Weekend in Lille: A Guide to the Best Things to Do

Last Updated on 28/09/2023 by secretmoona

Flemish style building façade in Lille - Weekend in Lille

If you’re looking for ideas for your next trip to France, why not consider Lille? It’s the capital of the Hauts-de-France region, and spending a weekend in Lille is an excellent way to explore the vibrant city. While Lille is famous for its September flea market, there are many other reasons to visit. The city has a rich history and heritage, an eclectic mix of French and Flemish architecture, and plenty of exciting activities to make your weekend in Lille unforgettable. You’ll also discover unique gastronomy and a fantastic atmosphere.

Lille is easily accessible, with direct rail links to London, Brussels, and Amsterdam, and it’s just an hour away from Paris by high-speed train. With its eco-friendly approach, it’s an ideal destination for a quick city break. So why not explore the capital of Flanders and discover all the amazing things to do that will make your weekend in Lille unforgettable?

Weekend in Lille – Top Things to Do

Admire the architecture of Grand Place

People walking in Grand Place, Lille France- weekend Lille
Lille Grand Place, also known as the Place du Général de Gaulle

The Grand Place, also known as the Place du Général de Gaulle in honour of Lille’s most famous citizen, serves as the central hub of the city. It is surrounded by Flemish-style buildings from the 17th century that house restaurants and cafes. 

Exploring the town square allows you to understand the significance of Lille as the “capital of Flanders.” The square provides an ideal location to soak in the city’s ambience and serves as a perfect starting point for exploring Lille. 

During December, the square transforms into a winter wonderland, with the Christmas market taking centre stage. Festive lights, decorative stalls, and food are set up for the last big event of the year.

There are two other squares located on each side of the Grand Place that you should check out: Place Rihour and Place du Théâtre. At Place Rihour, you can appreciate the Palais Rihour, which was constructed in the 15th century under the reign of Philippe the Good. The Tourist Office is situated within this palace, so it’s worth taking a peek inside. On the opposite side, you will come across the Theater Square, which is home to two magnificent buildings: the Lille Opera House and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Street view of Lille - Near Porte de Paris - What to do in Lille

Explore the Old Stock Market (Vieille Bourse)

Lille’s Vieille Bourse, also known as the “Old Stock Exchange”, is a stunning building that is definitely worth a visit. The structure was built in the 17th century and is made up of 24 identical houses that surround a beautiful arched courtyard. The Flemish Renaissance facade is exquisitely decorated, making it a sight to behold.

This building is considered a Historical Monument, and inside the courtyard, you’ll find second-hand book stalls and tables for chess players. If you want to appreciate the architecture in peace, it’s best to visit in the morning. While you’re there, take some time to browse through the stacks of books, comic books, magazines, posters, and other items to see if you can find anything interesting. Although most of the articles there are in French, you will also find some in English.

Admire Lille Opera House

Lille Opera (Opéra de Lille) - Things to do in Lille
Weekend Lille – Visit Opéra de Lille

The Opera House in Lille, France, is a must-see attraction. It is located on Place du Théâtre and boasts an impressive facade. Even if you don’t attend a performance, you can still admire the building from the outside. On sunny days, you may even spot people sitting on the steps leading to the entry doors.

Wander the Old Town 

Quiet street in Lille Old Town Centre - Things to do in Lille

Lille’s old town centre may be small, but it is packed with charm. One of the best things to do on a weekend break in Lille is to take a leisurely stroll through the streets. During our weekend in Lille, we spent most of our time in this charming neighbourhood. Take a leisurely stroll, admire the intricate details of the buildings, grab a drink on a terrace, and explore the shops. We were so enamoured with the lively atmosphere that we didn’t want to leave!

The narrow streets are brimming with delightful shops. Some of the most charming streets with unique shops are located near the cathedral on rues Péterinck, Vieux Murs, and Trois Mollettes. Make sure to visit the picturesque Place aux Onions and the Notre Dame de la Treille Cathedral, featuring a unique facade. I highly recommend stepping inside to admire the beautiful interior as well.

