Cobbled streets in charming Lille
By Helen Wright
Just one hour 20 minutes on the Eurostar from London St Pancras makes Lille, the largest city in Northern France, the perfect easy-reach destination for a long weekend away. In fact, we were happily sipping a glass of champagne in our hotel bar in less time that it would have taken to do our Friday night commute home!
Lille has both Flemish and French influences, which can be seen in everything from the architecture to the food. Plus, fabulous shopping, gourmet delights and charming cobbled streets make Lille ideal for a stunning break in France for those short on time.
Where should I stay?
We stayed at the Best Western Premier Why Hotel on Square Morisson, a five-minute stroll from Lille’s main square, Place Charles de Gaulle, where you’ll find buzzing pavement cafes plus grand buildings dating from the 17th Century.
The modern Why Hotel is the perfect base to explore the city by foot. We loved our bright and airy bedroom, with complimentary L’Occitane products ( a big thumbs up!), bathrobes and slippers in the bathrooms, coffee machine and fridge stocked with free soft drinks and beer. And, if you enjoy a glass of fizz in the bar, they’ll treat you to toast and tapenade.
What can I do?
On a clear day, climb up the Town Hall Belfry, in the Place Charles de Gaulle, for stunning views all over the city. The Lille Opera is just a stone’s throw away on Rue des Bons Enfants and is worth a visit for the amazing architecture alone. The Palais des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts museum), in Place de la République, is beautiful, with a collection only second to the Louvre in Paris, the Hospice Comtesse, on rue de la Monnaie, is a museum on everyday life in 17th century Flanders, while La Piscine museum, in a former art deco swimming pool, is a tube ride away in Roubaix Grand Place. The Cathedral Notre Dame, in the centre of the old town’s charming streets, is an interesting mix of modern and 18th century architecture. A stroll around the woodland surrounded Citadel, built by the Marquis de Vauben on the orders of king Louis XIV in 1667 and currently occupied by NATO army corps is a lovely way to feel like a Lille native.
Where can I shop?
The shopping in Lille is simply amazing! There’s everything from high end designer stores to cute galleries selling work from local artists – and the shops never seemed to feel crowded, even on a Saturday afternoon. With brands such as Longtemps and Michael Kors and a gorgeous beauty hall, the Printemps department store, on rue Nationale, is two minutes from the Why Hotel or head to true de Béthune for high street shops like Morgan, H&M and Zara as well as Galeries Lafayette. We loved the cobbled streets of Vieux Lille (the old town) with designer shops including Louis Vuitton and Hermes and cute art galleries, cafés and pasty shops – on a Sunday locals will queue for hours outside Aux Merveilleux on rue de la Monnaie for their delicious cream filled meringues.
Where should I eat?
You’re spoilt for choice in Lille! Rue de Pas is packed with places to eat. Our favourite was romantic seafood restaurant Jour de Peche, where we feasted on melt-in-the-mouth cod with chorizo among other delights. Meat lovers should head to Le Barbier qui Fume, which is attached to a butchers, and for a glass of champagne in classy surroundings check out the mezzaine bar in the Allaince Couvent des Minimes hotel on Quai du Wault. If you have a sweet tooth, tea house Meert, on rue Esquermoise, serves the most delicious pastries.
Getting there from London
Eurostar operates up to nine daily services from London St Pancras International to Lille with return fares from £69. Fastest London-Lille journey time is 1hr 20 minutes.
Tickets are available from eurostar.com or 08432 186 186. For a special occasion (or to impress your date!), Standard Premier fares start from £189 return, including more spacious seating, a light meal and drinks and a selection of magazines.
Rooms at the Best Western Why Hotel (why-hotel.com) start from £79 per night.