A perfect day in Lille

The colourful Wazemmes market
The colourful Wazemmes market. Photo: Shutterstock

The colourful Wazemmes market. Photo: Shutterstock

Lille as a tourist destination is a fairly recent phenomenon, brought about to a large extent by the arrival of the Eurostar between France and Britain. The discovery of the intimate Flemish architecture of Vieux Lille, of colourful Wazemmes market and upmarket shopping by cross-Channel visitors has encouraged the French, too, to look again at the capital of northern France.

Other factors have been the renovation of the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the opening of the superb La Piscine, the Musée d’Art et d’Industrie in nearby Roubaix. But there is more to see than world-class art; rehabilitated factories are making the most of the city’s industrial heritage, while lively bars and great eating opportunities are an equal draw.

9am Breakfast time 

To make the most of a day in Lille, focus on walking around the historic centre to absorb the atmosphere. Start with breakfast at Le Moulin d’Or just off the Grand’Place in the Rang de Beauregard, an elegant terrace of 14 three-storey houses and shops dating from 1687.

10am Browsing in Vieux Lille

Rue Lepelletier, rue de la Grande Chaussée, rue Basse and the other narrow streets of Vieux Lille, are perfect for shopping or window shopping while admiring the pretty Flemish-style brick architecture.

11am Learn about Lille's rich history

Pop into the Lille’s unusual modern cathedral then head-through the passageway behind it into rue de la Monnaie to visit the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse, a small and charming museum where you get a real sense of the city’s history.

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 Flemish architecture in Vieux Lille. Photo: ShutterstockFlemish architecture in Vieux Lille. Photo: Shutterstock

12.30pm Mussels time

After admiring the facades on nearby place Louise de Bettignies, head back to the Grand’ Place and then via place Rihour for lunch on mussels at Passage Rihour or any of the brasseries around rue de Béthune, an animated shopping district

2.30pm Where to find the best art in Lille

Time for an afternoon art fix with the old masters in the grandiose Palais des Beaux-Arts on place de la République or head back along rue de Paris and rue Faidherbe to the Tri Postal to check out the latest contemporary art show and video projections – this is also a great place for kids with interactive displays and animations.

5pm Lille's finest building 

Back on the Grand’Place, visit Lille’s finest building, the Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange), with its intricate facade and fine courtyard where you can browse for second-hand books.

6.30pm L'apéro 

Apéritif time – go for sophisticated cocktails in the cosseted Windsor Bar or arty 28 Thiers.

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Palais des Beaux-Arts. Photo: gregory lejeune/FlickrPalais des Beaux-Arts. Photo: Grégory Lejeune/Flickr

8pm Dinner in Vieux Lille

Vieux Lille is packed with restaurants – choose between nostalgic northern specialities and beer at Estaminet T’Rijsel or Estaminet Chez la Vieille on rue du Gand or a stylish modern approach at L’Assiette du Marché or the Terrasse des Remparts.

10pm Dance the night away

Check out the rock and blues concerts at Le Biplan in Wazemmes or head to the cluster of studenty late-night bars on rue Solférino and rue Masséna, such as salsa haunt Latino Café (42 rue Masséna).

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