LILLE

A Weekend in Lille (PART ONE)

LILLE

By Elisa Fourt

When people plan their Euro-trip, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels or London are usually cities they do not want to miss out on. Most of them though, don’t think about a smaller one, situated within two hours or less from these four key destinations: Lille (pronounced « Leel »). Located in the North of France, Lille is a charming and dynamic city where spending a week-end will definitely give you another taste of the French culture and a new perspective on what the French way of life can be like. And if you don’t know what to do or where to start from when you get there, just follow the guide…

PART ONE

Saturday AM

Head to “La Grand’Place” (understand “The Big Square”), which is the meeting point for many “Lillois” (locals from Lille and its surroundings) when they want to get together. Once you’re there, make sure to take a look at the big fountain and don’t miss “La Vieille Bourse”, a small closed square opening on La Grand’Place, where you can read and buy cheap books in what used to be Lille’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, at the beginning of the XXth Century.

If you want to start your day with a good breakfast and are not especially on a budget, you should definitely try the most famous tearoom/sweets shop/restaurant in Lille: “Meert”. The place opened as a chocolate shop in 1761 and still is one of Lille’ symbols nowadays. Meert is a two minutes’ walk away from La Grand’Place (27th Esquermoise street). Make sure you try their specialty: vanilla stuffed waffles.

If you don’t want to spend too much money however, other great places to have waffles at are “Kokoa” and “Be Yourself”. These two restaurants are much less traditional, but serve great food as well. Plus, Kokoa produces its own ice-cream flavors all year long and Be Yourself sells the most delicious cookies you could ask for. Kokoa is situated beside La Vieille Bourse and you’ll find Be Yourself on the Morisson Square, two minutes away from La Grand’Place.

After a good breakfast, head to “Le Vieux Lille”, the city’s old quarter. Its buildings were built before the XIXth century and all the streets are paved. It is the most traditional place in Lille, very pleasant to wander around for a few hours. You will find lots of local shops there, as well as some small parks and many restaurants and cafés. While you’re in the old quarter, check out the “Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille” cathedral. Another sport you shouldn’t miss is Charles de Gaulle’s childhood house (9th Princess street), which is now a museum dedicated to this political figure.

Saturday PM

After a long walk across Le Vieux Lille, stop by “Le Broc” (32, Louise de Bettignies square) for lunch, a restaurant where every recipe contains cheese. A true French experience! Once you’re full and ready to go, leave the old quarter and head towards “Le Quartier Vauban” (the Vauban Neighborhood). Home to many private universities, this neighborhood also leads to another of Lille’s jewels: the Citadel. Built in the XVIIth century as a military monument, it now refers to the huge park around it where locals like to spend time on week-ends.

When you’ ve had your dose of fresh air and greenery for the day, head back towards the city center and discover the pavement every local walks on at least once a week in “La Rue de Béthune” (Béthune Street). This pedestrian street is located between two keys monuments in Lille: “Le Palais des Beaux Arts” (the city’s fine art museum: another thing you don’t want to miss while in Lille!) and “L’Opéra” (the Opera Room). La Rue de Béthune is a place where everyone goes shopping and even if you don’t want to buy anything, you cannot miss it as it is the most popular and busiest street.

After hours wandering around, you should enjoy a good dinner at “Les Trois Brasseurs” (the 3 Brewers), a microbrewery-restaurant concept originating from generations of brewing tradition, located right beside Lille’s main train station: “Gare Lille Flandres”. There, you shall try the Flammekueche, a typical dish similar to a pizza with thinner dough and different ingredients.

Finish the night at “La Rue Solférino” (Solférino street), where you’ll find plenty of bars and pubs and a few night clubs. A lot of people gather there on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights so it’ll give you the chance to have a chat or party with the locals!

Photo credits : http://www.xpats.com/lille-good-neighbours

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