The Top 10 Sights of Lille, France

With its attractive mix of Flemish tradition, French lifestyle and gastronomic-cultural pride, picturesque Lille is attracting more and more tourists to the far north of France.

The picturesque city of Lille in the very north of France is often described as an unrecognised beauty, because the far north of France is somewhat neglected by international tourism. Quite unjustifiably, of which Lille with its picturesque old town is the best example. The 110,000 students who breathe cosmopolitan flair into Lille every year know better.

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Since Lille was named European Capital of Culture in 2004, more and more city tourists are choosing Lille as their destination. The next run on the city took place in the summer of 2016, when Lille hosted several matches of the European Football Championship 2016. By the way, the Stade Pierre-Mauroy is one of our top 10 football stadiums in France .

At second glance, Lille is a veritable treasure trove of architectural sights that recall the city's Flemish, Spanish and Austrian past. It was only in 1667, under the reign of Louis XIV, that Lille passed from Flanders to France.

Due to Lille's designation as Capital of Culture 2004, the old town has been lovingly restored, France - © Meiqianbao / Shutterstock
© Meiqianbao / Shutterstock

As a result of Lille's designation as Capital of Culture, the old town has been lovingly restored and strolling through the pretty streets lined with richly decorated 17th century façades becomes a cultural and gastronomic discovery tour.

Grand Place (Place du Général de Gaulle)

The magnificent Grand Place in the heart of Lille is the most beautiful square in the city in the north of France - © Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock
© Sergey Dzyuba / Shutterstock

Thebest starting point for this discovery tour is Lille's famous Grand Place, also known as Place du Général de Gaulle. The pretty square with its sunny pavement cafés is the most beautiful in the city and the ideal example of Lille's architecture and local landscape.

Around the centre with the baroque Old Stock Exchange, the most expensive building in the city, are magnificent buildings such as the Opera, the Chamber of Commerce with its impressive tower or the Théâtre du Nord. It is said that Charles de Gaulle had his favourite dessertsat the historic Patisserie Meert.

Article: Place de Général de Gaulle (Grand Place) in Lille
Photo gallery: Place de Général de Gaulle (Grand Place) in Lille

Palais Rihour

The Palais Rihour near the Grand Place is one of the last examples of Flemish Gothic in Lille, France - © Rémih / PD
© Rémih / PD

Just one block from the Grand Place, the Palais Rihour is one of the last examples of Flemish Gothic architecture. The building was begun in 1453 and completed 20 years later. With its richly decorated windows, the Gothic-Renaissance building is Lille's last legacy from the Burgundian period.

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Palais des Beaux Arts

With an exhibition area of 22,000m2, the Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille is the most important art museum in France after the Louvre in Paris - © Lille_Palais-de-Beaux- / Shutterstock
© Lille_Palais-de-Beaux- / Shutterstock

With an exhibition area of 22,000m², the Palais des Beaux Arts on the impressive Place de la République is the most important art museum in France after the Louvre in Paris and one of the largest in Europe.

The stately building dates from the 19th century and houses paintings, sculptures and ceramics by great artists such as Rubens, Donatello or Van Dyck as well as a cellar full of detailed relief maps of the surrounding towns from the time of the Sun King.

Article: Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille

Porte de Paris

Right near the Porte de Paris is Lille City Hall, visible from afar with its towering belfry - © Meiqianbao / Shutterstock
© Meiqianbao / Shutterstock

Walking southwest along the Boulevard de la Liberté, you reach the Gate of Paris. At the behest of Louis XIV, the Porte de Paris, designed by Simon Vollant, replaced the "Gate of the Sick" located there at the time in 1692. The monumental gate was once part of the city walls and still stands today for the annexation of Lille to France.

Article: Porte de Paris in Lille

Lille City Hall (Hôtel de Ville)

With its imposing tower, the city hall of Lille in the north of France is one of the city's most visited sights - © Production Perig / Shutterstock
© Production Perig / Shutterstock

Right near the Porte de Paris is Lille City Hall, visible from afar with its towering belfry. The striking tower reaches a height of 105 metres and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

A lift takes visitors on an audio-guided tour to the top of the building, where they can enjoy the best view of Lille.

Article: Lille City Hall

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Lille Citadel

Entrance to the Citadel of Lille, France, now home to an elite unit of the French military - © Ralf Siemieniec / Shutterstock
© Ralf Siemieniec / Shutterstock

At the other end of the magnificent Boulevard de la Liberté is the Citadel, one of Lille's landmarks. The star-shaped bulwark is framed by five bastions. They were completed in 1670 after three years of construction at the behest of Louis XIV.

A tourof the inside is not possible, because the "Queen of the Citadels" is home to the French military elite. However, a walk through the secluded parks around the citadel, where there is also a small zoo, is still a good idea.

Wazemmes - Marché Couvert and Maison Folie

The "Maison Folie" by Wazemmes is one of the most spectacular of the "crazy houses" of Lille, France - © Karldupart CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki
© Karldupart CC BY-SA3.0/Wiki

Every Sunday morning, the Wazemmes Marché Couvert opens its doors. It is located southwest of the city centre and takes place partly outdoors and partly in the old market hall. Like the Wazemmes district, its market is characterised by diversity from around 30 nations.

Nearby is also a "Maison Folie". These "crazy houses" were built as part of the Capital of Culture Year 2004 and transform abandoned factory buildings into cultural meeting places. The "Maison Folie" by Wazemmes is one of the most spectacular of Lille's "crazy houses".

Birthplace of Charles de Gaulle (Maison de Gaulle)

Also somewhat off the beaten track, to the north-east of the Citadel, is the house where Charles de Gaulle was born. The famous president was born at No. 9 Rue Princesse on 22 November 1890. It has been open to the public as a museum since 1983.

Nôtre Dame de la Treille Cathedral

After 150 years of construction, Lille's massive cathedral shines as a monumental blend of neo-Gothic and modern, France - © aztec123 / Shutterstock
© aztec123 / Shutterstock

This area is also home to the impressive Lille Cathedral. The magnificent neo-Gothic building was only begun in 1854 and completed shortly before the turn of the millennium. The most striking feature is the modernly designed west façade from 1999.

With its modern west wall and neo-Gothic nave, Lille's episcopal seat is unmistakable worldwide. The spacious interior of the cathedral is bathed in magical light from countless stained glass windows.

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Article: Lille Cathedral

Modern Lille

The office colossus "Tour de Lille" in the modern district of Euralille is the tallest building in Lille, France, at 120 metres - © Production Perig / Shutterstock
© Production Perig / Shutterstock

If you also want to get an impression of the modern part of the city, the north-east is the place to be. Here, around the two railway stations, is the newest district, Euralille, which was only inaugurated in 1994.

The Tour de Lille, an L-shaped office colossus and at 120 metres the tallest building in the city, and the chunky Tour Lilleurope right next door are particularly striking. Both buildings are connected to the Gare Lille-Europe, the city's most important station with Eurostar and TGV connections.

The neighbouring Gare Lille-Flandres is also worth a visit, with its smart late 19th century façade that once belonged to the Belgian railway station in Paris. Shopping centres at the Place d'Europe and the Rue Faidherbe promenade invite you to stroll and shop.

PICTURES: The top 10 sights of Lille

Photo gallery: The top 10 sights of Lille

Related links:

Official tourism website of the city of Lille

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