City Guide: Lille
Lille is located in French Flanders close to France’s northern border with Belgium. It is the fifth largest French urban area and a great place to visit.
Due to its location near the border, Lille spreads some of the charm known from other Belgian towns. You can also see the Flemish influence in the architecture of Lille’s houses – many residential areas are made up of brick, row houses, which are more commonly found in Belgium and England than in the rest of France.
Lille has a variety of sights to offer. These include a very unique Cathedral, the Citadel of Lille surrounded by lush greenery, the Grand Place and so forth.
Lille’s Church St. Maurice
If you arrive in Lille by train to either of the adjacent train stations, you will find yourself closeby to the city centre.
Before heading through the shopping streets towards the Grand Place, you can take a quick detour to the St. Maurice Church.
The 14th century hall church is located in the historic centre of Lille on rue de Paris.
Grand Place in Lille
The Grand Place is the heart of Lille. Here you find lots of bars and restaurants as well as a variety of historic buildings.
In the centre of the square you can see the picturesque Column of Goddess. The column is a Memorial of the Siege of 1792.
The siege was, while not militarily very significant, a major incident for the inhabitants of Lille during the French Revolution. Lille’s main church Saint-Etienne, which was situated on this particular square, was destroyed during the bombardements of Austria. The Column of Goddess serves to remind the people of Lille of the historic tragedy.
While the background of this monument is quite sad, the column itself is a very beautiful sight to look at and an easy reference point when getting lost in the city.
Located at the Grand Place is also the Théâtre du Nord, a place for enjoying plays and
Place du Théâtre
At the corner of the Grand Place and the Place du Théâtre you will find the Vieille Bourse of Lille. A beautiful and historic building.
The Old Stock Exchange building is one of Lille’s most important landmarks. It is made up of 24 identical houses shaped into a quadrangle with an inner courtyard.
The building was constructed during Spanish reign of the city in the 17th century. Nearby, you will also find Lille’s Opera House.
The neo-classical building was built just before the outbreak of the First World War, after a fire had destroyed the previous opera house. With the outbreak of World War One, German occupation halted the completion of the building – until its grand opening in 1923.
Cathedral of Lille
From the Opera House it is just a short walk to Lille Cathedral, also known as the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille. The cathedral is nothing short of unique.
The New-Gothic style is very different to that of other cathedrals all over France. In my opinion the building looks very modern despite stemming from the 19th century.
After visiting the Cathedral of Lille, you can go for a walk along Lille’s river Deule.
Here you will also find the typical terraded brick houses as well as some house boats.
After about ten to fifteen minutes you will reach the outskirts of the Citadel of Lille.
Citadel of Lille
The Citadel of Lille is shaped in a pentagon and once served as the city wall of Lille.
You cannot actually visit it from the inside, but you can have a peak from the outside as well as walk all around it in a park.
Our overall impressions of Lille
Lille is a great place to visit – the Flemish city looks somewhat different to the rest of France. It is a city that can be easily visited by walking around for one or two hours with many historic monuments to visit alongside. I particularly liked the greenery around the Citadel of Lille, as you can go for an extensive walk and just enjoy the silence.
Do you have any questions about Lille? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!