Lille is perhaps one of Northern France's best kept secrets, the former European city of culture has something for everyone ranging from museums, restaurants to a lively night scene. Right on the edge of the french-belgian border Lille is seems closer to Brussels than Paris in experience but without the big city mentality. The lively working class area of Wazemmes with its bustling Sunday markets is a must aswell as an afternoon spent strolling around the old town.
Lille is renowned for it's food and there are many great restaurants throughout the town, it is advisable to book in advance where possible as some places can get very popular. Note that lunch is served between 12-2 with most places closing again till 7pm.
Lille comes alive at night with many bars staying open till late and it is quite possible to stay up till dawn, be aware though, that is
Lille is situated on the French/Belgian border and usual EU entry requirements apply. The main currency for France is the Euro and there are plenty of ATMs dotted about the city and nearly all places accept Visa, Mastercard or Maestro. The city itself is very safe and visitors shouldn't experience any problems. It is worthwhile learning some basic French as most of the less touristy bars and restaurants are generally French speaking only and even if you make an attempt to speak the language you will find you get a more positive response. Be aware that a lot of shops and museums are closed on Sunday so its best to plan your time accordingly.
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Lille has a very similar climate to London
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Getting there / Public Transport
Lille was really put on the map by the arrival of the Eurostar Terminal (Eurolille) and its most likely that this will be your method of arrival. Train times from London are about 2 hours so it makes a weekend break very attractive, quite often the best deals can be had on Eurostars' train ticket and hotel deals, we recently paid about £170 for return tickets to Lille from London and 3 nights accomodation in a 2 star hotel.
Lille airport is situated outside town and is easily accessible by rail and bus.
Getting around Lille is easy and in most cases you can walk everywhere, although should you tire you can jump on the Metro (3 stop ZAP tickets cost about €0,60)
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Where to stay
If you can buy your train ticket and accommodation as part of one deal as it normally works out cheaper. Lille is normally busier in the week due to business travellers although it can also get busy around the time of the Jazz festival in September so its advisable to book ahead
Comfort Hotel - Cheap hotel right in the middle of town with clean facilities, breakfast costs 9 Euros.
Where to go
Hotel de Ville - Climb the Belfry for spectacular views of Central Lille
Palais des Beaux-Arts - A close rival to the Louvre but on a smaller scale, this museum contains features works of Goya, Donatello, Veronese and much more
Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange) - Seventeenth Century Old Stock Exchange designed by architect Julien Destrée is a wonderful example of the Flemish baroque style.
Wazemmes Market (Place de Nouvelle Adventure) - A diverse, sprawling street market held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, where nearly every culture is represented. Hang around afterwards and join the locals at the many bars/cafes to the sides of the square
Eurolille Mall - Vast shopping mall next to the Eurostar terminus, designer good can be got at reasonable prices
Meert (27 Rue Esquermoise) - Eighteenth Century Patisserie which used to serve Royalty throughout the ages, try the speciality Waffles or browser the impressive chocolate collection.
Musee d'Art Moderne - A train/bus journey from the centre, currently closed for renovation (as of April 2007)
Arras - Take a day trip to Arras (45 min by train) where you can view the tunnels used by the Resistance during World War II
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Cafés and bars
Cafe Oz (33, Place des Bettignies) - Large Aussie bar in centre of town with Sports screens and lively atmosphere on evenings and weekends. Outside seating available, drinks are on the pricey side although arrive early evening for 2 for 1 cocktails.
MacEwans (8, Place Sébastopol) - Side street Scottish bar with traditional wooden interior and an impresseive selection of Belgain/French beers
L'Oxford Castle (Rue St.Pierre St Paul) - Relaxed bar on square by the church with outside seating a good place to people watch, get there early for a seat though, especially on market days.
Les Tilleuels (Rue St.Pierre St Paul) - Next to L'Oxford Castle, same above applies
Maison du le Moulin d'or (31-33 Place du Theatre) - Chilled bar right in the centre.
L'Illustration Cafe - Smoky cafe bar playing soulful tunes, popular with writers and students. A great place to spend a few hours contemplation over a coffee or a beer.
Le Palace Cafe (3 Rue Ernest Deconynck) - Pool hall thats open 7 days a week till dawn. 10 Euros for an hours pool
Balaton - 70s revisited in this cool bar where DJs spin cool tunes
Le Decale (Rue Masséna) - Very relaxed friendly bar playing rock/indie music. The bar is lined up with an interesting assortment of pickled aperitifs for the adventurous, although avoid the large one with chillies in it! Ask the bar tender to make you a Mojito, at only 3 Euros a bargain. Sky Sports is shown here.
Le Latina Cafe (Rue Masséna) - Large Latin bar that somehow fails to recreate the atmosphere of a latin/cuba bar, seems more like a chain.
La Guapa Bar (Place du Nouvelle Adventure) - Latino bar on the corner of Place du Nouvelle Adventure, a good place to rest your feet after the market and people watch, although a word of warning don't sit on the tables right next to the road as you may get squashed by one of the many trucks/vans leaving the market!
Au Presto (Place du Nouvelle Adventure) - Lively student bar which puts on bands
Cafe Relax (Place du Nouvelle Adventure) - Mad corner cafe which always seems full, merry regulars jostle for space in a harmonious manner, don't expect to enjoy a quiet drink here, but it is a great place to mix with the locals. Go on Sundays to check out the live Chanson music.
The Pub (Rue Masséna) - Popular but pretentious dim lit bar playing modern chart music
Cardiac Pub (Rue Masséna)- An interesting little bar playing the likes of Floyd, Queen, punk techno and 80 electronica
Africa's Children (1 rue de la Barre) - Great fun bar serving up lethal rum cocktails, expect a big friendly welcome here.
La Cave au Fioles - Supposedly good restaurant which was recommended to us, however, despite the fact the restaurant was empty, the waiter suddenly decided they were full when we tried to book for the next day he said they were fully booked, I suggest that they may have a rather anal entry policy here!
Le Barbue d'Anvers (1 bis rue St.Ettiene) - An old 3 Storey 16th Century building houses a delightfully warm and welcoming restaurant with traditional Flemish dishes and helpful staff. The free aperitifs of lemon couscous, bacon , onion, lettuce and cucumber are tasty! Cost: Mid range
ti Risjel (25 rue de Gand) - If you want an authentic french/flemish culinary experience head here to this rustic restaurant. They have a large selection of Juniper aperitifs and flavoured sausages in way of aperitifs For a starter try the mixed plate of fruit pates. For a main the beer in gingerbread and beer is delicious. Be sure to book at least a night ahead. Cost: Cheap.
Honey and Pie - Small tea room/cafe serving coffee, pastries and nice baguettes, a good place to go if you don't want to wait for the slow service on the Grand Place!
Chez Justine (Place de Nouvelle Adventure) - Small street side cafe next to the market serving moules and frites. You can also get horse meat in a beer sauce here if you so desire. Cost: Cheap
La Compostelle (rue saint-Etienne) - Beautiful restaurant split into four rooms in an old building dating back to the 17th Century. The service here is top notch and you can try the Discovery dishes which offers a delicious fried Fois gras starter or crab mousse, asparagus spears, vinaigrette and shellfish. Following that you get a choice of either fish or meat taster dishes, the fish choice it has to be said was a little disappointing but they made up for it with a choice of 2 dessert options, spice or strawberry. This place is well worth it if you want to try top quality cuisine and can't afford L’Houblonnière (this one is reputed to be the most expensive restaurant in Lille so we couldn't afford to review it!) Cost: Mid Range to High
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Info supplied by Andy Webb (April 2007)