Cities, Europe, Travel Guides

10 of the Best Things to Do in Lille, France (2022 Travel Guide)

Discover 10 of the best things to do in Lille, France. Includes practical information on how to plan and book your visit, plus things to do in Roubaix.

In this post, you’ll discover 10 of the best things to do in Lille, France.

Lille is conveniently located in the north-eastern tip of France, close to the Belgian border, making it easy to visit for those in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and England. Add the fact that Lille is very well connected by railway (including via high speed lines) and it’s a wonder why it took us so long to visit.

At the end of this guide, we’ll go through how to plan and book your trip to Lille. We’ve also included a couple of things to do in Roubaix, a neighbouring city that has become a part of the greater metropolitan area of Lille.

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Is Lille worth visiting?

Yes, definitely! Lille has plenty of things to see and do and a wide enough variety of things to interest most people. It’s really easy to explore the city on foot and by the well integrated public transport network. We really liked how chilled out the city felt and we liked that there was a good mix of grand buildings and grittier, characterful neighbourhoods.

Things to do in Lille, France

Close to the end of this post, we’ve included some things to do in neighbouring Roubaix (which is a part of the greater Lille metropolitan area). Before that though, let’s discover some of the best things to do in Lille itself.

We used a Lille City Pass during our visit (which was kindly gifted to us by Lille Tourism). The City Pass gives free access to 29 of Lille’s best attractions, plus free unlimited use of the public transport network. Get your Lille City Pass!*

La Grand Place is the city's main square and is always busyPin
La Grand Place is the city’s main square and is always busy
Cafes and bistros spill out into the squarePin
Cafes and bistros spill out into the square

La Grand Place (Main Square)

Address: Pl. du Général de Gaulle, 59800 Lille, France
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A great starting place for your explorations in Lille. Here, you’ll get a really good feel for the place and you’ll be able to enjoy some of Lille’s fabulous architecture. Surrounding the square are cafes and restaurants that are housed within buildings dating back to the 17th century and sport a distinctly Flemish style, a nod towards the city’s status as ‘Capital of Flanders’.

Occasionally, events are held in the square and around Christmas, a huge Ferris Wheel is erected offering fabulous views of the city centre below.

The inner courtyard of La Vieille Bourse, LillePin
The inner courtyard of La Vieille Bourse, Lille
Book stalls are a permanent feature inside The inner courtyard of La Vieille Bourse. Make sure you have a rummagePin
Book stalls are a permanent feature inside the inner courtyard of La Vieille Bourse. Make sure you have a rummage

La Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange)

Address: Pl. du Général de Gaulle, 59000 Lille, France
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Often described as Lille’s finest building, La Vieille Bourse is located adjacent to La Grand Place and is a gorgeous example of 17th century Flemish Renaissance architecture. Visitors are welcome to wander into the inner courtyard where secondhand booksellers routinely set up shop, chess players do battle and locals meet their friends before going on to night’s out.

Do make sure you browse the stalls for treasures. There are English language books hidden away, but the French language books should also be of interest. There’s also stamp collections, artworks, posters and magazines available. Dig through the stacks to see what you can find.

Wazemmes Market has indoor and outdoor market stallsPin
Wazemmes Market has indoor and outdoor market stalls
Some of the locally grown produce at Wazemmes MarketPin
Some of the locally grown produce at Wazemmes Market

Marché de Wazemmes (Wazemmes Market)

Address: Pl. Nouvelle Aventure, 59000 Lille, France
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For a snapshot of everyday life in Lille, Marche de Wazemmes provides beautifully. There are two parts to the market – a covered market that operates everyday of the week and an expansive outdoor market that runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

The market is one of the largest in the whole of France and is a great place to find good value food, flowers, clothing and fabrics. We visited in the pouring rain, yet even then, the atmosphere was buzzing.

The surrounding area offers lots of decent food options, particularly world cuisine, though not too many obvious vegan options unfortunately.

Porte de Paris certainly has a Parisian air about itPin
Porte de Paris certainly has a Parisian air about it

Porte de Paris

Address: Pl. Simon Vollant, 59800 Lille, France
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In 1667, Louis XIV captured Lille and to mark the occasion, this stunning triumphal arch was constructed. The arch is currently undergoing some restoration work, but it’s still easy to see how impressive and grand it is.

The arch resides on a quiet roundabout surrounded by residential buildings that have a very strong resemblance to buildings in Paris itself, so for a moment (and from certain angles), you could almost convince yourself you were in Paris.

