Things to see in Lille

Tourist offices

Office de Tourisme de Lille

Palais Rihour, Lille, BP 205 - 59002, France
Tel: (03) 5957 9400.
Opening Hours:

Mon-Sat 0930-1800, Sun 1000-1200 and 1400-1700.


www.lilletourism.com

Passes

The 'City Pass Lille Métropole' gives free access to more than 30 sites in Lille and the metropolitan region, as well as free transport in the city. The pass is available for one, two or three days and can be purchased online (www.lilletourism.com) or at the tourist office.

LaM (Musée d'Art Moderne)

Set against a backdrop of vast green space and bordered by lakes, this key museum in Villeneuve d’Ascq is something of a breathtaking sight. It reopened in 2010 under its new LaM moniker with striking white walls to emphasise its re-birth. It now has more than 4,500 examples of work on display, including art from Picasso and Modigliani among others. The surrounding parkland is also home to sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz and Alexander Calder, to name but a few.

Opening Times: Tue-Sun 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: 1 Avenue du Musée, Villeneuve d'Ascq, 59650, France
Telephone: (03) 2019 6888.
Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle

Lille's most famous son, Général Charles de Gaulle, rose to fame as the leader of the Free French forces in exile in London during WWII. He became President of France in the 1950s, when he brought stability to a divided country, which was struggling to adjust to the post-war situation. The house where he was born in 1890 is now a museum and was in fact his grandparents’ house. Though not technically where he grew up, Maison Natale Charles de Gaulle still gives a good idea of what life was like for the young de Gaulle, with historic exhibits including his christening gown, as well as family photos and memorabilia.

Opening Times: Wed-Sat 1000-1200 and 1400-1700 (Sep-Jun); Wed-Sun 1330-1700 and 1400-1700 (Jul-Aug).
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: 9 Rue Princesse, Lille, 59000, France
Telephone: (03) 2838 1205.
Palais des Beaux-Arts (Fine Arts Museum)

Widely acclaimed as France's second best museum after Le Louvre, the Palais des Beaux Arts is housed in a Belle Époque palace in the République – Saint-Sauveur quarter. The impressive collection includes paintings by many a master such as Donatello, Raphael, Rubens, van Dyck, Rembrandt, El Greco, David and Toulouse-Lautrec. If you want to find out more about the displays, there’s a helpful iPod audio guide system available for visitors, which is included in the entry fee, though proof of identity is required before use.

Opening Times: Mon 1400-1800, Wed-Sun 1000-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Place de la République, Lille, 59000, France
Telephone: (03) 2006 7800.
Place Général de Gaulle (aka Grand-Place)

Lille's main square is now an attractive pedestrian area overlooked by the Voix du Nord building (home of the North's leading newspaper, once the journal of the French Resistance in WWII). La Vieille Bourse (the Old Exchange), a centre where Flemish merchants traded their famous high-quality cloth, is on the left. Nowadays its vaulted courtyard ceilings overlook fondly-cherished stalls of secondhand books and vintage cinema posters. The Column commemorates the siege of Lille by the Austrians in 1792, and as a key part of Lille’s landscape it also serves as an unofficial meeting point for residents and visitors alike.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Place Général de Gaulle, Lille, 59000, France
The Belfry

As Lille's only UNESCO-listed monument, the belfry of the Hôtel de Ville town hall stands proud at a height of 104m (341 ft) above the city streets. It was completed in 1931 and added to the World Heritage List in 2005. It’s said that when it was built, the belfry needed as many as 270 cement piles to support its weight, outstripping that of the Eiffel Tower. Today visitors need to climb the 100 steps and then step into the lift to reach the top, where a 360° panoramic view awaits. Book through the tourist office.

Opening Times: Tue-Sun 0930-1300 and 1400-1730.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: Yes
Address: Place Augustin Laurent, Lille, 59000, France
The Citadel

Standing at the foot of this impressive behemoth gives some idea of how newcomers to the city must have felt after its construction in the 17th century. The famed military engineer Vauban was responsible for its creation at the request of King Louis XIV, and today the citadel continues to be occupied by the military. The result features Vauban's signature starburst shaped tower, with five towers joined by ramparts, accessed by either the Porte Dauphine or the Porte Royale. Although occupied by the army, it’s still possible to visit by a guided tour from the tourist office. Take proof of identity for security purposes.

Opening Times: The Citadel can only be visited as part of a guided tour (in French only) organised by Office de Tourisme de Lille.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: No
Unesco: No
Address: Avenue du 43ème Régiment d'Infanterie, Lille, 59000, France
Vieux Lille (the old town)

If you only have time to do one thing when in Lille, make it the old town. Cobblestoned streets and old Flemish town houses (now home to exclusive boutiques) make for a pleasant stroll in a part of Lille barely changed in centuries. Meander along the winding backstreets and soak up the atmosphere and history of the city. Vieux Lille is particularly lively on Sundays, when the market takes place, but it’s just as rewarding to take a seat at a café and watch life go by. If you’re feeling more culturally inclined, the modern façade and gothic interiors of the nearby cathedral are fascinating to explore.

Opening Times: Daily 24 hours.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Vieux Lille, Lille, France
La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie

La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie is Roubaix's calling card. A former art deco swimming pool, the museum was inaugurated in 2010. In lieu of watery depths, it now welcomes visitors to a stunning full-length gallery, which is flanked at either end by beautiful stained glass panels. Every 15 minutes you'll hear pre-recorded splashes and crowd noise played over the sound system that recall the building's origins. Exhibits consist of paintings (including one by Robert de Niro Sr), sculptures and applied arts by the likes of Picasso and Rodin, not forgetting the famous sculpture ‘La petite Châtelaine’ by Camille Claudel, Rodin’s mistress.

Opening Times: Tues-Thu 1100-1800, Fri 1100-2000, Sat-Sun 1300-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: 23 Rue de l'Espèrance, Roubaix, 59100, France
Telephone: (03) 2069 2360.
Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse

This hospice, founded by the Countess of Flanders, Jeanne de Constantinople, in 1237, is one of the oldest buildings in Vieux Lille. As the focal point of a religious order set up to care for the sick, the building and its contents are a key element of the visit. The rooms here show how nuns would have carried out their day-to-day tasks, with information given for each area. It is also home to a collection of gold, silver and earthenware objects, tapestries of Guillaume Werniers, paintings by the Watteau brothers and several classic Flemish works.

Opening Times: Mon 1400-1800, Wed-Sun 1000-1230 and 1400-1800.
Admission Fees: Yes
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: 32 Rue de la Monnaie, Lille, 59000, France
Telephone: (03) 2836 8400.
Website: www.musenor.com
Parc Zoologique de Lille (Lille Zoo)

Lille Zoo, in the Parc de Loisirs near the Citadel, houses close to 400 animals from around 70 species ranging from birds like owls and parrots to big mammals such as rhinos, zebras, alpacas and monkeys. Visitors will also find snakes, tortoises and tiny monkeys such as marmoset and tamarins in the tropical house. Lille Zoo is great for those on a budget and its location in the Parc de Loisirs means visitors can also include a trip to the playground, though make sure to take a picnic as food outlets are thin on the ground.

Opening Times: Mon-Fri 0900-1800, Sat-Sun 0900-1900 (Mar-late Oct); Mon-Sun (late Oct-Dec) 1000-1700.
Admission Fees: No
Disabled Access: Yes
Unesco: No
Address: Avenue Mathias Delobel, Lille, 59000, France
Telephone: (03) 2852 0700.
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