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Tourist information about Lille

Lille, located in northern France, has been growing strongly as a tourist destination since being named European Capital of Culture in 2004. It is the closest major city to the UK and noted for its Flemish culture, fine museums and excellent food and drink.

Lille is also renowned for its flea market - the biggest in Europe. It started life as a village in 1030 and grew to be capital of Flanders in the Middle Ages, heavily fortified and a leading textile producer in its heyday.

Lille has had a stormy history; besieged 11 times and variously ruled by Flemish, Austrian, Spanish and French conquerors. It was also occupied by Germany in two world wars and suffered major damage to its buidlings.

Today it is the most important city in northern France and the fourth biggest in the country. It has a young population, thanks in part to a large student community, and a vibrant nightlife.

Old and new

Lille is split in two by the boulevard de la Liberte, with the picturesque and charming old town to the north west and the new town to the south where there is one of the best museums in France.

Key attractions are the Fine Arts Museum which has a very impressive permanent collection of major paintings by leading European masters like Donatello, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt and El Greco.

In the old town the cobbled streets are flanked by fine Flemish houses, many now converted to boutiques and cafes. The Grand Place is an attractive traffic free square where the Flemish merchants once traded their fine textiles. The Lille Zoo houses more than 1,000 specimens of animals.

Compact and walkable

The town centre is compact and walkable but there is also a driverless metro and buses and trams for longer journeys, with shuttle links from the major car parks. There are Eurostar rail links from the UK and national rail links to most major French cities.

Lille has excellent road links, located as it is at the crossroads of five motorways: the A1 to Paris, the A25 to Calais, the A23 to Valenciennes, the A27 to Brussels, and the A22 to Amsterdam.

Lille Airport is located in Lesquin, about 10km from the centre with shuttle links every 20mins though as yet there are few flights from the UK or other major European cities.