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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
Montpellier is the third largest city in Southern France after Marseille and Nice. After our first visit to Montpellier ended in a snowy disaster earlier this year, I opted for another visit during May.
Let’s say I barely even recognized the city the second time around. The first time we arrived, there were about five to ten centimetres of snow and everything was at a standstill – no public transportation, cars got stuck on the streets and we halfway carried, halfway pulled our suitcases along the slippery streets to the hotel.
That’s also basically all we got to see as we weren’t any luckier the next morning – it seems like people in Montpellier have never even heard of a snowplough.
Anyways, the second time around I was blessed with good weather, which is also why I decided to go for a quick tram and bus ride to go to the beach. After all, if you’ve travelled all the way from Paris you want to get to see the sea when you’re so close already! While that cut my sightseeing in Montpellier a little short, I still want to introduce you to some of the major sights in this city guide of Montpellier!
The Place de la Comedie is the main square in Montpellier as it is right by the train station. In the centre of the square you can see the fountain, which is called Three Graces.
On the North-Eastern side of the square it continues onto the Esplanade de Charles de Gaulle. Nearby you can also find the Opera of Montpellier.
At the end of rue Forch you will find Montpellier’s Arc de Triomphe, which is also known as the Porte du Peyrou. The arch was built in 1693 to glorify King Louis the fourteenth.
Nearby you will find the Court of Appeal as well as a park called Promenade du Peyrou which leads you to the Aqueduct Saint-Clément. From here you can also have nice views of the surroundings of Montpellier.
The aqueduct was constructed in the late 18th century to transport water into Montpellier.
A two-minute walk from the aqueduct you will find the Botanical Garden of Montpellier, which is a little green oasis allowing for a little stroll.
Just across the street from the Botanical Garden you will find one of the most impressive buildings of Montpellier: the Cathedral of St. Pierre!
This Roman Catholic church located in Montpellier was built in a Gothic style and suffered extensive damage from the religious wars in the 16th century, it thus had to be rebuilt during the 17th century.
As mentioned previously, the Esplanade of Charles-de-Gaulle is closely aligned to the Place de la Comedie and forms part of the outer part of the town centre.
Nearby there is the famous Fabre Museum as well as a big shopping centre. This is also where Moritz and I went last time during our snowy visit as we stayed in the Pullman Hotel attached to the city centre.
From the main station, you can take one of the colorful trams and then change into a bus to go to the Palavas les Flots, which is a little half-island on the coastline.
Here me and my friend went for a little walk on the beach, had a refreshing drink and ate a delicious crêpe.
Since I had seen all the other major cities in the south of France I was intrigued to come back to Montpellier to see what it’s like. While it is definitely a lovely city with its own charm, I have to admit that I prefer both Nice and Marseille more. Nevertheless, I had an enjoyable day in Montpellier and also loved going to the beach for a short while.
Aix en Provence, also simply known as Aix, is the former capital of the Provence, located thirty kilometres north of Marseille. For many the city is the ideal starting point for exploring the Provence and its beautiful lavender fields.
While there are many day trips you can take from Aix, including trips to the Luberon National Park or to a little town by the sea called Cassis, Aix en Provence itself is a beautiful and charming city to stay in.
Due to its mild temperatures all year around, Aix is a very green city. To me it is no surprise why Cézanne found inspiration for his work in Aix en Provence and its surroundings. So if you want to explore the traces of Cézanne or just visit a beautiful city in southern France, Aix is definitely the place to go to as I will show to you in this city guide.
The fountain of Rotonde is located at the square La Rotonde which is situated at one end of the Cours Mirabeau.
It is a very central place, close to the coach station, the tourism office as well as the train station and thus the ideal point to start a visit from. The historic fountain was built around 1860.
The Cours Mirabeau is the main promenade in Aix en Provence. Three times a week you can find a large market here selling a variety of local products.
Apart from this there are many shops to explore as well as restaurants and cafés. Alongside it you will also be able to enjoy some of the historic houses of Aix and the Fountain of Roi Rene.
When you wander off the main promenade Cours Mirabeau, you will be able to explore some of the smaller and more charming streets in Aix en Provence. On the smaller squares you also find weekly markets with fruits, vegetables, cheeses and flowers.
In one of these nice side streets you can find the Place d’Albertas.
The Hôtel de Ville (town hall) is also located on one of these squares and was built during the 17th century. Its clocktower was built already in the early 16th century.
When you follow along the street towards the Cathedral of Aix en Provence you will also come by the Théâtre de l’Archevéché as well as the historic building of the Sciences Po university building in Aix which is just across the street from the cathedral.
Aix Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church which was built on the site of the former Roman forum that stood in Aix during the 1st century.
