There’s just something nice about catching the train and having it transport you to another destination without having to worry about long queues at security nor having to hang around for a few hours in an airport lounge with no seats (I’m looking at you Stanstead!).
When an email from Eurostar flashed up on my phone during that period between Christmas and new year announcing a sale, I just couldn’t resist booking another city break.
£29 each way to Paris, Lille and Brussels? Um, yes, please!
In fact, I was so excited I actually booked tickets to Paris which, whilst it would’ve been lovely, wasn’t my intended destination. Thankfully the customer service guy at Eurostar was extremely helpful and sorted it all out for me.
I decided to try a different French city and head to for a Lille city break.
I had no idea what was there but who cared, a weekend somewhere different is always nice plus I could put that French degree to good use!
We arrived in Lille quite late on Friday evening having taken the Eurostar after work. We were leaving at around 4pm on Sunday afternoon so this gave us about 36 hours of solid exploring time.
Where is Lille?
Lille is a city at the northern tip of France. It’s along the Deûle River and is very close to the border with Belgium.
Lille is the fourth largest city in France in terms of the population behind Paris, Lyon and Marseille.
Lille city map
Check out this city map of Lille, click the image to see a larger version.
Getting to Lille from the UK
There are many different ways to get to Lille from the UK but the easiest ways are to either fly or get the Eurostar.
Eurostar to Lille
For our weekend in Lille, we took the Eurostar which I love doing. We got cheap tickets, having bought them in a sale, and with the train, you don’t have to hang around in an airport.
It’s super easy to get the train to Lille! The Eurostar leaves from central London (St Pancras) and takes you straight to central Lille. We were even able to walk from the Eurostar Station in Lille to our hotel.
The other great thing about taking the Eurostar London to Lille train is that it only takes 1 hour 20 minutes.
We left on a Friday evening after we both finished work and then came back Sunday evening so we didn’t even need to use up any holiday time.
Flying from London to Lille
Lille has its own airport which is only 20 minutes away from the city centre.
However, flying to Lille takes longer than getting the train since (at least when I’ve looked) there aren’t any direct flights from London to Lille. You’re likely to have at least one change. Yet another reason why I recommend taking the Eurostar!
If you’re flying from somewhere else in Europe then check out Skyscanner for cheap flights.
If you’ve yet to choose your dates then take a look at Dollar Flight Club, once signed up you can set your home airport(s) and then they’ll let you know when they find amazing deals on flights. The savings they find every day AMAZE me.
Where to stay in Lille
Looking for the best hotels in Lille, France? Whether you’re looking for hostels in Lille, France, a boutique hotel in Lille, want more luxury hotels in Lille or are on a budget looking for cheap hotels in Lille, France, here’s a collection of the best Lille hotels and hostels to check out.
- Lille Aparthotel Adagio: this was out accommodation in Lille. It was cheap & cheerful and suited us. It had a little kitchen area where we could prepare a meal to save some money too.
- Eklo Hotels: This hostel in Lille costs around $20US a night in a dorm or a private double room is just $50! Gets great reviews too.
- Clarance Hotel, Lille: This luxurious, 5* hotel is the place to stay if you’re looking for something special.
- Grand Hotel Bellevue, Lille: This hotel has gorgeous interiors and the price includes breakfast. It’s also in a great central location!
- Hotel Carlton: This Lille hotel also includes breakfast and has gorgeous looking rooms. It’s just minutes away from the train station too.
Useful resources for your trip to Lille
- Lille City Pass – save money on dozens of attractions!
- Skyscanner for cheap flights.
- Eurostar tickets
- Lille travel guide
Best city tours in Lille
Want to get to know Lille with the help of an expert guide? Check out these highly-rated tours in Lille.
Best things to do on a Lille week end
If you’re looking for things to do in Lille, France then check out what we got up to below. It’s a relatively small city when it comes to big Lille tourist attractions but there’s still plenty to do if you’re wondering what to do in Lille, France.
La Piscine museum
I have a confession to make. I’m not normally a fan of museums. If you feel the same way make an exception for the piscine museum just north of Lille.
This Lille museum, Roubaix La Piscine, is housed in what used to be a public swimming bath and is absolutely gorgeous, I’d highly recommend adding it to your list when you visit Lille.
There are huge stained glass windows at either end of the pool and, when the light hits them, a beautiful light flows into the swimming baths.
The swimming baths remain pretty much intact. There’s still the old changing rooms which now houses pieces of art, the pool itself is still there and you can imagine swimmers paddling up and down as you wander from one piece of art to the next.
The art itself was also quite interesting. A mixture of sculpture, video, painting and textiles there’s something for everyone at the Piscine museum.
Wandering the old town
Obviously, this had to happen. The Lille old town is rather small but it’s a pretty one. It’s one of the top Lille attractions and the narrows streets are filled with little boutique type shops on every turn. It’s a must for your Lille sightseeing.
Just don’t leave your shopping until Sunday as you’ll find all the shops are closed!
The Book Market at the Old Stock Exchange
The Old Stock Exchange, the Vieille Bourse, is one of the best places to visit in Lille. The building itself is from the 17th Century and is made up of 24 identical houses built around the inner square.
Time your visit depending on what you want to see. Go early in the morning to get the square mostly to yourself and admire the architecture or go in the afternoon to browse secondhand books and watch (or join in on!) a game of chess!
Browsing chocolate at Meert
Since Lille is so close to Belgium you can be sure that the chocolate is amazing. Meert is one of the top Lille, France things to do and it’s renowned in France and further afield for creating chocolate masterpieces.
We were in Lille before Easter so the window was full of huuuge chocolate eggs and sculptures made entirely out of chocolate.
Buy a mix and match ba of treats to keep you going as you stroll the streets of Lille
Find the first ever Paul’s
I feel foolish for thinking that Paul’s was an American company trying to do French food. I think that’s because I saw it absolutely everywhere…
But turns out Paul’s is authenticly French and the first ever one of this global chain was in Lille.
There’s a Paul’s on what feels like every Street in Lille but the original one is actually in rue de la Mackellerie in Croix and should be on your what to see in Lille itinerary since it’s a popular Lille point of interest.
Oh, and if you’re looking for somewhere to get breakfast then make sure to pop in here one time for breakfast in Lille!
Riding the world’s first driverless underground train
Lille is home to the world’s first driverless underground train! The carriages and trains themselves are much smaller than the underground trains in London but they zip through the tunnels and around corners opening their doors and doing everything all without a driver.
This might seem a weird thing to see in Lille but it’s pretty cool to sit up front and watch the train hurtle over the tracks.