Lille Things To Do
Place du General de Gaulle
Located right in the centre of the city, this is the main meeting place for everybody in Lille. In the summer months, the tables of the numerous restaurants, cafes and bars spill out onto the streets. For several days at the end of April, the annual flower market transforms the square into a huge field of blossom, and at Christmas it transforms into a fairytale grotto, with a gigantic ferris wheel.
La Vieille Bourse
Undoubtedly one of the finest buildings in the city, La Vieille Bourse was built between 1652 and 1653 to house the stock exchange and comprises of 24 identical houses built around a courtyard. The builder, Julien Destrez, was a sculptor and carpenter and this is reflected in the exquisite decoration. The sculpted Lions of Flanders can be seen guarding over each entrance. Today, after much renovation, the cloister is occupied by bookstalls and flower market.
Town Hall and Belfry
Built in 1924, it took four years to complete the town hall replacing the one destroyed by fire in the Place Rihour. The design, inspired by gabled Flemish houses includes a 104 metre high tower which is supported by two sculpted giants, Lyderic and Phinaert, legendary founders of the city. The tower, accessible by lift, offers fantastic panoramic views over the city. There is an impressive central hall studded with floral pillars and displays of art work throughout the stairways, corridors and meeting rooms, including a superb fresco by the Icelandic painter Erro, telling the story of the town in the form of a strip cartoon.
The city’s oldest district has been painstakingly restored, and the winding cobbled streets are now filled with restaurants, antique shops, jewellers and boutiques. The buildings built from brick and white stone display beautifully sculptured cherubs and other ornamentation. A stroll round this beautiful district is not to be missed, and the tourist office located in Place Rihour offer details of walking tours taking in the streets and most impressive houses.
Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Treille
Foundation stones for the cathedral were laid in 1854 on the site of the old castle of the Counts of Flanders. The project was finally completed in 1999 when architect P L Carlier designed the façade, with artist Kijno commissioned to make the rose window and sculpture George Jeanclos made the stunning entrance doors.
Built by military architect Vauban, by order of Louis XIV, and constructed in record time, the Citadelle used 16 million bricks, three million stone blocks and 70,000 sandstone foundations. Its massive ramparts were built to absorb the impact of artillery fire and the walks 4m thick. It was modelled on a small town with five bastions one at each point of the star and five half moon fortifications the design of which inspired the US Pentagon. It still houses up to 1,000 soldiers but it is still possible to visit on a guided tour, details of which are available at the Tourist Office.
St Maurice Church
This gothic church dates back to the 15th century. The church houses numerous paintings by Lille artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as a memorial to all British Commonwealth soldiers who fought for France's freedom. Superb organ recitals are held on Sundays throughout the summer, details of which are available from the Tourist Office.
The Claeyssens Distillery has been producing "genievre" gin since 1817 and still uses the original wooden machinery built nearly 200 years ago. Visitors are escorted round and see the process in producing the juniper gin, from the ingenious contraptions that sift the grains and mill the flour to the heating, cooling and distilling of the spirit. The tour is followed by a tasting session and a chance to visit the distillery shop. The distillery is accessible from Lille city centre either by bus (No 9) or the Sunday barge which travels along the River Deule from Lille to the distillery. Combined boat trip and distillery tour tickets are available.
Bois de Boulogne/Citadel Leisure Park
Covering fifty hectares, this is the largest park and green space in the city. Enveloping the Citadelle and surrounded by the canal of the River Deule, the park has the city's zoo, children's playground and picturesque walks along the banks of the canal.
Le Jardin Vauban
At the end of the Boulevard de la Liberte and opposite the Citadelle on the other side of the canal, is the Jardin Vauban designed in 1865 by the head gardener of Paris, Barillet Deschamps. The park is a delight with trees that date back centuries, flowers, a grotto, waterfall and a marionette theatre.
Le Jardin des Plantes
Le Jardin des Plantes offers a monumental rose garden with waterfalls and a tropical glasshouse. The Orangerie allows for the conservation of Mediterranean plants, including palm trees and eucalyptus during the winter months, and the open air collection of tropical trees and bushes is arranged according to geographical origin.