The cathedral has a rich history, with several erections and renovations between the 12th and 19th century in which several Roman and Gothic elements were included.
Another famous site in Aix is the Pavillon Vendôme, which is a pavilion surrounded by a small, well-designed garden. The pavilion was created for Louis, the Duke of Vendôme in the second half of the 17th century.
During the following centuries important figures like Jean-Baptiste van Loo or Barthélemy-Louis Reboul owned the house. Since 1941 it is in the possession of the city of Aix and serves as a museum for art exhibitons.
In can you haven’t noticed it yet, I am absolutely in love with this French Southern City. While it is fairly small and doesn’t have that many fancy sights to visit, I just love the charming little streets, the great weather and atmosphere here.
Do you have any questions about Aix en Provence? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!
At the beginning of this year I was able to squeeze in a trip to visit my friend that studies in Florence. I have never been to Tuscany before but fell immediately in love with this Italian city – and not just because of the good food.
I was blessed with gorgeous weather during my stay which made strolling through the city all the more enjoyable. There are so many beautiful piazzas and buildings that I will try to concentrate on pointing out the most important ones in this city guide, but all I can really suggest is just take your time and wander around, it is so worth it!
So let’s start at one of the most prominent sites of Florence: the Duomo, also know as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. This is the main church of Florence, which was built in a green and pink Gothic façade.
It is located in the Piazza del Duomo and also includes the Baptistery as well as the Giotto’s Campanile.
All buildings fall under the UNESCO World Heritage. If you want to visit the Duomo from the inside, you will have to queue up – that’s something I’ve kept on my list of things to do next time I get to visit Florence as there was just too much I wanted to see in too little time.
Another popular square nearby the Duomo is the Piazza della Repubblica. This square is in the historic centre of city and was remodeled during Florence’s short period as a capital between 1865 and 1871.
Just look at how beautiful this historic carousel looks in this setting!
Continuing from the Piazza della Repubblica you can make your way to the Palazzo Veccio, which is nowadays the town hall of Florence.
It overlooks yet another square, the Piazza della Signoria.
From there onwards be sure to walk to the Ponte Vecchio, which is THE bridge in Florence.
The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone bridge crossing the Arno River.
Lots of little jewellery shops are found along this bridge. While you can enjoy beautiful views from this bridge, it is also nice to check some of the other bridges along the river.
Especially the lit up bridge at night is very beautiful!
Once you’ve made it to the other side of the bridge you can keep on walking towards the Palazzo Pitti. This palace was originally build as a town residence of the Florentine banker Luca Pitti. It was then bought by the Medici family in 1549 and was since then the major residence of the Medici. Later on it was used by Napoleon and briefly also used as a royal palace.
Today it hosts different museums and galleries inside. But if you are lucky and it is sunny during your visit instead you can also opt to visit the Boboli and Bardini Gardens. These are located just right behind the palace and offer a tranquil, green oasis – most likely even prettier during spring and summer when all the flowers are blooming!
All the above we visited on one day, so our feet were hurting after walking around for hours. As we were planning to catch a glimpse of the sunset from the Porta San Niccolò, we made a late lunch break in the late afternoon to have some salad and then continued to walk upstairs to the Porta.
Of course, here it was overcrowded with tourists, but we managed to find some good spots for taking pictures.
I absolutely loved my visit to Florence – the city is stunning, the weather was great and not to forget, there’s plenty of pizza, pasta and ice-cream to indulge! I could spend hours and hours walking through the streets admiring the architecture, plus there’s lots of opportunities to buy some nice leather souvenirs. This was definitely not my last visit to Florence and I hope to also see some more of Tuscany next time.
At the beginning of the 2017 winter period we decided to do a little trip to Grenoble in the South-East of France near the Alps. We were lucky enough to have picked a somewhat snowy weekend, so despite it being cold and grey we also got to see snow for the very first time in France.
The train ride from Paris took a good three hours, because for half of the journey the train was only allowed to drive very slowly – but the perks were the snowy landscape we got to enjoy. It was actually even snowier on the way than it was in Grenoble itself.
In this city guide I will introduce you to some of the major sites of Grenoble and share with you my impressions of the city.
As we stayed in the Park Hotel Grenoble MGallery by Parc Paul Mistral, we started our walking tour through the city here. The park itself didn’t seem very spectacular in winter and also a little run-down.
There is small pond and the big stadium. This was opened in 2008 and is mainly used by the football team Grenoble Foot 38.
From the football stadium and the park, we walked along the outskirts of the city centre through a more residential area. Before making our way to river Isère we passed Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Cathedral has undergone a series of re-developments throughout the centuries but was given back its Roman façade in 1990 when Berruyers additions were reversed. In my opinion the cathedral looks fairly plain, nothing like Paris Notre Dame at all.
