City Guides Hauts-de-France

Best Things to Do in Lille, France


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Visit Lille in Northern France

The beautiful city of Lille, in Northern France, is the capital of the region Hauts-de-France. Lille delights everyone with its Flemish heritage, visible in every corner.

While in Lille, you will be astonished by the beauty of the Old Town with the lively streets and many buildings listed as Historical Monuments. If you love art, history, delicious food, and relaxing walks, you will love Lille! The city is also known internationally for the “Grande Braderie.” This annual flea market (the biggest in France) takes place on the weekend of the first Sunday of September but is only one of the many things to see in Lille.

In July and August 2024, Lille will host the handball and basketball competitions during the Paris Summer Olympics 2024. Keep reading to discover our suggestions for things to do in Lille, France, for an unforgettable holiday.

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Top Experiences and Tours in Lille

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What to Do in Lille, France

Lille is one of the best weekend getaways from Paris, thanks to the fast TGV train connection with the French capital. The city also has easy TGV train connections from London, Bruxelles, and Amsterdam.

What to do in Lille? Here’s the list of the best things to do in Lille, France – places to visit and activities in Lille – with something for every traveler.

1. Take a Walking Tour of the Old Town

There is nothing better than taking a walking tour of Lille’s Old Town to admire its stunning architecture and discover the city’s history and heritage. Lille belongs to the historical region of Flanders, and the Flemish influence is so deep that the city is still known in France as the “Capital of Flanders.”

That’s why Lille’s architecture, food, and traditions are similar to that of the Netherlands and Belgium. If you are ready to visit Lille on foot, we recommend you join this walking tour. For a more fun and adventurous tour of Lille’s Old Town, opt instead for this segway tour.

2. Hôtel de Ville’s Belfry

Lille - Hauts-de-France

Lille’s Town Hall is a magnificent Art Deco building that is a must-visit! This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a beautiful belfry that dominates the entire city with its 104 meters of height.

The Hôtel de Ville was built in the early 20th century in a classic Flemish style but reconstructed in Art Deco style after being destroyed during World War I.

The best part of the visit to the Town Hall is the breathtaking view of Old Lille you can admire from the top of the tower. To visit this spot, we suggest you purchase the Lille’s City Pass (24 or 48 hours), which also includes access to the Hotel de Ville’s Belfry. Discover Lille’s most famous monuments, get free public transport, and save money with the Lille City Pass.

3. Grand Place

Lille’s central square is the city’s main meet-up place for both locals and tourists. Surrounded by old gabled buildings, the square’s official name is Place du Général Charles de Gaulle, the first President of the Fifth Republic who was born and raised in the city.

The Grand Place is the perfect place to admire Lille’s history and heritage, as its buildings are in classic Flemish style and date back to the 17th century. Here and there, you will also see some Art Deco buildings.

Relax in one of the many restaurants and bars around the square for a great meal, a beer, and some people-watching.

4. Vieille Bourse /Old Stock Market

One of Lille’s most beautiful buildings is the Old Stock Market. Built in the mid-17th century by Julien Destrée, the Vieille Bourse is made of 24 identical houses surrounding an arched courtyard.

The Old Stock Market boasts a Flemish Renaissance facade, finely decorated. The same opulence can be seen in other parts, such as the windows, doors, and the courtyard’ pilasters.

Listed as a Historical Monument, the inner courtyard features books, flower stalls, and chess players’ tables. Among locals’ favorite spots, Vieille Bourse’s courtyard also hosts tango and salsa performances during the summer.

5. Marché de Wazemmes

If you like shopping and mingling with locals, don’t skip the Marché de Wazemmes in Lille. Held in Place Nouvelle Aventure on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings, this is one of France’s largest outdoor markets.

Marché de Wazemmes will strike you with its fragrances thanks to the many stalls selling spices and exotic fruits and vegetables from North Africa and the Middle East.

Strolling around the market, you will also find stalls with typical French food products, like cheeses, and many other objects, from clothing to antiques.

Browse the Marché de Wazemmes, one of the best places to visit in Lille, for a very local experience!

6. Admire the Citadel from Outside

Nicknamed “the Queen of Citadels”, Lille’s Citadel still is a French military base, so you can’t enter the building. However, the citadel is surrounded by 60 hectares of park which is the locals’ favorite place to enjoy the outdoors when there is nice weather.

The star-shaped citadel was designed by the famed military engineer Vauban in 1667 after King Louis XIV conquered the city.

Walk towards the citadel to admire its various gates and outer walls, then head to the park’s many landmarks.

7. Taste Lille’s Local Food

Carbonade Flamande - Lille

A must-do in Lille is trying the delicious local food. The city has a unique culinary tradition, predominantly Flemish.

Among the many hearty dishes, make sure to try the Carbonade Flamande, a beef stew with the meat slow-cooked in a flavorful mix of sugar, beer, mustard, herbs, and spices. End your meal in Lille with a slice of tarte au sucre, a brioche-based cake covered in butter, egg, and a lot of sugar.

Check out our Lille food guide to learn what to eat in Lille. A great idea to sample Lille’s food is by joining a food tour, and this one with four tastings always gets excellent reviews.  

8. Visit the Museum of Beaux-Arts

Lille has one of the richest museums in France, the Museum of Beaux-Arts. Housed in a huge Belle Époque palace, it displays impressive collections of paintings and sculptures from antiquity to the 21st century.

One of the top Lille attractions, the more prominent galleries are entirely dedicated to the works of some of the most famous painters of all time, such as Rubens, Goya, Delacroix, Courbet, and Rodin – just to name a few. Besides its incredible permanent collections, the Palais des Beaux-Arts has interesting temporary exhibitions that change constantly.

Whether you are an art lover or not, this museum is one of the best things to do in Lille!

9. Visit Charles de Gaulle’s Family House

The politician Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille in 1890, and visiting his family house is one of the best things to do in Lille, France. 

The house is located on 9 Rue Princesse and is listed as a Historic Monument. It now houses a museum where visitors can discover de Gaulle’s childhood through family keepsakes and personal objects.

Charles de Gaulle’s family house perfectly shows the atmosphere of a typical late 19th-century middle-class home in Lille and Northern France, and the entrance is included in the Lille City Pass.

10. Take a Day Trip to Roubaix Swimming Pool

One of the best Lille day trips, which you can visit with the Lille City Pass, is the Roubaix Swimming Pool. Located on Lille’s outskirts, this former municipal swimming pool built in an Art Deco style is a must on any visit to Lille. In 2001, the venue was turned into a museum, displaying rich collections of paintings, sculptures, industrial artifacts, and textiles.

As much as the works shown are beautiful and interesting, what makes La Piscine worth a visit is the building itself, which has been considered the most beautiful swimming pool in France for decades.

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