Lille, France - Stein Travel
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Lille

Is it French or is it Flemish? It is hard for the visitor to decide when visiting Lille, which has been officially part of France for 350 years but still at its core retains the ambience of the medieval wool towns of Flanders. The historic core of Vieux Lille is filled with grand architecture and cobble-stoned streets and squares, with a 'Grand Place' reminiscent of both Brussels and Amsterdam.

This confusion of cultures does not detract from this bright and beautiful city, set in the north of France, which was capital of Flanders during the Middle Ages. With the advent of the Eurostar fast train service from London, Lille, a major stop on the route to Paris, has been revived as a weekend break destination, and has plenty to offer longer-term tourists who arrive at its international airport as well.

Vigorous shopping takes place along its commercial thoroughfares, and some attractive sights beckon visitors, like the neo-Gothic Notre Damme de la Treille Cathedral, and the Hospice Comtesse, a former hospital housing a museum of Flemish art, furniture and ceramics. Old Lille is pleasant to stroll through, with its cobbled streets and mixture of shops, restaurants and cathedrals.

Those whose taste runs to art will also find a feast here, with Monet and Renoir being permanent tenants at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and works by Picasso, Braques and Derains along with more modernistic marvels are on display at the Musée d'Art Moderne in the suburb of Villeneuve d'Ascq just outside the city.

Many visitors, though, are here for the beer. The best Belgian beers are on tap and served up in most of the popular bars, to wash down the delicious local cuisine, which focuses on seafood and rich sauces. If your main aim is to eat, drink and make merry in a historic environment, Lille is the place to be.

The best thing about Lille is that its local populace is not only welcoming, but adept at enjoying life, as can be witnessed by visiting any of the many bars and bistros (known as estaminets) in this fun city, which belies its reputation as the grim northerly cousin of pretty Paris.

Information & Facts

Climate

Lille's climate is mostly pleasant throughout the year, but summer (June to August) is the warmer time to visit with temperatures averaging 68°F (20°C). Winter temperatures can reach 32° F (0°C) in January and the wind can make days very cold. Rainfall is evenly spread over the year, but particularly in autumn and spring.

Getting Around

Most of the centre of Lille is pedestrianised and well signposted, ideal for walking. The city has a good public transport system, with two metro lines traversing the city, two tram lines travelling from Lille to Roubaix and Tourcoing and buses covering 60 different routes. The buses, tram and metro run every day (except 1 May), from 5.30am to around midnight. A single adult ticket costs around EUR1.25 for the entire network. A City Pass, costing EUR20 for one day, EUR30 for two days or EUR45 for three days allows free entry to museums and monuments and unlimited use of public transport. Taxis are widely available from the airport and the Lille Europe train station, which is centrally located at 1 Gare De Ville Europe near the main square. Renting a bike is also a good option in summer.

Language

French is the official language.

Money

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not accepted.

Time

Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).

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