Adjacent to the arch is Beffroi de Lille (below), considered by many as the architectural icon of Lille.

The iconic Beffroi de l'Hôtel de Ville is one of the best things to do in LillePin
The iconic Beffroi de l’Hôtel de Ville is one of the best things to do in Lille

Beffroi de l’Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall Belfry)

Address: Pl. Simon Vollant, 59000 Lille, France
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The 104 metre high Beffroi de Lille is not just a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a building that’s often used to represent the entire city. The Classic Art-Deco style somewhat disguises its relative youth – after the original was destroyed in World War I, the tower we see today was opened as recently as 1932. From the top, the views are stunning, though the height is certainly not for the faint hearted.

Booking a guided visit is essential* and must be done at least 24 hours in advance. Regretfully, the tower is not suitable for those with limited mobility.

The Lille City Pass will give you free access to this attraction. Get your Lille City Pass!*

The impressive exterior of Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille, FrancePin
The impressive exterior of Palais des Beaux Arts in Lille, France
Inside Palais des Beaux Arts, you'll mostly find fine arts, but there is some modern art to be found tooPin
Inside Palais des Beaux Arts, you’ll mostly find fine arts, but there is some modern art to be found too

Palais des Beaux Arts

Address: Pl. de la République, 59000 Lille, France
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If you enjoy fine arts and antiquities, a visit to Palais des Beaux Arts will feel like all your Christmases have come at once. Inside its stately galleries, you’ll find paintings by Rembrandt, Goya, Delacroix and Rodin to name but four. The building itself is grand and intimidating and, if you go whilst its dark outside, the dim lighting inside sets quite a mood.

For those who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves fans of fine art (that’ll be me), there are some modern art pieces on display too, as well as a carousel of temporary exhibits that may spark some interest.

The Lille City Pass will give you free access to this attraction. Get your Lille City Pass!*

Passage des Trois Anguilles is Lille's narrowest streetPin
Passage des Trois Anguilles is Lille’s narrowest street

Vieux-Ville (Old Town) and Passage des Trois Anguilles

The cobbled streets of Lille’s Old Town are normally busy for a reason. From La Grand Place, wander along Rue Esquermoise and you’ll encounter storefront after storefront of cute boutiques and shops, independent cafes who take their coffee very seriously and welcoming bistros with steamed up windows. As you walk along, narrow alleyways and streets lead off invitingly – don’t be afraid to get lost, it’s easy to find your way back. Vieux-Ville is ideal for the casual explorer with no where in particular to go.

Whilst you’re in the area, try to find Passage des Trois Anguilles. It’s the narrowest street in the city.

Outside Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, you'll find large sculpturesPin
Outside Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, you’ll find large sculptures
Inside the Museum of Modern Art, there's plenty of galleries to explorePin
Inside the Museum of Modern Art, there’s plenty of galleries to explore

LaM (Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art)

Address: 1 All. du Musée, 59650 Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France
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Located in neighbouring Villeneuve-d’Ascq (which itself is a part of the greater Lille metropolitan area), LaM is home to over 4500 pieces of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Galleries are bright and minimalist and full of paintings, sculptures, photography and electronic media. Outside, you’ll find some much larger sculptures nestled amidst the greenery of the garden.

The museum has a car park, but for most visitors, you’ll want either bus 32 or L6. Whilst you’re in the area, you might like to grab a breather in Parc du Héron, an enormous green space just to the south of the museum.

The Lille City Pass will give you free access to this attraction. Get your Lille City Pass!*

Things to do in Roubaix

One of the best things to do in Lille is visiting La PiscinePin
One of the best things to do in Lille is visiting La Piscine

La Piscine Museum

Address: 23 Rue de l’Espérance, 59100 Roubaix, France
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There’s always something super exciting about a brand new museum, but this one is particularly special. Opened in 2001, La Piscine (as the name might suggest) is set inside a former swimming baths where its breathtaking Art Deco interior has been wonderfully restored and accentuated. This really is one of the best things to do in Lille.

The museum’s permanent collection includes fine arts, industrial artefacts and cultural heritage. New galleries have been constructed to house some of the exhibits, but the headline really is the former pool house. Wander through a former changing cubicle and you emerge into a hall that’s bookended by stunning stained glass windows. Photos really don’t do any justice to how beautiful it is in real life.

Metro line 2 runs from Lille city centre all the way to Roubaix. For La Piscine alight at Gare Jean Lebas and wander a short distance down Av. Jean Lebas (on the way, you’ll pass the tourist office). You can also take the tram or bus, but it’s much slower.