After our short visit of the cathedral we went to the river from where you can enjoy beautiful views of the mountain and the famous fort.
We continued our way a little along the river and then turned towards the Place du Tribunal, where you can also find the Collégiale Saint-André, which we briefly entered to warm up a little, as well as the Dauphinoise parliament.
When we arrived there in the early afternoon we still saw some stalls of a little market being stowed away – on a sunnier and warmer day I can thus imagine this square to be an ideal spot for a little stroll over a French market.
From the Place du Tribunal we continued walking to the stop of the cable-car. You can also hike up the mountain to reach the fort, but especially when its snowy I wouldn’t recommend that. Plus taking the cable-car is very quick and efficient – as long as there are no tourists.
After a short ride up to the mountain you reach the historic fort that once played an important role in the defensive system. There’s some infrastructure up there like a restaurant and souvenir shop, but most outlets are closed during the winter and not everything is accessible by walking. While we enjoyed a magnificent view from the snowy mountain, I am sure it is even more beautiful in summer on a clear day where you can easily explore the fort.
Nevertheless, we very much enjoyed our little journey up the mountain and had some hot drinks to warm up before continuing our walking tour.
After coming back down from the fort, we walked through Grenoble’s City Garden, passed through the city centre along a few churches and nice buildings to the Verdun Square.
This square is probably among the most interesting spots architecturally that you will find in Grenoble.
The Préfecture de l’Ilsère, for instance, is truly beautiful.
Another architectural highlight can be found on the other side of the river, but it is actually a little hidden.
After passing the Porte de France in Grenoble you can follow the street to walk towards the Casamaures, a historic villa built in an oriental style. Visits are only possible as part of guided tours at special times.
Grenoble is situated in a beautiful location among the mountains, but it lacks some of the charm that we have encountered in many other French cities. While there are some interesting museums and sites to visit, I think the city’s perks are the views as well as the possibility to do hiking tours around to enjoy the nature, landscape and mountains.
Hello and welcome back to our Life in Paris series! At the end of September a close friend of mine came for a visit, while Moritz was on his business trip to Cracow. As I don’t have many university courses on Fridays, we decided to use the beautiful sunny weather to visit Notre-Dame.
As most of you probably know, Notre-Dame is a old Catholic cathedral in the fourth arrondissement, located on a little “island” in the Seine. It is one of the most prominent examples of French Gothic architecture.
Notre-Dame can be visited for free, but is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris and thus the queue is hugely very long. We were lucky to beat the crowds and made it to the cathedral just before it was starting to get busy. The cathedral is very impressive from the inside, but also very dark, something I do not particularly like about cathedrals. What I really liked, however, are its colorful stained glass windows.
After a brief walk through the cathedral, we exited again and walked around the left side of the Notre-Dame to find the entrance for the towers. There’s a little machine, where you can pick an available time for a visit. We managed to get one within ten minutes. As EU citizens under 26, we received free entrance for this and started to climb up the stairs (it is quite steep).
Upstairs we were rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Paris. Due to the great weather we got to take some really nice pictures. I personally find this view much nicer than the one you can have from Montmatre, because Notre-Dame is very centrally located so you see many sights and beautiful architecture from up there.
From Notre-Dame we made a quick trip to the Jardin des Plantes (Botanical Garden) in the 5th arrondissement.
Next time, you will hear more from Moritz about his little day trip to Poitiers!
With Moritz recent work trip to Cracow, a friend of mine visiting and a busy university schedule it has taken me some time to get around writing this new ‘Life in Paris’ post. In the same week that Moritz was able to sneak in a day trip to Le Mans, we also visited Arras and Angers.
Arras is located in Northern France and belongs to the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. It is about an hour away from Gare du Nord in Paris and thus easily reachable with the TGV.
The city of Arras is well known for its beautiful architecture, but was not overrun at all when we visited. The inner city centre and the main plaza reminded us very much of our time in Belgium. That is probably not so surprising given the fact that it was actually founded by a Belgic tribe and is located close to the border.
As there are quite a few important sites to visit in Arras including the squares, Cathedral, town hall and the Citadel, we will feature Arras in an extensive City Guide at a later point. For now, enjoy the beautiful pictures of our little day trip and let us know what you have been up to travelwise lately.
Anna et Moritz
Menton is a little gem on the French Riviera bordering with Italy. Its nickname is “Pearl of France” and I can totally agree with that.
We went to visit Menton on a day trip from Nice, where we also stopped by Eze and Ventimiglia (in Italy).
As we only stopped by on our return journey we were already quite tired and exhausted from walking around all day, so instead of offering you a full city guide here I want to share some of our impressions of Menton with you.
