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Lille, France – 29 brilliant things to do

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Whether you want to spent a whole week or just a ‘Lille’ bit of time here, there are lots of things to in Lille, in Northern France.

Given its close proximity to the Belgium border, Lille is a marvellous mix of French and Flemish flamboyance, packed full of historical squares, gorgeous green parks and river walks – plus the food scene in Lille is legendary from sublime stews to marvellous meringue desserts.

From flea markets to street food courts, craft beer bars to hipster neighbourhoods and cool alfresco art spaces, here is our guide to all the things to do in Lille, France (2023):

Things to do in Lille

1. Grand Place / Place du Général de Gaulle

The number 1 thing to do in Lille, no trip here is complete with a stroll around the Grand Place both by day and night.

A pedestrianised square with historic buildings overlooking it, the majesty of Grand Place cannot be overstated – it is such a beautiful place to explore or people watch.

Grand Place / Place du Général de Gaulle Lille France

Although most people just refer to it as simply Lille’s Grand Place, its full name is Place du Général de Gaulle, in honour of France’s most famous general who was born in Lille (in fact, Gaulle’s birthplace is at No. 9 Rue Princesse, near to the Citadel).

The centrepiece is a working fountain around the column of the Déesse, the goddess and symbol of the spirit of the city – this also happens to be a popular meeting place for friends and romantic couples.

The Grand Place is surrounded by numerous bars and restaurants so is an ideal place to sit on one of the outdoor terraces soaking up the history (possibly with a small vin or biere).

Lille France

2. Old Lille / Vieux Lille

Explore the city’s oldest neighbourhood and immerse yourself in the charms of this easily walkable and welcoming part of Lille.

Old Lille has maintained many of its old buildings to a very high standard including the Old Stock Exchange, the Paris Rihour and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Traille.

Old Lille / Vieux Lille Lille France

The best shopping streets in Lille include Rue de la Monnaie, rue de la Clef, rue Nueve and Rue Esquermoise.

Guided tours are also available of Old Lille such as this 2 hour walking tour >

Old Lille / Vieux Lille Lille France

Try this – A unique Tour of Lille by Convertible 2CV with champagne >

3. La Vieille Bourse / Old Stock Exchange

‘Banking’ on a good time in Lille? Then charge along to the Old Stock Exchange (La Vieille Bourse), one of the most spectacular buildings in Lille accessed from the Grand Place.

La Vieille Bourse / Old Stock Exchange Lille France

The Vieille Bourse opened in the 1650s and is one of the most majestic and stately buildings in the whole of the city. Comprising of over 20 little houses, the centre-piece is a gorgeous arched courtyard.

We were lucky enough to visit the Lille’s La Vieille Bourse / Old Stock Exchange one weekend and saw a huge second hand book market set-up in the courtyard (a very popular thing to do in Lille) with chess players engrossed in their games – definitely check (mate) this out!

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La Vieille Bourse / Old Stock Exchange Lille France
La Vieille Bourse / Old Stock Exchange Lille France
La Vieille Bourse / Old Stock Exchange Lille France

4. Marché de Wazemmes

If you are visiting Lille on a warm sunny day, Marché de Wazemmes (Wazemmes Market) is a must thing to do in Lille, even if to just browse all the hundreds of stalls.

Marché de Wazemmes Lille France
Marché de Wazemmes Lille France

Marche de Wazemmes is one of France’s biggest markets and is located at Place de la Nouvelle Adventure.

Here you’ll find everything from fresh flowers and spices to fabric and handbags – so bag a bargain in Lille!

The Marche de Wazemmes is open Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 7am to 2pm.

The covered market is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 8am to 8pm (or until 3pm on Sundays).

Marché de Wazemmes Lille France
Marché de Wazemmes Lille France

Try this – Fromelles and Ypres Day Tour from Arras and Lille >

5. Parc de la Citadelle / The Citadel

The Citadel of Lille (AKA the Queen of the Citadels) was built between 1667 and 1670 by the Marquis of Vauban under strict orders from Louis XIV, following the Sun King’s overpowering of Lille and its rejoining of France after around 150 years of Spanish occupation.

