Lille is perhaps one of France’s most underrated cities yet when visitors arrive they cannot understand why. She may not have the glitz and glamour that Paris may have, but she shines with a light that simply cannot be ignored.
Lille (L’Isle) was once known as Rijsel in Flemish. Her humble beginnings originate in the 11th century when she was first settled on an island in the River Deûle. She only started to prosper when Louis XIV arrived, leading his men in capturing the city in 1667 from the Flemish. He then began to fortify it and establish a successful textile industry. Lille became famous for this but even more so when the miserable living conditions of her textile workers came to light by Victor Hugo in the 1850s.
Lille’s textile production may have dwindled over time but she has a new reputation for her commercial and cultural appeal. In recent years she has been given a complete transformation, making her vibrant, lively and engaging.
Visitors will not be disappointed in lack of things to do and see as they tour around the city. A popular tourist attraction is the Fine Arts Museum. Known as one of the finest in Europe, this ids the place to come if you are interested in the arts. There are stunning displays of 15th to 20th paintings by world renowned artists including Manet, Rubens and Van Dyck on the first floor, dazzling collections of porcelain and faïence from the surrounding areas on the ground floor, and some exquisite archaeological artifacts in the basement.
If a trip to the Fine Arts Museum has only whetted your appetite for a taste of the arts, the La Piscine Musée d'art et d'industrie will completely satisfy it. The city turned a simple swimming pool into a place of worship for devotees of the arts. In this watery setting, tourists will be amazed by the collections of fine art and sculpture.
France has produced some incredible historical figures throughout the centuries, but a recent one was Charles André Marie Joseph de Gaulle. He was a French WWII Resistance Leader and the architect of the Fifth Republic. The house where was born, Maison natale de charles de gaulle, has been turned into a museum and people are drawn here to understand more about the life and death of the man and impact he had on both the region and the entire country.
Lille has an inexhaustible supply of eye-catching architecture. Some of the very best include the Chambre de Commerce, a neo-Flemish building dating from the 20th century with a gilded clock placed on top of an impressive 76m spire; the La Voix du Nord, where an exquisite sculpture of the Three Graces stands in honor of the city’s resistance to the Austrian siege of 1792; and the Vieille Bourse, a collection of 24 separate houses dating back to 1652. Each will capture the imagination and steal your breath away.
Lille’s chefs are some of the cleverest artists in the country. Old fashioned delights and modern dishes will be both heavenly on the tongue and a feast for the eyes. Restaurants can be found on nearly every corner of this charming city and each will have you salivating in anticipation.
Hotels are some of the best in the country. Whether you are looking for something bright and modern, or utterly decadent in terms of luxury, it can all be found in Lille. But no matter which you prefer the hotel service is genuinely friendly.
With the completion of the Lille Eurostar station, the city has seen an influx of tourists recently, making it one of the most popular and easily accessible destinations in northern France. She has a distinctive modern and cutting-edge atmosphere yet preserving her strong her historical French and Flemish elements.