulle House is at 9 Rue Princesse, 59000 Lille.
16- Attend An Event At Zenith Arena
Zenith Arena is a multi-purpose indoor arena in Lille that is perfect for a night out.
Rem Koolhaas and Cecil Balmond designed the arena in 1994.
Since it opened the arena has hosted circuses, musicals, concerts, ice rinks and large events.
Past performers at Zenith Arena include Coldplay, David Bowie, Elton John and Beyoncé.
Zenith Arena is at 1 Bd des Cités Unies, 59800 Lille.
17- Wander Through Jardin des Plantes
Spend some time enjoying the outdoors and nature at Lille’s beloved Jardin des Plantes.
The Jardin des Plantes is Lille’s botanical gardens and has enticed locals and tourists to its leafy pathways since 1948.
The gardens are set inside part of the city’s former fortifications and covers 11 hectares (27.18 acres).
Inside Jardin des Plantes are ornately shaped hedges and shrubs, fragrant roses and a peaceful fish pond.
The gardens also house a tropical glasshouse in which many species of tropical plants from across the globe grow in warmer and more humid environments.
Jardin des Plantes is at 306 Rue du Jardin des Plantes, 59000 Lille.
18- Enjoy Traditional Pastries At La Maison Meert
A trip to Lille would not be complete without indulging at La Maison Meert.
La Maison Meert was founded in 1761 and has since been a popular destinations for locals and tourists.
The cafe and bakery was named as a Historical Monument in the 1980s allowing the city to preserve the building and its incredible stories.
La Maison Meert has been visited by the likes of Napoleon and Charles de Gaulle throughout its vast history.
The cafe is a fusion of design elements including Pompeian style combined with Oriental touches in the dining area, and more classical 18th and 19th century architectural features in its shop and exterior.
When visiting La Maison Meert the waffles are a must try.
Gaufre, or vanilla waffles, are the signature dish of the cafe, consisting of two thin and crispy waffles sandwiched together with a Madagascan vanilla cream.
La Maison Meert is at 25-27 Rue Esquermoise, 59000 Lille.
19- Explore La Vieille Bourse
La Vieille Bourse is Lille’s old stock exchange which has been transformed into a must visit destination for lovers of literature.
The stock exchange was built in 1653 and is one of the finest examples of 17th century architecture in the city.
Today the stock exchange is a literary haven, with a second hand book market running every week from Tuesday to Sunday.
Many of the books on sale are in French, however it is worth scouring the tables for books in other languages.
Old copies of magazines including French Vogue can also be found at the market.
La Vieille Bourse is at Pl. du Général de Gaulle, 59000 Lille.
20- Experience The Nightlife In Rue de la Soif
Rue de la Soif, or ’the streets of thirst’, is the best place in Lille to visit for a night out.
This roughly 900m (2952ft) long street is home to around 40 bars and clubs as well as restaurants and entertainment venues.
The street is a popular student destination, with many of the bars offering special rates on student nights.
Those seeking a traditional nightclub experience should visit The Queen Victoria, while those in search of rock music flock to Atomic.
Rue de La Soif runs along Rue Solférino, 59800 Lille.
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