Lille, close to the border with Belgium, is France’s largest northern city and offers plenty to see and do. Fortunately, Lille is one of those places where, if you’re on a budget, you can get to see most of the city and have a good time cheaply.
Accommodation and getting around
Bed & breakfast is a popular option in this part of France, and there is some very good value to be had in a traditional Lille house. Le Jardin d’Alix
on avenue de la Marne Lille Tourcoing is one such place. The house is impeccably decorated with many oil paintings and offers freshly baked bread for breakfast. Note that the owners do not accept credit cards. However, your credit card will be taken at the Citotel Nordotel
part of a modern hotel chain and easily accessible by hire car on rue du Faubourg D’arras. Expect all the usual facilities here, including a well stocked bar and car parking for 90 vehicles. For a more central location, try the Mister Bed City
Lille on rue de Béthune. Getting round from here shouldn’t be a problem as the Lille Métropole tram system is considered the most modern in France.
What to do
It costs nothing to browse the Lille Braderie, one of the biggest and best flea markets in Europe. With a remarkable 10,000 stalls, expect everything on sale here, from a broken hair dryer to antique crockery. Unfortunately, the Lille Braderie only occurs annually for two days, in September, when the hotels tend to push up their prices, so visiting Lille then could be a false economy. Sunday is the best day for the regular open market in Marché de Warzemmes. There are other sights worth seeing in Lille, whatever the season. Lille has no fewer than three botanical gardens with the Jardin Botanique Nicolas Boulay probably the most impressive. In terms of architecture, Lille Cathedral, one of France’s national monuments, is the most obvious choice. However, the Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille
, the largest museum outside of Paris, is far more interesting. Only Le Louvre can better the collections here. Check the website for special exhibition days.
Eating, drinking and having fun
Lille is a great destination for foodies. There seems to be a patisserie on every street corner, as well as a remarkable number of chocolate shops for those with a sweet tooth. Guillaume Vincent on rue de Cure Saint Etienne has a reputation for being one of the best. To fill your belly without emptying your pocket, the ‘all-you-can-eat’ menu at La Flams
, near La Grand Place is just the job. You can try regional dishes at a number of estaminets, as the local eateries are known. These are very popular and get so busy at the weekends that you may have to book in advance. Good value can be found at the Brasserie Flore, close to Rihour subway station. When it comes to drinking and entertainment, Network Café
is the most popular discotheque. As a big student attraction, prices are pretty reasonable. In the rue Royale, BD Fugue café is interesting in that it’s also sells comics. Further down the street, more intellectual drinkers discuss world affairs at the L’Illustration
. Finally, Coming Out, as the name implies, is a LGBT-friendly bar at 11 rue de Gand.