Comprising over 60 million bricks, this is an incredible site and was an awe-inspiring architectural undertaking completed in just over three years.

Today the heart of the Citadel is closed to the public (it houses the French military) but the outer park areas can still be enjoyed. Attractions include an amusement park, zoo, cycle paths and boat rides along the canal.

Try this – Two hour segway tour of Lille >

Parc de la Citadelle / The Citadel Lille France

6. Town Hall Belfry / Le Beffroi De L’ Hotel De Ville

One of Lille’s iconic landmarks (and a great signpost should you get lost in LIlle), the Lille Town Hall Belfry is over 100 metres tall and has been a UNESCO World Heritage listed building since 2005.

It was built in the 1930s to act as a watchtower and ring warning bells in case of any imminent danger (to note it isn’t actually a bell-tower).

Town Hall Belfry / Le Beffroi De L’ Hotel De Ville Lille France

Not for the faint hearted, there are 400 steps to the top of the Lille Town Hall Belfry – definitely a good way to work off all those meringues and cheese.

Offering panoramic views (you can see as far as the hills of Flanders on a clear day), the Lille Town Hall Belfry is open daily from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5.30pm.

Try this – Private ‘rally’ style challenge tour of Lille in a 2CV car >

7. Place aux Oignons Lille

How do you like these ‘oignons’? Take a step back in time in Lille to the Place aux Oignons, a tiny traditional square in the heart of the Old Town.

Small and compact, Place aux Oignons is now home to several fine Lille bars and eateries and is a nice place to escape the hustle and bustle of the more tourist-centric Grand Place.

One of the more peaceful things to do in Lille, grab a glass of wine in Cafe Estaminet and people watch in Place aux Oignons – it is also included as part of many Lille Walking tours.

8. Palais des Beaux Arts

Located in a sumptuous 19th century building, the Palais des Beaux Arts is one of the largest art museums in the country.

Opened in 1819, the museum has European artwork on display from the 12th to the 20th century with work from artists including Van Gogh, Donatello and Monet.

Palais des Beaux Arts Lille France

Interestingly, the Palais des Beaux Arts has a ‘responsible’ ticket price for its main exhibitions that allow you to choose the admission price depending on what you can afford or think it is worth – between 2€, 5€ or 10€.

Try this – Private Custom Tour in Lille with a Local Guide >

9. Aux Merveilleux (Lille Meringue dessert)

For us, one of the top 5 things to do in Lille (it was so delicious), Lille is renowned for its decadent dessert of meringue.

We had at least one meringue every day whilst in Lille, that is how good they are. Just be prepared to queue at some of the more popular meringue shops like Aux Merveilleux de Fred.

Aux Merveilleux (Lille Meringue dessert) Lille France

A traditional dish from Flanders and Northern France consisting of alternate layers of meringue and whipped cream, the Aux Merveilleux is heavenly and can be bought either as individual, smaller meringues or larger meringues to share.

They are often coated in whipped cream and toppings like almonds or shaved coconut.

Aux Merveilleux (Lille Meringue dessert) Lille France

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10. Lille Cathedral

Also known as the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Treille, work began on the Lille cathedral in the 1850s but it wasn’t finally finished until recent years (in 1999 so only 150 years later!).

Lille Cathedral Lille France

One of France’s best examples of Gothic Revival architecture located in the Old Town, the cathedral is classed as a national monument and is one of the most popular things to do in Lille.

Lille cathedral is open from 10.30 am to 6.15pm and is free to visit – please be respectful of any services that might be going on in the cathedral when you visit.

Lille Cathedral Lille France

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11. Lille Opera House

Opened in 1913 and located in the centre of the Old Town, Lille Opera is one of the last Italian style opera houses to be built in France.

The opulence of the gold leafed grand foyer and main hall (Grand Salle) is a sight to behold so if you can combine your trip to Lille with a night at the opera, you will have a magical night.

Lille Opera House Lille France

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12. Bar La Capsule

Along with Le Lobby bar, we think Bar La Capsule may have the biggest craft beer selection in Lille.

A combination of charcuterie plates, craft beer and aperitifs galore, there were over 20 craft beers on tap when we visited La Capsule, starting from around 3 Euros for a small glass of Hefeweisser style beer.