The Lille City Pass will give you free access to this attraction. Get your Lille City Pass!*

Le Grand Bassin is a creator collective and storePin
Le Grand Bassin is a creator collective and store

Le Grand Bassin

Address: 27 Rue de l’Espérance, 59100 Roubaix, France
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Right next door to La Piscine is La Grand Bassin, a makers collective and concept store. Inside, 50 creators have their wares on display and available for purchase for pretty reasonable prices. There’s some wonderfully quirky and unique stuff available, so take your time to browse and to appreciate how diverse and alive the local artistic community is.

Plan & Book your visit to Lille, France

We hope you found our list of things to do in Lille useful. In this section, we’ll go through how you can plan and book your visit to Lille. As you’ll quickly discover, Lille is very easy to get to and even easier to get around.

Trains to Lille

For many visitors, arriving by train will be the best option.

Lille is very well connected by rail to cities across Europe, not just on regular train lines but on high-speed lines that stretch across France, across the border to Belgium and The Netherlands and of course, underneath the English Channel (la Manche) to London.

We took the Eurostar from London*, through the Channel Tunnel, arriving at Gare de Lille-Europe which is right in the city centre. It really couldn’t have been easier.

Before booking your train tickets, do check to see if taking the bus is a better option for you (see below for details). For some journeys, it’s both quicker (or at least comparably quick) and considerably cheaper to take the bus.

Booking your train tickets in advance not only brings peace of mind, it also often means you pay the lowest fare. To find the best value train tickets to Lille from anywhere, we recommend Trainline*.

Since trains produce significantly less CO2 than planes, taking the train is a Responsible Travel Choice.

Flights to Lille

Aéroport de Lille operates mostly domestic flights though there are some international flights to/from Poland, Portugal and the Canary Islands.

Train services to/from Lille are so competitive is terms of both service and price that we wouldn’t recommend flying into Lille unless it really can’t be avoided.

If you really do have to fly, Skyscanner* is a great place to start your search for the best prices on flights to Lille. They compare fares from multiple airlines and travel agents all at once and they make finding more eco-friendly operators very easy.

Transfers from the airport

A Shuttle Bus is in operation, taking flight passengers to/from the city centre in around 20 minutes. Timetables fit around flight times but generally, buses leave the terminal every 30 minutes and drop off right in the city centre.

Buses to Lille

Long distance buses operate numerous services a day to Lille from Paris, London, Brussels and further afield. Prices are at worst, competitive and at best, a steal. In fact, in many cases, taking the bus is probably better than taking the train.

Search and compare bus fares with Busbud*, which offers comprehensive and up-to-date timetable and ticket price information for destinations all over the world.

Taking public transport is a Responsible Travel Choice, as sharing your journey with others is much better for the environment than taking journeys by car.

Getting around Lille

Driverless trains, buses and trams combine to create one of the best integrated urban transport networks in Europe. Getting around is both easy and good value (particularly if you have a Lille City Pass*).

Tickets for the transport network can be purchased from vending machines that provide English language instructions.

The city centre is quite compact and easily explored on foot. Much of the city centre has been partially pedestrianised. For those with limited mobility, the city centre is mostly flat, though there are a lot of cobbled streets.

The Lille City Pass will give you free and unlimited use of the public transport network as well as free access to 29 of Lille’s top attractions. Get your Lille City Pass!*

The Queen Christine guesthouse in Lille, FrancePin
The Queen Christine guesthouse in Lille, France

Places to stay in Lille

As you might expect with Lille being a large city, there are plenty of places to stay during your trip to suit all kinds of budget.

We stayed at the Queen Christine guesthouse* in the neighbouring city of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, which is directly connected to Lille city centre by Metro line 2. The guesthouse is run by Christine who has carefully designed each of the four guest rooms in tasteful and unique styles. The room designs have caught a lot of attention, having been featured in style magazines. Continental breakfast in included in the price, though the only vegan option was fresh bread and homemade jams (which were all wonderful). Find out more about Queen Christine*

Our choice in the city centre would have to be Mama Shelter*, which is located close to Lille Europe station. Rooms are contemporary and quirky and come with free Wifi, a mini fridge, a safe, luxury bedding, free streaming movies and organic, solid soaps. The hotel is skewed towards adults with some rather kinky special offers available on their website. Find out more about Mama Shelter*

For general accommodation searches, we recommend Tripadvisor*.

Activities, Tours & Excursions in Lille

To find out which activities, tours and excursions are available in Lille, we recommend GetYourGuide*.

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