Lille is still referred to as the “capital of Flanders” because it was part of the Flanders region before being captured by Louis XIV. That’s why, during your walk through the old town, you’ll encounter many buildings that resemble those found in Belgium or the Netherlands. If you’re interested in learning more about the history, why not join a guided walking tour?

Visit Hospice Comtesse

The Hospice Comtesse, which was established by Countess Jeanne de Flandre in her palace in 1237, is a medieval hospital that served patients until 1939. It is now a museum located in the Old Lille district, providing insight into a bygone era. On your visit, you will witness a Flemish house from the 17th and 18th centuries, art collections in the former nuns’ dormitory, and the “sick room” from the 15th century, which now hosts exhibitions regularly.

Browse chocolate at Meert

If you’re in Lille and love chocolate, you’re in for a treat. Meert is a must-visit destination in Lille. This French chocolate shop is renowned for its chocolate masterpieces, which are popular not only in France but also beyond its borders. Meert has retained its original 18th-century features and decoration style, which makes it a unique experience for those who want to step back in time. In addition to the shop, there is also a tea room and restaurant available on the premises.

Although Meert offers a range of delicious cakes, its famous vanilla stuffed waffle is the main attraction. Unlike Belgian waffles, these soft waffle biscuits are filled with sweet vanilla cream and are simply divine. The waffles are a bit expensive, but they are worth it, in my opinion.

Have more sweet at Aux Merveilleux de Fred

Merveilleux dessert and coffee - Things to do in Lille

Aux Merveilleux de Fred is a paradise for dessert lovers. While they offer a variety of baked goods, their renowned Merveilleux dessert is the main attraction. It features layers of delicate meringue, alternating with chocolate cream and enveloped in another layer of cream, followed by chocolate shavings.

Although chocolate is the traditional flavour, they also offer it with speculoos, biscuits and white chocolate shavings or with crystallised coffee meringue. The long lines trailing down the main street in their Vieux Ville location attest to their immense popularity.

Belfry of Lille’s Town Hall

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

The Hôtel de Ville, also known as the Town Hall, in Lille is an impressive Art Deco structure that should not be missed. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its magnificent belfry, standing at 104 metres, dominates the city skyline. Originally constructed in the neo-classic Flemish style, the Town Hall was rebuilt in the Art Deco style after being damaged during World War I.

The highlight of a visit to the Town Hall is the panoramic view of Old Lille that can be enjoyed from the top of the tower. Access to this area requires a small fee and climbing approximately 100 steps, although there is also a lift available. The view from the top is stunning, offering breathtaking vistas of Lille and its surroundings. Along the way, visitors can explore the museum inside, which showcases the rich heritage of the belfry. The belfry is open Wednesday through Sunday, with reservations required in the mornings and walk-ins accepted in the afternoons.

Walk Through the Porte de Paris 

Porte de Paris gate, Lille France - Weekend in Lille

This impressive triumphal arch was constructed in honour of Louis XIV’s capture of Lille in 1667. Completed in the late 19th century, it was part of a defensive system built into the old city walls and was later recognized as a historic monument in 1875. Formerly referred to as “the Gate of the Sick,” the Porte de Paris (Paris Gate) is a magnificent structure that towers over a small opening with a drawbridge. 

The arch features baroque figures of two angels celebrating Louis XIV’s victory at the top, with Mars, the god of war, on the left and Hercules, the symbol of strength, on the right. In the centre, the Roman allegory of Victory is depicted with her right arm raised, ready to place a crown on the head of the Sun King. Unlike the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Porte de Paris is situated on a peaceful roundabout surrounded by residential buildings.

Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille

The impressive exterior of Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, France
The impressive exterior of Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, France

Located just a short distance from Porte de Paris is the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, a cultural space dedicated to fine arts, modern art, and antiquities. It boasts one of the largest collections of fine arts in France, second only to the Louvre. Established in 1809, the museum has been housed in a beautiful Belle Époque style building and is considered one of the top places to visit in Lille. 

