The best things to do in Lille listed below are just a few of the must-see attractions in the city. From historical edifices to hearty dishes to the cheerful character of its residents, it has a lot to offer to its visitors. Lille is a major city of northern France famed for being an important cultural and commercial hub, and for its historical centre. 

Established in the Middle Ages, Lille sits a few kilometres east of the border with Belgium. The city blends French and Flemish influences in its cuisine, architecture and bike culture. If you’re around Lille in early September, do not miss the Grande Braderie. This huge flea market is the largest annual event held in the city and an absolute must-do.

What are the best things to do in Lille?

  • 1

    Grand Place

    Unwind in the heart of the city

    Grand Place
    • Budget
    • History
    • Photo

    Commonly called the Grand Place, the Général de Gaulle Square sits just northeast of the city centre. This lively square lined with a mix of historical and modern buildings is one of the favourite meeting spots in the city. The Grand Place covers almost 10,000 sq m and features one of the city landmarks in its central part – a fountain with the Column of the Goddess. On clear days, the outdoor terraces of bars and restaurants settled on the square offer pleasant people-watching spots while sipping a locally brewed beer.

    Location: Place Charles de Gaulle, 59800 Lille, France

    Map

    photo by Velvet (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

  • 2

    Palais des Beaux Arts

    Amble in one of the largest fine arts museums in France

    Palais des Beaux Arts
    • Budget
    • History
    • Photo

    Established in a lavish Belle Époque-style building in 1892, the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille - Lille Palace of Fine Arts - houses impressive collections of paintings, sculptures and drawings from Antiquity to the 21st century. One of the largest fine arts museums in France, it’s home to masterpieces such as ‘Belisarius begging for alms’ by Jacques Louis David, ‘Olga in fur collar’ by Pablo Picasso and ‘Medea’ by Eugene Delacroix, just to name a few. The entrance ticket costs only a few Euros and includes an audio guide. A gift shop and a restaurant are available on site.

    Location: 18 Bis Rue de Valmy, 59000 Lille, France

    Open: Wednesday – Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday from 2 pm to 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays

    Map
  • 3

    Old Lille

    Lose yourself in a quaint maze of narrow streets

    Old Lille
    • Budget
    • History
    • Photo

    The Vieux-Lille – Old Lille – district fits within a 1-km radius of the Grand Square. Besides the beautifully restored bricks and stones houses, some of which are dated back to the 17th century, Old Lille is home to many attractions and landmarks such as the Old Stock Exchange building, the Opera House and the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle. Lose yourself in a maze of narrow, winding streets, which host a lively scene of estaminets – small bars in local dialect – restaurants and boutiques. 

    Location: 59000 Lille, France

    Map
  • 4

    La Vieille Bourse

    Wander in a stunning vintage courtyard

    La Vieille Bourse
    • Couples
    • History
    • Photo
    • Shoppers

    La Vieille Bourse, or the Old Stock Exchange building, is acclaimed as one of the finest edifices in Lille. Made of 24 little houses enclosing an arched courtyard, it’s a splendid example of 17th-century Flemish Renaissance style. Listed as a Historical Monument, it’s a lively place which hosts a second-hand books market, florists’ stalls, and chess players’ tables. In summer, do not miss the tango and salsa performances held in the courtyard in the late afternoon.

    Location: Place Charles de Gaulle, 59000 Lille, France

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 1 pm to 7 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Map
  • 5

    Parc de la Citadelle

    Take a leisure walk in Lille’s largest green space

    Parc de la Citadelle
    • Budget
    • Couples
    • Families
    • History
    • Photo

    The Parc de la Citadelle is a 60 ha island surrounded by the Deûle canal. Located just east of Lille Old Town, it’s the largest green space in the city. Here, you’ll find major landmarks and attractions including Lille Citadel, the Vauban Garden, Lille Zoo, the Boulogne Wood and the Citi-Parc, a small amusement park. It’s really a cool place for a leisure walk on sunny days, especially for families. A few snack and refreshment stands are available in the park.

