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LILLE At a Glance Vieux Lille, the old town, is vibrant, exuberant and flamboyant. 17th century buildings, cobble stone streets, intimate courtyards, elegant squares and a thriving café culture. It's a bit like a miniature Paris but easier to discover and has a great vibe thanks to a young population. Lille is one of the top gastronomic cities in France with a plethora of restaurants. It’s also one of the most cultural and artistic cities in the country after being elected European Capital of Culture in 2004, which has led to it becoming the arty party capital of France. It’s a friendly city, ask directions and you’re likely to be personally led to your destination! Culture Vultures There are more than a dozen museums in Lille. Don’t miss the Palais des Beaux Arts which is said to hold the second richest collection of art in France after the Louvre in Paris, much of it acquired during Napoleon’s looting sprees during battle. Browse the second hand book market (Tuesday to Sunday 13.00-19.00) in the 17th century Vieille Bourse (former stock exchange), a Flemish Renaissance marvel of gargoyles and garlands. Modern art lovers will fall head over heels for TriPostal, an art venue in a former post office and Gare St Sauveur, a cultural centre in a former frieght station.
Getting Around and about Walking: Old Lille is a compact city and the best way to discover it is on foot! Be aware there are lots of cobble stone rues. Public transport: Bus, tram and metro, in fact the world’s first driverless trains were introduced here in 1983. Buy a book of tickets, 24 hour or evening pass for just a few Euros to use on all three modes of transport. There are two rail stations: Lille Flandres for Paris and local services and Lille Europe for international and fast trains round France. Lille Flandres station used to be the old Gare du Nord Paris. It was dismantled to make way for a new, bigger station and reerected stone by stone in Lille. Bike: Lille is a cycle friendly city where motorists are used to wobbly wheeled tourists. Hire a public bike from V'Lille Shopping Shops are closed on Sundays, and many on Monday morning. Rue de Bethune is good for high street style, Vieux Lille for luxury and high end goods (including Louis Vuitton and Hermès), Rue Royale for jewellery, bags, and accessories. Inside Track Hop on the tram or metro to nearby Roubaix and visit the art deco La Piscine museum in a converted public swimming pool - it has real wow factor (read more about it here). Everyone loves a French street market and Lille has several. Try Wazemmes Sunday market, one of the largest in France. A colourful, lively affair where you can furnish your house, wardrobe or pantry. You’re likely to hear accordion music here and witness spontaneous outbreaks of dancing – the Lillois (people of Lille) love to dance!
Photo: J'adore la France
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