Its vast halls and rooms display works by renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rubens, Rodin, and many others. Art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike will appreciate the fascinating temporary exhibitions featured in addition to its impressive permanent collections. Be sure to take a few hours to explore this cultural gem.

Get Lost in the Citadelle de Lille

Lille Zoo written in lawn

This 17th-century fortress, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been remarkably well-preserved. The Citadel fortress, shaped like a star, serves as a historic centrepiece and adds a touch of intrigue to the atmosphere. It was built by Vauban, a renowned military engineer, for Louis XIV after the Sun King captured Lille in 1667. While the Citadel is still an army base and cannot be accessed, visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the park, which is filled with lush greenery and moss-covered tree stumps.

Boat in Deule canal - Lille, Hauts-de-France - Things to do in Lille - Weekend in Lille
Deule canal

Or you could explore the museum inside to learn more about the fortress’s rich history (you need to sign up at the Tourist Office) or stroll around the English-style gardens of the Jardin Vauban. Additionally, the park includes Lille Zoo (Parc Zoologique de Lille), which houses a diverse range of animals as well as stunning gardens. Overall, it’s an excellent place to take a leisurely stroll or bring your children. In summer, boat cruises set sail from here along the Deule Canal.

Wazemmes Market

If you’re looking for fresh produce, the Wazemmes market is a local favourite. The covered food market, Les Halles de Wazemmes, has been operating since 1869 and is closed only on Mondays. If you’re in Lille for the weekend, it’s worth stopping by to pick up picnic essentials, like Mimolette cheese, or to try the international food stalls showcasing the city’s diverse immigrant communities. 

If you plan to visit the market on the weekend, remember that it is divided into two parts: a covered market, which is open every day of the week, and an extensive outdoor market that runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. This market is among the biggest in France, and it is an excellent spot to discover reasonably priced food, flowers, crafts, clothing, and fabrics.

Visit Euralille Shopping Centre

Exterior or Lille Europe Station - Weekend in Lille

If you enjoy shopping while exploring a city, Lille is the perfect destination for you. You will discover numerous boutiques along the cobblestone streets in the Vieux Lille area. If you love French boutiques like Sandro and Vanessa Bruno, visit rue de la Monnaie and the surrounding streets.

Moreover, the Euralille Westfield shopping centre is conveniently located near Lille Europe station. This modern complex features a wide range of high-street shops, high-end boutiques, and much more. For a luxurious shopping experience, check out Printemps Lille, a department store that offers a Parisian feel in the heart of Lille. Whether you are searching for accessories, clothing, or unique decorative items to bring back home, Lille has something for everyone.

La Grande Braderie de Lille

Old portraits and chair on display at La Grande Braderie de Lille - Weekend Lille

The Grande Braderie de Lille is an annual flea market that takes place in the first weekend of September. This city-wide event transforms Lille into a massive trading hub where shoppers can discover a variety of bric-a-brac and rare collectables. As the largest flea market of its kind in Europe, it attracts over two million visitors and numerous antique dealers. You can find almost anything you desire at this bustling market. The Grande Braderie de Lille is one of the biggest events in the city, similar to a Christmas Market. The event features food stands, entertainment, and festivities, providing businesses with a chance to showcase their products to a wide audience.

Visit Charles de Gaulle’s Family House

If you find yourself with some extra time during your weekend in Lille, it’s worth visiting the former home of politician Charles de Gaulle. Born in Lille in 1890, de Gaulle’s family home is now a museum and listed as a Historic Monument. Adding a visit to Charles de Gaulle’s family home to your itinerary in Lille will give you the opportunity to explore his childhood through exhibitions and displays of personal objects, family keepsakes, and photographs.

Spending a weekend in Lille is an excellent way to explore the vibrant city. While Lille is famous for its September flea market, there are many other reasons to visit. The city has a rich history and heritage, an eclectic mix of French and Flemish architecture, and plenty of exciting activities to make your weekend in Lille unforgettable. You'll also discover unique gastronomy and a fantastic atmosphere. Here’s our pick of the top 15 things to do in Lille. PIN

Weekend in Lille – Practical Information

Where is Lille

Lille is a city situated in the northern part of France, close to the Belgian border. It is the primary city in the Hauts-de-France region and the fourth most populated city in France, following Paris, Marseille, and Lyon. Thanks to the great transport network, a weekend in Lille or even a day trip is easily done. If you’re wondering how to reach Lille from Paris or London, here’s a guide to help you out.

Lille City map

Take a look at the map of Lille that marks all the significant landmarks and the top things to do during your weekend in Lille. Click the image to expand it.

Getting to Lille

There are various ways to reach the northern city.

Paris to Lille:

  • Train: If you’re planning a trip from Paris to Lille, the high-speed train (TGV) from Paris Gare du Nord to Lille Europe Station or Lille Flandres Station is the most convenient option. The journey only takes an hour, and with two central stations, you’ll find frequent trains throughout the day. 
  • Car: Driving is another option, with the A1 motorway taking you from Paris to Lille in about 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on traffic. The distance between the two cities is 22 kilometres (137 miles), and there are plenty of underground parking lots in Lille’s city centre. 
  • Coach: Coach options are also available if you’re on a budget. Check routes and fares via FlixBus.

London to Lille

  • Eurostar train: Taking the Eurostar train from London St Pancras International Station to Lille Europe Station is the most efficient way. The journey only takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, and if you plan in advance, you can purchase tickets for as little as £29 (one way). Need help finding the best deal? Trainline is an excellent platform for finding cheap travel options throughout Europe and the UK, allowing you to check prices and schedules for most European cities easily. 
  • Ferry and train: Alternatively, you can opt for a scenic ferry ride across the English Channel by taking a ferry from Dover to Calais, followed by a TER train to Lille. While this option takes a bit longer, it’s a great way to enjoy the beauty of the channel and experience a unique mode of transportation.

Getting to Lille from Brussels:

  • Train: Traveling to Lille from Brussels is convenient with a 35-minute TGV ride from Brussels-Midi/Zuid station. 
  • Coach: Additionally, there are frequent Flixbus services taking about 3 hours to reach Lille from Paris Bercy Seine.

Other cities to Lille:

  • Lille has its own airport, Lille-Lesquin International, which is situated approximately 20 minutes away from the city centre by airport shuttle. Alternatively, you can fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle and take a TGV to Lille, Europe. To compare and find low-cost flights, I recommend using Skyscanner.

Due to its central location in Europe and convenient transportation connections, Lille can be easily reached from major cities. This makes it a sought-after weekend getaway for both tourists and locals.

Getting around Lille

Despite its size, the city centre of Lille is surprisingly compact and easily navigable, with various transportation options available. Walking is also a viable option, making exploring the city during a weekend trip simple.

  • Walking: Lille’s city centre is easily walkable and compact, making it a pedestrian-friendly destination. There are plenty of activities to enjoy in Lille, many of which are located within close proximity to the Grand Place. 
  • Public transport: In addition to walking, public transportation is also a convenient option for getting around, with efficient buses and trams operated by Transpole.
  • Bikes:  The city also offers a bike rental scheme called V-Lille, allowing visitors to explore the city at their own pace. 
  • Uber/taxis: For those who prefer a more comfortable and speedy ride, hailing a taxi with Uber or Bolt is a great option.

Fun fact: In 1983, Lille became the first city in the world to introduce a driverless metro transport system.

Where to stay in Lille

With its status as one of France’s largest cities, you have various accommodation options to choose from, including mid-range, boutique, or luxury hotels. Check out these recommendations:

  • Ibis Style Lille Centre Grand Place: Conveniently placed just a 5-minute stroll from Gare de Lille-Flandres train station and located behind the opera house, this hotel offers a diverse range of options for a complimentary breakfast.
  • Mama Shelter Lille: The Mama Shelter chain is a reliable choice, as it is known for its excellent decor and comfortable rooms. Its location is also convenient, as it is only 2 minutes away from both the train station and the city centre.
  • Hotel L’Arbre Voyageur: This four-star hotel is conveniently located near both train stations. The hotel features an African ambience, with jungle-patterned wallpaper and a palm tree-filled courtyard. It’s situated in the former Polish Consulate.
  • L’Hermitage Gantois, Autograph Collection: This former hospital-turned-5-star hotel is only 10 minutes away from the city centre. The hotel boasts stunning decor with exposed brickwork and timber beams.

City tours

If you want to get to experience the city in a completely different way or with the help of a guide, then you would want to join these tours:

Where to eat in Lille

If you’re spending your weekend in Lille, make sure to sample some of the incredible local cuisine. This city boasts a diverse cultural heritage, combining French and Flemish influences. In addition to French dishes, there are many delicious Belgian dishes to savour, such as the classic moules frites, the hearty beef and beer stew known as carbonade flamande, and delectable waffles. 

The locals love sweet treats, so there are numerous patisseries and chocolatiers to explore. To experience Lille’s culinary scene firsthand, consider joining a food tour.

Here are some great dining options in Lille:

  • Chez la Vieille: This Flemish restaurant serves up hearty dishes like carbonnade flamande (beef stew) and croquettes aux crevettes (shrimp croquettes).
  • Octopus: The cooking here is impeccable, and the flavours are incomparable. The presentation of the dishes is carefully done, focusing on fish and octopus.
  • A Taaable: The decor of this French restaurant is simple, but the food and atmosphere are amazing. Be sure to try the moules frites and enjoy the friendly service.

Planning your Weekend in Lille

When planning your itinerary for your weekend in Lille, the Lille Tourist Office is an excellent resource for practical information. They offer a City Pass for 24 or 48 hours, which provides attractive prices for visiting several monuments and museums. You can find more information about the City Pass on their website.

We hope you enjoyed our guide to the top things to do in Lille, a stunning city that’s definitely worth exploring. Spending a weekend in Lille is a great idea to experience the city’s liveliness truly. Our guide covers the best sights to see, accommodations to stay in, and transportation options to help you make the most out of your visit.

Our personal experience in Lille was amazing, and we were pleasantly surprised by how much we loved the city.


Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link!

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Hi there! I'm Mayi. Welcome to my blog SecretMoona! I hope to share with you the hidden secret of places I visit.

17 thoughts on “Weekend in Lille: A Guide to the Best Things to Do

  1. Lille looks truly gorgeous! I’ve only been to Paris, Nice, and Strasbourg in France but will add Lille to my bucket list. 🙂

  2. I’ve never of Lille before reading this article! It looks like such a stunning and picturesque place to explore. I’d love to explore all the architecture on a future visit. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Wow, Lille sounds like an incredible destination for a weekend getaway! 🇫🇷 The mix of history, architecture, and delicious treats at Meert and Aux Merveilleux de Fred has me sold. 😍 Plus, exploring the Old Town and visiting the Belfry of Lille’s Town Hall would be amazing. 🏛️ Thanks for the fantastic travel tips! 🌆🛍️ #TravelGoals #WeekendInLille

  4. I’d never heard of Lille, so I appreciate you opening my eyes to something new! It looks like a charming city, and the Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille looks absolutely beautiful. I’d probably head there first! Xx Sara

  5. What a fantastic guide to a weekend in Lille! It perfectly encapsulates the city’s charm,
    from its rich history and diverse architecture to its unique gastronomy. I especially enjoyed the suggestions for exploring landmarks like Grand Place and the Old Stock Market.
    The practical tips provided, from getting around the city to accommodation options, make planning a trip to Lille a breeze.
    I highly recommend taking the metro for sightseeing in Lille, especially on rainy days.

    Thanks for this insightful and concise guide!

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