From the train station we first made our way to the Promenade and the beach. In comparison to Nice, everything is much smaller and calmer here.
Along the promenade there’s a variety of restaurants.
The Promenade leads on to the Museum Jean Cocteau as well as the Napoleon the Third Quay. If you walk up there you can enjoy great views of the port and the colourful housing front behind it.
This is the right spot for the most picturesque photos of Menton! Unfortunately, in the evening the lighting wasn’t perfect for capturing the bright colours.
The colourful houses that you can see from the port are part of the historic city of Menton. There are also a Basilica and a Chapel in the historic city.
We didn’t have a chance to go look at them, but I imagine they are as beautiful as the rest of Menton.
On our way back to the train station we walked through the inner city and passed several nice restaurants, hotels and buildings.
There is also a little stretched garden called Jardin Biovès. The town hall is also worth checking out.
We both absolutely loved Menton and are happy to have decided to stop by here on our return to Nice. This small town is the perfect hidden gem for a nice and relaxed day on French Riviera. There’s more things such as a Botanical Garden to explore, so hopefully we will have a chance to come back here one day!
Have you been to Menton? What did you like the most about Menton?
Hello and welcome back to our series ‘Life in Paris’. Today I want to tell you about our experience with the European Heritage Days on the 16th and 17th September this year. The European Heritage Days were first organized over thirty years ago by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Many venues that are usually not open to the public take part in this event. But be aware, the popular places in Paris such as the Elysée Palace and others are incredibly busy and people start queing from six am onwards (not me, I value my sleep too much!).
On Saturday I visited the OECD headquarters in the 16th arrondissement. The tourguide showed us the conference rooms, gave us a quick introduction about the history and evolvement of the OECD and then led us to the Château de la Muette. The château is located near the Bois de Boulogne and has recently become famous for its positive environmental performance. Its gardens even host bees which promote the ecological balance.
The châteaux is the third in this location, previously Princess Marguerite de Valois and Marie-Antoinette lived here. The current castle was build after the 1920s by Henri James de Rothschild. Inside the castle you can still find some items from its former resident. Apart from this, the castle is also a historically important place because from here the first hot air balloon with passengers took off in 1783.
As you can see the location of the OECD headquarters is quite unique. I was surprised to hear about the little anecdotes and impressed to see how such a beautiful, elegant castle has been transformed to be used by this international organization.
Have you ever visited Paris during the European Heritage Days? If yes, what were your favorites sites to see?
Looking forward to hearing about your experiences! Next time, I will be sharing our story of visiting the National Assembly of Paris (a definite must-see!)
Anna et Moritz
Transportation in Montevideo is very complicated for foreigners. If you want to get around by public transportation, you can only rely on buses. An alternative are taxis and Uber.
There is no rail transportation in Uruguay whatsoever. That also means that there are no trains, no trams or anything alike in Montevideo. Instead, the only options to get to the city by public transportation are long distance buses, airplanes and ferries to Buenos Aires. In the city itself, there is not much more variety as there are basically just buses to get around.
There is one great article about buses in Montevideo in English. I’d recommend following this guide if you want to get around Montevideo by public transportation. My experience is that it is really tough to get an idea of the whole system. There are dozens of bus lines, but not all buses are operated by the same company. Thus, the public buses look different.
There is a sign with the destination, but there are no timetables whatsoever. If you are looking for a route from A to B, I’d recommend using the official website (in Spanish), which has a journey planner. The buses themselves are quite modern and relatively easy to use. You are paying the fare at the driver. Yet, without a basic knowledge of Spanish, you might have a relatively hard time. Nevertheless, the buses will get you to your destination safely.
The alternative to buses in Montevideo are taxis. Besides Uber, this would be my preferred means of transportation in Montevideo. Compared to European or American standards, taxis in Montevideo are quite affordable. However, they are not really cheap. The typical charge per kilometer is approximately 20 UYU (~ 0.7 USD / 0.6 Euro). A ride from the airport to the city center is approximately 600 UYU (~ 21 US-Dollar / 18 Euro), for example. Taking taxis in Montevideo is considered safe and quite comfortable. Yet, you should be aware that most taxis don’t have an air conditioning. Still, I’d prefer taking a taxi over a bus in Uruguay. Yet, you should always make sure that the taximeter is used.
My personal preferance for transportation in Montevideo is Uber. There are not too many drivers in the city, which means that you have to wait sometimes. However, Uber is very safe and reliable in Montevideo. Plus, the rates are lower than for taxis and communication is not a problem, even if you are not speaking Spanish. Other than that, there are a couple of touristic transportation options in Montevideo, especially in high season. This includes a hop-on-hop-off tour by Buquebus, the ferry operated between Montevideo and Buenos Aires.