Bar La Capsule Lille France

As well as French beers from local breweries, you could also get international beers including some very strong ones from neighbouring Belgium.

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13. Gare Saint Sauveur

This cool alfresco art expo and cultural hub kind of reminded us of all the cultural parks we’d experienced in Taiwan – you know you are in for a treat when the first thing that greets you is a huge outdoor sculpture of a huge winged baby demon (or at least that was our interpretation!)

Lille France

Once a bustling train station and former freight area, Gare Saint Sauveur is now a temporary art space and exhibition gallery. On our recent visit, there was even an outdoor circus performance in the main courtyard so you never know what to expect.

Also inside one of the former terminals here, you come across Bistrot de St So, a cafe bar and restaurant located in Halle A, open Wednesday to Sunday.

Lille France

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14. Porte de Paris

Lille’s most prominent arch monument, the Lille Porte De Paris is free to walk around and get up close to, and was built in the 17th century to commemorate Louis XVI’s recapture of the city from the Spanish.

Whilst there, make sure you look at all the intricate decorations on the Porte de Paris arch which display characters that show strength such as Mars, the God of War and Hercules, supposedly the world’s strongest man.

15. La Carbonnade Flamande

Whilst in Lille, make sure you try La Carbonnade Flamande, a popular beef or pork based stew that originated from Flanders – it is made with beef, lard, onion, beer and mustard and often accompanied with bread.

Popular La Carbonnade Flamande restaurants in Lille include La Taverne Flamande, Estaminet Au Vieux De La Vieille and Le Barbue d’Anvers.

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16. La Piscine Museum

Dive into this Lille museum, France’s most famous swimming pool and art deco masterpiece.

A former swimming pool (alas it no longer makes a splash), these public baths have now been transformed into a museum displaying stunning sculptures from the 19th and 20th century.

The Piscine Museum is open daily except on Mondays and public holidays – and remember, no running whilst in the pool!

The Piscine Museum in Lille is 9 Euros entry as of summer 2023 or included as part of the Lille City Pass.

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17. Laquéquetterie Lille

A very quick mention of Laquéquetterie Lille, a very popular (and slightly naughty) cake and dessert shop that is popular with hen parties due to its ‘interestly’ shaped treats – be careful what you lick! 

Laquéquetterie Lille has a small terrace outside plus a few seat indoors – probably not one to go to with your parents given all the novelty sweet treats.

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18. Lille Food Courts

Not a fan of La Carbonnade Flamande or had too many Aux Merveilleux Meringue desserts?

Then check out two of Lille’s most fabulous food courts, Kitchen Market Lille and Grand Scene Food Court.

Kitchen Market Lille has a huge range of international food stalls from Moroccan to Portuguese, Italian to Middle Eastern.

Kitchen Market Lille Lille France
Kitchen Market Lille
Kitchen Market Lille Lille France
Kitchen Market Lille

We went there several times and it was always hugely popular, especially with younger crowds (it can be quite hard to get a table at nights). We also found it a nice chilled place to get a late night drink after a day of doing lots of things in Lille!

Grand Scene is a slightly smaller street food court with around 10 stalls and two bars – dishes include pizza, Mexican burgers plus Flemish fine food fare from BierBuik. We stopped in here one night for some (average) Thai food and cold beers. Nice!

Grand Scene Food Court Lille France
Grand Scene Food Court
Grand Scene Food Court Lille France
Grand Scene Food Court

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19. Lille Zoo

If you are short on time, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend a trip to Lille Zoo as it is quite small compared to other zoos (around 3.5) – that said, it is quite cheap to visit (around £5 as of summer 2023) and close by to the Citadelle.

Lille Zoo is open daily except on Tuesdays (the animals watch TV on Tuesdays – probably).

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20. Lille City Pass

Save money on your trip to Lille with a Lille City Pass – there are many Lille things to do and activities included with over 30 attractions and a public transport pass included for the 24 hour and 48 hour versions.

There is also a 72 hour version available of the Lille Pass, which includes access to 10 additional sites in the region plus train ticket.

Get your Lille City Passes with Klook or GetYourGuide.