    Location: Avenue Mathias Delobel, 59000 Lille, France

    Open: You can get to the park 24/7. The zoo is open Wednesday – Monday from 10 am to 5 pm in winter and from 10 am to 6 pm in summer (it closes at 7 pm on weekends). The zoo is closed on Tuesdays.

    Map
  • 6

    Lille Museum of Natural History

    One of France's oldest natural history museums

    Lille Museum of Natural History
    • History

    Lille Museum of Natural History (Musée d'Histoire Naturelle de Lille) is a historic museum where you'll find impressive zoological specimens on display. The museum dates back to 1822 when it was first opened to show off a local amateur collection, but it has since grown to include pieces from all over the world.

    When you visit this museum, you'll find a wide variety of displays and exhibits showcasing prehistoric insects trapped in amber, taxidermied animals and skeletons of long-extinct species like mammoths. You'll find it all just east of the city centre.

    Location: 23 Rue Gosselet, 59000 Lille, France

    Open: Monday, Wednesday–Friday from 9.30 am to 5 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +33 3 28 55 30 80

    Map

    photo by Velvet (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

  • 7

    Marché de Wazemmes

    Browse through a lively, popular market

    Marché de Wazemmes
    • Food
    • Shoppers

    Settled in a large red-brick building typical of northern French architecture, the Marché de Wazemmes is one of the most popular markets in Lille. It’s a real pleasure to stroll the alleys of this busy market filled with appetising scents. It hosts a mix of stalls selling local and exotic products, from fresh fruits to meat to cheese. You’ll also find just outside the covered market a wide array of items for sale including clothing, household linens, antiques, toys and more. Street food and refreshments are also available in this lively market.

    Location: Place Nouvelle Aventure, 59000 Lille, France

    Open: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 7 am to 2 pm

    Map
  • 8

    Town Hall Belfry

    Take in a panoramic view of Lille and surroundings

    Town Hall Belfry
    • Adventure
    • Budget
    • History
    • Photo

    The Town Hall Belfry dominates Lille from a height of 104 metres. It offers a unique 360-degree panoramic view of the city and up to 30 km around, on clear days. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Town Hall Belfry was built in the early 20th century in a classic Flemish style. There are around 100 steps to climb before you reach the lift to get to the top. If you’re fit enough, you can climb the 400 or so steps to get up there. The ascent costs only a few Euros, and the view is really worth the effort.

    Location: Place Roger Salengro, 59000 Lille, France

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 1 pm, and from 2 pm to 5.30 pm

    Map

    photo by Jamain (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

  • 9

    Euralille

    Explore a lively, modern urban complex

    Euralille
    • Food
    • Nightlife
    • Shoppers

    Euralille is an urban district 750 metres east of the city centre. Established between Lille’s 2 main train stations, it blends a business district, residential area, hotels, shopping and dining outlets and entertainment facilities in a vast, stylish urban complex. The Euralille Mall houses over 100 boutiques and 20 restaurants in a spotless, modern environment. A congress centre – Lille Grand Palais – holds cultural events and concerts. There’s also a casino.

    Location: 100 Avenue Willy Brandt, 59777 Lille, France

    Map

    photo by Mathcrap35 (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

  • 10

    Lille Opera

    Take in some classic theatre or a contemporary concert

    Lille Opera
    • Couples
    • Families
    • History
    • Nightlife

    The Lille Opera is a historic opera house built in the early 20th century in the neoclassical style, which today showcases major performances in classical and contemporary music and theatre. This building was constructed in 1913 and inaugurated in 1923. In 1998, it underwent a major renovation and now is a member of the European Network for Opera, Music and Dance Education. The opera advertises itself as a showcase for everything from Bach to Joan Baez, Beethoven to Miles Davis and beyond.

    There's nothing like a date night with an elegant performance, so you can dress to the nines and take in a show here for a memorable couples' evening. It's just 10 minutes north of the city centre.

    Location: Pl. du Théâtre, 59000 Lille, France

    Phone: +33 3 62 21 21 21

    Map
Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller