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Most Beautiful Villages in France book

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Official Guide to the Most Beautiful Villages of France

The Official Guide

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Le weekend in…. Lille

lille chambre de commerceWith such easy access from the UK by road or Eurostar Lille (59 Nord, Hauts de France) is a must to visit all year, and remains one of my favourite winter weekends. The combination of modern shopping malls and the nearby Vieux Lille (old town) offer something for everyone.

Where to stay?

Lille has many hotels at all levels of price and luxury.Hotel des Tours in the middle of the attractive Old Town or Le Brueghel very French and centrally situated in a quiet, pedestrian area near the station.

For a more intimate weekend options include interesting B&Bs such as Alix’s Garden.

B&Bs, self-catering apartments and hotels in Lille

ecume des mersWhere to eat – recommended Again there is no shortage of eateries in Lille offering cuisines both local and international.

Two favourites, one for meat, the other for fish are l’Assiette du Marché (market plate) in rue de la Monnaie in Vieux Lille  and   L’Écume des Mers (sea spume) in rue des Pas close to the Grand Place. Both offer high quality dishes with excellent service.

Where to eat – gourmet

mosaic- l'Huitriere

Without doubt the finest dining experience in Lille must be l’Huitrière (oystery) on the edge of Vieux Lille  (3 rue des Chats Bossus) – superb art deco setting and top notch fish (oysters, lobsters,  turbot etc) – certainly not cheap but a gastronomic delight! 4 Michelin knives and forks. You can also window shop (and buy) fresh fish and other delicacies in the front of the building.

Where to eat – value for money

There are plenty of more modest restaurants in Lille to suit all pockets – a typical aux moules logobustling brasserie is Aux Moules (mussels) in rue de Bethune – a pedestrianised street  in the city centre.  They offer a full menu including their specialty – and a good Moules Frites can be unbeatable.

Local wine/drink –

The proximity of Belgium ensures that Beer is a local favourite. Many bars offer a wide range of interesting beers from Northern France, Belgium and beyond – and there are numerous micro-breweries in the centre of Lille such as Les 3 Brasseurs (3 brewers) in place de la Gare opposite Lille Flandres railway station.

Local food:
Fish features strongly in this Flemish part of France – Moules Frites (Mussels and Chips) is probably the most familiar local specialty – others not so recognisable – Carbonnade flamande (small chunks of beef stewed in beer), waterzoï (poultry or fish in a creamy sauce, served with baby vegetables) and potjevleesch (literally “small potted meat”, a white meat terrine in aspic).
Local markets

The Wazemmes Market in place de la Nouvelle Aventure takes place on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings with food, flowers, fabrics and exotic products. One of the largest markets in France, it can also be one of the liveliest (up to 50,000 visitors some Sundays). Colourful, with a “Soho” atmosphere, you’ll often hear an accordion being played.


No shortage of shopping opportunies in the City Centre – with several malls – e.g. the Euralille mall near the stations and may interesting small shops in the old town. For fine food shopping  the Meert  Café and Patisserie on rue Esquermoise home of the Meert Waffle, and Philippe Olivier  in rue du Cure St Etienne) for an excellent selection of bread and pastries.

Must see:

Vieux Lille, the Grand Place. the Chambre de Commece, the Hotel de Ville and  the fine flemish buildings around the Place du Theatre.

A bit of culture: The Palais  des Beaux Arts in place de la Republique houses prestigious collections of European painting (Rubens, Van Dyck, Goya, Delacroix…) and offers some peace away from the bustle and rumble of the city centre.

For a walk: For all that it is big modern city, it is worth a stroll around  Vauban Citadelle, just a short walk beyond the city centre. This impressive star-shaped castle on rue Vauban was built by Napoleon’s military archictect in the 17th century. As it is still used as a military barracks, you need to check with the local tourist office for those dates when it is open to the public. But there is the Vauban garden which the public can access at all times for a stroll.

lille carouselFor the children: Bring the children for the annual Christmas market when the Grand Place is transformed into a snowy Cavern with twinking lights and a Carousel – plus a busy Christmas market in nearby Place Rihour -full of seasonal cheer. (mid November – 31 December)

Getting there:

Easy – being so close to the English Channel. Travel time to Lille by road/ferry – just an hour from Calais, less from Dunkerque – see P&O to Calais and DFDS to Dunkerque.

Eurostar trainOr take the Eurostar to Lille

Getting around:

Transpole offers a comprehensive public transport network with a modern Metro system and 2 tram lines which cross the city centre and serve both railway stations. However most of the main points of interest are within walking distance of the city centre.

Staying longer?:The city is close to many of the First World War battlegrounds – e.g. Ypres and Paschendaele just over the border. Brussels and Waterloo are a bit further – and a favourite of mine is the art deco swimming pool at Tourcoing (part of the Lille conurbation) La Piscine – converted into an impressive Museum of Art and Industry – and it is on the Metro line about 40 minutes from Lille City Centre.

When to go?

Lively throughout the year, but you might consider

Lille 3000

In 2019 the city hosts an exciting cultural celebration as part of its ongoing Lille 3000 programme – 27 April – 01 December 2019 when the theme is Eldorado and the guest of honour is Mexico

La Grande Braderie de Lille every year in early September  (31 August – 1 September 2019) –  the biggest flea market in Europe which runs across a weekend in early September each year with 100 km of stands, 10,000 vendors and 1 to 2 million visitors! – but beware that the City gets very busy and the traffic is impossible on the Braderie weekend.

Lille Wine Fair of the independent winegrowers (Vignerons Independents) which is held mid-November  with the opportunity to taste and buy from winemakers from all across France – dates

Tourcoing Jazz Festival 12-19 October 2019 – see

Lille Christmas Market – late November to New Year – Carousel, Christmas Village and a real feel of Christmas – check dates

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