21. Lille Street Art

The street art scene in LIlle is massive and one that is truly embraced by local tourist organisations.

street art Lille France

So much so that there are multiple events and festivals that create more artwork such as the International Graffiti Battle, the International Biennial of Mural Art, the Urban Experiences Festival or the Can’Art.

Constantly evolving, there are over 800 works of street art in and around LIlle from artists such as Ted Nomad, Jef Aerosol and Friches and Letters.

street art Lille France

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22. Barbieux Park

This is classed an ‘English style garden’ and has been awarded a local Remarkable Garden award.

As well as its 60 species of trees and shrubs planted along the main promenade walk, Barbieux Park has many other activities including petanque, mini-golf, pedalos and canoeing.

23. Le Lobby Bar

Wow, what a craft beer bar – from what we remember of it (some of the beers are ridiculously strong!), Le Lobby Bar has a huge selection of craft / traditional beers with at least 50 beers to choose from. Seriously, the row of beer taps in Le Lobby Bar is probably the most we’ve ever seen.

le lobby bar beer Lille France

The interior at Le Lobby Bar is kinda interesting – dark and moody with random furnishing like a Mini car covered in graffiti and stickers – very much a party place at night, this is also a nice place in the daytime to escape the searing sun.

We spent a couple of hours in Le Lobby Bar sampling much of the menu including some of the really strong Delirium beers plus local delights like Maredsous, Lefort Brune (10% ABV) and Kasteel Tripel (11% ABV).

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24. Bierbuik Bar

AKA the bright pink craft beer bar, Bierbuik bar is just a short walk (or stumble) from the nearby Le Lobby craft beer bar. Combining the best of fine Flemish fare and local craft beers, we really enjoyed our time in Bierbuik Bar.

Bierbuik Bar Lille France

Order at the bar from a small array of craft beers (prices were reasonable) and grab a table inside or outside – a nice place to relax after a long day of walking in Lille.

With lush interiors (wear sunglasses) and friendly staff, Bierbuik is the perfect place for a low-key late night out (and nowhere near as brash as Lobby bar).

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25. Euralille Shopping Centre

Westfield shopping centre comes to Lille! Westfield Euralille is a sprawling shopping mall in the heart of the city that has over 130 shops and restaurants over several levels.

Euralille Shopping Centre Lille France

Although not exactly a top thing to do in Lille, this is a good place to escape to on wet weather days or grab a few souvenirs on the way back to the main train station.

Flagship stores in Westfield Euralille include Uniqlo, Sephora. Primark, Zara plus there is a huge Carrefour supermarket (stock up on cheese and wine for the Eurostar home!)

26. Quai du Wault / Lunch by Water

We discovered Quai du Wault purely by accident whilst walking over to Lille’s Pont de la Citadelle – this a gorgeous quay / port where locals picnic or sit on the water’s edge and just enjoy the sunshine.

Lille’s Quai du Wault is generally tourist free and has several quayside bars and restaurants to enjoy the afternoon sun.

Quai du Wault / Lunch by water Lille France

27. Festivals in Lille

Lille is proud of its roster of festivals which take place each year – the best of these Lille festivals includes:

  • ‘Lillarious’ Comedy Festival – February
  • Festival URBX Lille  – June
  • Lille Beer Festival – late September
  • Lille Street Food Festival – early October
  • Lille Christmas Markets – November to December

28. Try Poutine

If you’ve been to Quebec or Montreal in Canada, you’ll have likely tried poutine before – poutine is a French Canadian dish comprising french fries and gooey cheese curds topped with a usually meaty gravy.

Lille loves poutine so much that there are several poutine shops including P’tite Poutine, the Poutine Factory and World of Poutine.

We stopped by P’tite Poutine and enjoyed a massive plate of poutine with some cold local craft beer – not healthy but heaven!

Our final thing to do in Lille, France

29. Maison Georges Larnicol

One last foodie thing to do in Lille  – try les kouignettes from Maison Georges Larnicol.

One of the most popular patisserie shops in Lille (located in the old town just off Grand Place, Maison Georges Larnicol is a historic dessert shop that is famed for its ‘kouignettes’ – divine flaky cupcake like desserts used filled with chocolate, fruits or pistachio.

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