At under 1 hr 30 mins from London by train, Lille is the perfect place to visit for a day trip. You can spend the morning shopping in the old town, drop into Meert for coffee and waffles, have a hearty plate of moules frites (mussels and chips) for lunch, then pop into the massive Carrefour hypermarket, next to the station, to stock up on fabulous French produce, and still be back in London in time for dinner.
Top 5 things to do and see in Lille
Palais des Beaux-Arts
Located just south of the old centre of Lille, the Palais des Beaux-Arts museum is huge, second in size and number of exhibits only to the Louvre. It’s also a lot less crowded than the Louvre so, if you want to see fabulous paintings, sculpture and other artworks without having to queue for hours, hop on a train and spend your day here.
Saint Maurice church
You’ll probably come across this church at some point as it’s slap bang in the middle of the old town. However, appealing though it is from the outside, it’s worth popping in for a visit. Entry is free and the interior is surprisingly light and airy for a gothic church.
La Vieille Bourse
The impressive 17th century Old Stock Exchange building is one of the best reminders that Lille, and most of Flanders, belonged to the Spanish crown up until 1667. Built around a cloistered courtyard to protect traders from the elements, the building is made up of 24 individual houses, with an archway on each of the four exterior facades leading into the inner courtyard.
Wazemmes is a working-class neighbourhood to the southwest of Lille centre, about a 20-minute walk from the Grand Place. The food market takes place every day, except Monday, in a covered building that dates back to 1869.
This is the main central square in Lille, and is actually officially called Place du Général de Gaulle, in honour of the former French president who was a native of the town. There are some great examples of 17th century Flemish buildings around the square, including the Old Stock Exchange. The Grand Place is a good starting point for a visit to the old town.