Two days ago, I didn’t even know Lille existed. For the second time in one month, I was stuck in a city without a clear next destination.
I arrived in Europe and stayed in Ghent for two nights. Most of my time was spent sightseeing and getting over the jetlag, so little did I think about making sure my original plan of heading south to the city of Dinant and then Luxembourg was feasible. Little did I know that I had arrived during Eastern weekend and that all places EVERYWHERE were either booked or too expensive.
Dinant? Totally booked, with the only places left at over $100 CAD per night.
Bruges? What do you think….the same story here too.
So I thought “what the hell. I’m going to Luxembourg right away”.
But Luxembourg had other plans….everything was booked there as well, with the cheapest hotels going at over $150 CAD per night.
So I looked at France, and there it was right on the map, a beautiful little city called Lille. “Lille” I whispered.
It was actually more like a “da phak is Lille?”, but after a quick Google search for images I was sold on it. So I was heading to Lille for the weekend.
An Old Industrial City
Lille used to be an important merchant city many decades ago, but that has now all changed. Today Lille is a lively university city bustling with energy and life.
The historic center has kept its charm from yesteryear in its brick houses and stone streets. The many coffee shops and bars add to Lille’s attractiveness, especially around Lille’s historic center, Vieux Lille.
What To See In Lille
The best thing about Lille is that even though it’s small, it packs a lot of charm in all of its streets. Every block, every corner, every alley has something different to offer. The houses, the stores, the parks are all adorned and reflect an 18th and 19th century feel. And we haven’t even gotten to the center of the city yet.
Still fighting jetlag but coffee-and-redbull-fueled I was ready to discover this city that, had you asked me about 2 days ago I would not even been able to point it on a map.
Citadelle de Lille
A pentagonal citadelle now serving as a post for the Corps de réaccion rapide France (French Rapid Response Team). The Citadelle was built in the 1600s when the French took over Lille from Spain in 1667.
The citadelle is open to public on the 3rd Sunday of each month from 3PM to 4:30PM
Porte de Paris
Lille’s very own Arc-de-Triomphe, the Porte de Paris monument was built to commemorate the taking back of the city in 1667 by Louis XIV.
Underneath the Porte de Paris is a beautiful tulip garden perfect to get the photographer out of you. It is located besides the Hôtel de Ville and its belfry.
If you are anything like me, walking around the streets of the old city of Vieux Lille can provide you with hours and hours of picture snapping opportunities.
The buildings in the streets of Vieux Lille have maintained their old feel. Brick houses and cobblestone streets adorn the streets and many alleyways. Add to that some nice sunny spring weather and outside terraces and you have a city where spending time is good, just walking around or sitting down sipping a coffee or an early beer.
The center of Vieux Lille is pretty! Lots of outdoor caffés and bars to choose from, all surrounded by the some of the city’s landmarks like the old stock exchange, the Opera House, la Grand Place, and others.
Yes…pastries. Who knew that coming into Lille I would discover the one pastry that would make me rethink my whole life?
Walking down on Rue de la Monnaie from my hostel towards la Grand Place, I noticed this particular pastry shop which always always always was full and people lined-up outside.
The interior was small and pretty, and looking at the window I saw a heart-attack staring at me.
I’m more of a salty person (whatever that means), and I’ve never been one for sugary stuff. But hey, if people are lining up for these…I gotta try one. And OH. MY. F-ING. GOD!!! Was this sh*t good!!!
Called The Merveilleux (The Wonderful), it is a meringue covered with whipped cream and chocolate…….shiiiiiiiiiiit.
The Many Bars & Lounges
Right, every city has its bars and lounges…but for some reason I found that the bars and lounges in Lille were just so damn inviting 🙂
From Vieux Lille, walk North on Rue Saint-André or Rue Royale, the streets are filled with outdoor bars and terraces. At night head to Gastama Hostel which also serves as a bar and is one of the most “happening” places in town.
Where I Stayed
Gastama Hostel: A pretty nice hostel with a downstairs bar and outside patio. The dorms are clean but somewhat on the pricier side (although I came for Eastern weekend were prices are normally hiked). Breakfasts are not included.
The hostel has a downstairs bar which also serves locals. Lillois (people from Lille) are known to be some of the friendliest people in France (and definitely friendlier than Paris), so don’t be surprised if any strikes a conversation with you.
The bar has many local beers on tap, and offers a discount to travellers staying at the hostel.
Have you been to Lille? What did you think of it? I have not come across anyone who did not like their time here yet 😉