Lille Tourist Attractions

Lille, the largest city in French Flanders, chief town of the Nord département, the see of a bishop and a university town, lies near the Belgian frontier on the canalized river Deule. It is the center of a large industrial area with a population of around a million, in which the textile, chemical and engineering industries predominate.
Lille has few medieval buildings, and the pattern of the city center is set by a number of imposing 19th century buildings. General de Gaulle was born in Lille in 1890.
Lille, for long the capital of the County of Flanders, finally passed to France under the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The earlier form of the name was L'Isle, reflecting its situation on an "island" between the Deule and the Lys.

Place du Theatre

On the north side of this square are the New Theater (1907-1914) and the New Exchange, a building in Flemish Renaissance style with a massive tower erected after the First World War.
On the south side of the square is the Old Exchange (by Julien Destré, 1652), with 24 two-story units surrounding an arcaded courtyard in an ornate Flemish Baroque style. In the courtyard is a monument to Napoleon I (1854). The west front looks on to the Place du Général-de-Gaulle.
A little to the south is Place Rihour, with a large war memorial and the Palais Rihour (15th C.), once the residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. Farther southwest is the Jesuit church of St-Etienne (18th C.; fine pulpit), with the former Jesuit college (1605), now the Military Hospital, to the left.


The Gothic church of St-Maurice (14th-19th centuries) in Lille has five aisles of the same height and 36 tall columns; in one of its chapels is a 16th century wood statue of the Scourging. Northwest of St-Maurice, in Rue Royale, is the Gothic church of Ste-Catherine (15th century, enlarged in 1725), with a "Martyrdom of St Catherine" by Rubens (c. 1622) in the north aisle. At the other end of Rue Royale, which is lined by handsome buildings, is the 18th century church of St-André. To the east of Ste-Catherine is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille (19th-20th century, unfinished).
To the north is the church of Ste-Marie- Madeleine (begun 1675), a handsome circular structure with a dome 50m/165ft high. The present facade dates from 1884.

Lille Citadel

Beyond the Deule Canal is the imposing citadel, one of the finest of Vauban's fortifications, built for Louis XIV in 1668-1670 after the conquest of Lille. It is entered through the Porte Royale.
The Rue de Paris ends at the Porte de Paris, a large triumphal arch erected in honor of Louis XIV between 1682 and 1695 (architect Simon Vollant) which originally formed part of the town walls. It is France's largest triumphal arch after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Immediately east is the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall, 1925-1933).

Museum of the Old People's Home Countess

The Hospice Comtesse in Lille, founded in 1237 and rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries, still preserves a 15th C hospital ward with a handsome timber roof. It now houses the Musée d'Art et de Traditions Populaires (decorative art, folk art and traditions).
Address: 32 rue de la Monnaie, F-59000 Lille, France

Old Town

The old town of Lille, north of the Hospice, is now being carefully restored.

Musée des Beaux-Arts

The museum of fine arts, on the south side of the Place de la Liberté in Lille, is one of the richest museums in France. It has a celebrated collection of paintings by Flemish, Dutch, Italian, Spanish and French masters, including works by Goya, Rubens, Van Dyck, Delacroix, Courbet, Monet, Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as sculpture, applied and decorative art, folk art and some 3,000 Italian and French drawings.
Address: 18 bis rue de Valmy, F-59000 Lille, France


Lille's most modern sight is the fully automatic underground railroad, the Métro, which came into operation in 1983 and serves the main parts of the city.

Braderie de Lille

This annual month-long festival runs from mid-August to mid-September and includes a food and drink fair, a carnival, an open-air jumble sale and a craft market. Mussels, French fries, grilled fish and other local specialties are consumed by the tons every year by the thousands of visitors who flock to the area for a good time.

Lille Festival

This annual six-week festival runs from mid-October to late November and features a different theme each year. The almost daily events range from operas, theatrical presentations and classical concerts to more modern fare such as jazz performances and film screenings. There are also lectures, debates, videos and slide shows.

Musée Charles de Gaulle

This museum is set in the house where Charles de Gaulle was born on November 22nd 1890. Restoration began in 1983.
The birthplace of Charles de Gaulle contains pieces of furniture, family mementos and other personal items that bring the visitor back to life at the time of Charles' birth.
Address: 9 rue Princess, F-59000 Lille, France

Festival de l'Andouille, Aire-sur-la-Lys, France

Aire-sur-la-Lys is the site of an annual two-day festival which takes place in early September. The focus of this event is its famous sausage, with tons of pork eaten every year.

Street Market

This annual three-day street fair in Lille takes place during the first weekend in September and covers kilometers of streets. The fair is open to anyone who wants to buy or sell goods.

Museum of Natural History

The Lille Musée contains whale skeletons, fossils and a collection of stuffed birds, reptiles and mammals. There are also butterflies from around the world.
Address: 19 rue de Bruxelles, F-59000 Lille, France

Cabaret Festival

This annual festival runs from late May to early June.


Northeast of Lille is Villeneuve-d'Ascq, which has a fine Museum of Modern Art with over 200 exhibits, including works by Bauchant, Braque, Kandinsky, Klee, Laurens, Léger, Masson, Miró, Modigliani, Picasso, Rouault and Van Dongen. The founders of the museum were among the leading private collectors of Cubist art in France. There are periodic special exhibitions in a new annex.
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