Great Tips for Visiting Lille, France

Lille is a charming destination in northwest France near the Belgian border. Like any major French city, it features beautiful architecture and exceptional cuisine. A unique aspect of Lille is that due to its geographic location, it is more of a beer drinking town compared to many French counterparts that prefer wine.

After guiding a small group tour through Belgium and the Netherlands, and taking a week’s vacation to Romania with Bell, I was left with a couple free days before flying home to Boston from Brussels. I wanted to visit France and considered Paris, but wanted to explore somewhere new. I discovered I could reach Lille in just 37 minutes from Brussels on the high speed TGV train, for around €30 ($32 US) each way. Here are some great things to do in Lille!

Train from Brussels to Lille

google maps Brussels to Lille, just 37 minutes on the train

As you can see on the map, Lille is located in the northwest of France. It is just across the border from Belgium. You can check train schedules, compare prices and purchase tickets on the Rail Europe site.

Lille: French Flanders

Lille is the 5th largest city in France and resembles a non-touristy, miniature version of Brussels, with beautiful baroque architecture and an excellent culinary scene. It’s a city divided between a beer and wine culture because it’s the largest city in ‘French Flanders.’

A charming street in Lille, France lined with bars and restaurants
A charming street in Lille, France lined with bars and restaurants

What made the 37 minute train trip even more convenient was that there was no passport check between Belgium and France, as both are Schengen countries. Lille is comfortably doable via day trip from Brussels, Paris and even London. Of course, spending a night or two like I did allows you the opportunity to get more insight into the city and enjoy a couple more delicious meals.

Where to Eat in Lille:

I stayed around the corner from Rue de Gand, which is just outside the center of Lille. It is a good area to stay because it’s a short walk to the center and steps from the centuries old wall that once fortified the city. Rue de Gand is lined with fantastic reasonably priced restaurants. I chose to eat dinner there both nights, rather than dining in a touristy restaurant near the Grand Place. Lille is a great city to eat both quintessential French and Flemish dishes, with restaurants offering a range of specialities from foie gras to Flemish beef stew.

My first night, I chose a lovely restaurant on Rue de Gand called Le Domaine de Chavagnac. This was a serious duck centric restaurant, so I felt foie gras was in order. I’ve only eaten foie gras a few times in my life, but it was the best one I’ve tasted. It was expertly prepared with sweet plums and a side of perfectly roasted potatoes and salad.

The service was surprisingly unpretentious for such good food, and the house wine was equally excellent. The experience was also cheaper than what I would expect to pay anywhere for similar quality. My check totaled €20 ($22 US) for foie gras and a delicious glass of white wine. On a Sunday night it was not difficult to get a table. But especially on weekends, reservations there would be recommended.

Collage of Lille, France Grand Place, food, wine and French beer
Clockwise: Vieux Lille Triple, delicious gastronomy and Grand Place.

Flemish Eats in Lille

The next night I chose a packed candlelit French Flemish restaurant called Estaminet ‘T Rijsel. It caters to beer aficionados with a few French varieties on tap, and a big selection in bottles. The restaurant offers a lot of local specialties like rabbit stew (pot’je vleesch), waterzooi and Flemish carbonnade. The vast majority of the sociable clientele were drinking beer instead of wine.

The dining experience was very different from Le Domaine de Chavagnac. I enjoyed the rustic decor, service with a smile and more casual ambiance from the previous night’s dinner. Food and drinks at both restaurants were good quality for lower prices than you would typically pay in a capital city like Brussels or Paris.

I chose the carbonnade served with fries. While the sauce was a little too sweet, the fries were as good as any I’ve ever eaten. Estaminet ‘T Rijsel was packed even on a Monday night, so reservations here are recommended.

Aside from being a gastronomical delight, Lille is a pretty town just to stroll its cobblestone streets, without hordes of other tourists. In a sandwich shop, a fellow customer waiting in line asked where I was from. “Have a nice time here” she said as she departed the cafe. France sometimes gets an unfair reputation for being rude and pretentious (especially by Americans). But if you only visit Paris, and don’t attempt to speak any French, you can’t expect to feel overly welcome. Lille is more laid back because it’s not the capital and some locals still view tourists as a novelty.

