Last year Romain had a two day conference in Lille. I decided to tag along as I’d never been to Northern France. I didn’t expect to love Lille as much as I did, but it’s absolutely charming and filled with character, especially the Vieux-Lille area. The best part is it’s only an hour from Paris by train!
We took a late train so we didn’t see much on our first night. With only two days in Lille, it was great to wake up and have a full day to explore. After breakfast I set out to explore the Vieux-Lille Neighborhood.
The entire city was decorated for the Eldorado Lille. The bright and colorful Mexican flags were such a fun and unexpected twist. All of the museums participated in the theme as well and had special exhibits.
Place du General de Gaulle
I spent my morning walking around la Place du General de Galle. It was a gorgeous day with bright blue skies and the colorful buildings and architecture really popped. I love Paris and Parisian architecture, but it’s nice to see something completely different every once in a while.
After stopping for a coffee and I familiarized myself with the area to get my bearings. I asked the hotel to recommend some restaurants to check out and they gave me a whole list. I picked Eat Salad, which definitely isn’t very “Lille,” but it’s become my favorite salad bar spot (they have one in Paris) so it was a good discovery.
After lunch I went to the Vieille Bourse, which means the old stock exchange. My friend Marie told me about it and how it’s a great spot to browse old books and souvenirs.
The space is partially covered and partially open-air and the booksellers line the perimeter. It’s similar to Les Bouquinistes in Paris where you can browse all sorts of books, records, magazines, and more. I found a few copies of “Texas Magazine” which basically has western comics in French. The Vieille Bourse is definitely a must-do when in Lille.
Parc de la Citadelle
I walked to the Parc de la Citadelle in the afternoon since it was such a beautiful day. There’s a canal where you can rent little electric boats which would be such a fun weekend activity.
The park has lots of trees and shaded areas. It’s a great place to go for a walk or run and is only about a 10 minute walk from Vieux-Lille.
Dinner and Drinks
When Romain finished for the day, we went to Coke for a drink. The atmosphere is more modern and it was a great place to start the evening in Vieux-Lille.
We ate dinner at Le Barbier Qui Fume which is like a butcher shop that specializes in smoked meats. The food was very good and we mostly enjoyed sitting outside on a smaller side street. There Vieux-Lille area is very lively and we could hear live music from another restaurant. With only two days in Lille we were glad we stayed in the Vieux-Lille area for dinner.
Le Palais des Beaux Arts
The following morning I went to check out the museums in Lille. Le Palais des Beaux Arts is one of the biggest museums in France and is a bit like Lille’s version of the Louvre.
Le Palais des Beaux Arts Museum was built under Napoleon and is beautiful from the exterior and interior. For Eldorado Lille, there was a more contemporary exhibit downstairs that focused on gold and money. The permanent and more classic collections are upstairs. I essentially had the museum to myself which was pretty incredible and would never happen in Paris.
My next stop was Le TriPostal, a contemporary space and old mail sorting facility by the train station. This space generally displays contemporary art and exhibits for Lille3000, the organization responsible for Eldorado Lille.
The staff at the museum was so knowledgable. They explained all of the installations to me in perfect English and answered any questions I had. The Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room was definitely a highlight of my visit. Again, it was kind of crazy that there wasn’t a line at all!
Before heading back to the train station and Paris I went back to our hotel, Hotel Clarance for a coffee in the courtyard. The exterior of the hotel is picturesque and it’s in a great location, but I’m not sure if I’d stay there again.
I wasn’t very impressed with either the rooms or the bathrooms even though it’s a five-star hotel and a Relais & Chateaux property, but . The carpets and bedding just seemed a bit worn and the finishes weren’t as nice as I would’ve expected.
I really enjoyed my two days in Lille and will for sure be back – it’s just so easy to get to from Paris. Lille would also be a great base to see some of the World War I battlefields. To incorporate Lille into your France travel itinerary, contact me here!