Lille Highlights:

The narrow and winding streets of the old quarter, Vieux-Ville, packed with shops, restaurants and bars is an area where you could easily spend hours exploring. While the Grand Place of Lille isn’t as opulent as Brussels, it’s still very beautiful and worth having at least a drink to relax and people watch. You could have a very enjoyable day just meandering around Lille, periodically eating and drinking, but there’s also a lot of worthwhile sites and museums too.

The Grand Place of Lille, France
The Grand Place of Lille, France

Other worthwhile attractions in Lille include the Porte de Paris. Similar to the Arc de Triumph, it was built in the late 1600’s to commemorate the victories of Louis XIV. Near the Porte de Paris is the Beffroi de Lille, the town hall. Its 104 meter high belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers a 360 degree view of the city. For museum goers, the Palais des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) houses an impressive collection. It is the largest in France outside of Paris.

Like much of Europe, Lille holds an annual outdoor Christmas market. Wee haven’t visited the one in Lille yet. But several years ago we were in Brussels during their Christmas market, which was fantastic. Wooden stalls are filled with beautiful ornaments and decorated with colorful lights. And all the delicious food and drinks like mulled wine warm your body and soul in the cold temperatures.


If you’re traveling from London to Brussels, you can schedule a stop in Lille on Eurostar. It is on the way. From Paris, Lille is only an hour by train on the TGV. Conveniently located near three major European capitals, Lille is a city with a lot to offer. And it often welcomes its guests with a smile.

For more tips on things to do in Lille, check out their tourism site!

Have you visited Lille? Have questions on planning a trip to France? If so, please leave a comment below or email me at [email protected] and I’ll get back to you! 


  • Alex Kallimanis

    Alex Kallimanis is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner who has visited 67+ different countries, including all 27 European Union countries across all continents except Antarctica. He has resided around the world, living in countries like Australia, the Netherlands and Ireland for over 7 years combined. Currently residing in the Tampa, Florida, area with his wife Bell, he still spends much of his time in Europe as a dual Greek citizen. Alex is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a bachelor of arts degree in history, and was the president of Phi Alpha Theta (Honors History Society) during his senior year there. Alex is an avid enthusiast of sports, spas, delicious food, the outdoors, craft beverages, history and culture.

14 thoughts on “Great Tips for Visiting Lille, France

  1. Wow don’t you just love that you can get to a city in another country in 37 minutes by train!? Part of why I love Europe so much. I haven’t been to Lille but it looks lovely. I like the idea of the Christmas markets… those are always so much fun!

    1. Yes! Though here in Boston it is also kind of easy to go somewhere new with so many states near by, but we miss the train part, just jumping on a train, reading a book, or staring out the window and then being there! And then the Christmas markets help to make those short winter days seem less dreary!

  2. I’ll need to make at least a day trip here on my next visit to Brussels! It looks like a nice city to walk around and great food to be had! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. What a charming place! I have never heard of Lille before, but I need to add it to my list! I love how easy it is to get to countries once you are in Europe.

    1. We’re so glad you’ve been inspired to add Lille to your list of places to visit, Amber! And yes, we miss living in Europe!

  4. I love exploring the smaller cities of Europe and your trip to Lille reinforces why. You get all the charm of Europe at a more laid back pace and more often cheaper prices.

  5. This is a great day-trip guide: informative, not too long, but with everything one might need to know about an unfamiliar place. Moreover, Lille seems an excellent choice for those seeking lesser crowded destinations. Thank you for a tip for our future trip to France. Happy 2016 travels!

    1. Thank you for reading, Traveling Bytes! And thank you for the compliment! I’m glad the post has sparked some interest in a cool, convenient and unfamiliar place to most people.

      Have fun planning your future trip to France and have a wonderful 2016!

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