JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH AMÉLIE GAYANT FROM LILLE, FRANCE !
Amélie is a 27 year old French, born and brought up in Lille. She loves art, music, shopping, spending good time with her friends and travelling (a lot!) and knows the city like her pocket 🙂 She has travelled a lot in France and abroad. Currently, she is doing a long trip of several months in Asia. You can keep up with her travel experiences on Melieway. She understands that it is difficult to know what to do in a city one is visiting without a local and believes that her answers will help us to appreciate Lille, which will always be her city, no matter where she is.
The city of Lille is located at the northern tip of France near the Belgian border. It is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region. It is a vibrant and lively city which draws huge crowd of young university students . Historically the city was built on a marshy area from which it takes its name. Indeed, in old French Lille was written “l’Isle” which meant “the island”.
Which is the best time to visit Lille?
Lille is a dynamic city which can be visited any time. There are lots of students living there because the universities are good and nightlife is lively, with lots of pubs to have a drink (or more) with friends. If you want calm and not too many people around, June, July or August are perfect because students come back home for holidays. But if you are looking for sun, I can’t swear you will have it in Lille in this period…
It isn’t a very sunny city in a general way, but we can have good surprises 🙂
Lille is also very beautiful during Christmas. We have a little but lovely Christmas market, and a big Wheel on the principal square at that time.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Lille? What are the different modes of transport available from the airport?
There are several options in terms of transport, my favorite one is taking a bike. It is easy to do, and not expensive at all. You can find bicycles’ terminals, called « Stations V’Lille », everywhere in the city and the roads are good to cycle around. This way, you can go at your own pace and discover the city without missing anything.
But if it is raining, there is also subway (there are just two lines so it is very easy), bus and tramways. These transports are convenient to go outside the city too. So you must go and discover the nearby places.
From the airport, you can take a bus, I think it costs around 7€ and in fifteen minutes it brings you to the city center. You can also take a taxi, but it is more expensive.
Which are the top 3 must visit places in Lille?
According to me you can’t leave Lille without visiting the Old town with all its lovely little paved streets. The old colorful buildings are typical to north of France with their red bricks. « Le vieux Lille » is also the perfect place to find lots of lovely little shops for gift, clothes, jewelry etc and good restaurants satisfying all tastes. An essential address you have to go is the Meert’s bakery, it’s a beautiful place to have a coffee or tea break and especially to eat pretty and tasty pastries (they are known for their stuffed waffles, which are just delicious !)
Then, there is a place I really love to go, named « La vieille bourse ». Located on the « Grand’Place » of Lille, it is certainly one of the most beautiful monuments of the city. Besides being a lovely building, the old stock market contains a small flea and books market where you can also find pretty old posters and postcards. Every Sunday evenings during summer (July, August and September), tango dancers take possession of the place. It is a peaceful and magnificent show to see.
Third, for me would be taking a walk in the Citadelle of Lille, the Vauban Garden, and maybe going to the zoo located in the same place. There are lovely red pandas in the zoo who are absolutely adorable ! Like a lot of locals, I go there to jog everyday because it is a nice little place next to a river away from the noise of the city.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Lille ?
There are lots of things to do around Lille. In terms of museum, my favorite one is « La Piscine » in Roubaix, 20 minutes by tramway from Lille. Exhibitions take place in an old swimming pool with interesting architecture and design.
There is also the Louvre Lens at one hour from Lille by train or the « Villa Cavrois » in Croix, same distance from Lille as Roubaix. It is classified as an historical monument and it’s beautiful architectural work is what I would highly recommend everyone to see.
At one hour by car or train, you can also go to the beach of Dunkerque where there is long sandy beach and a lot to discover in terms of World War 2 history. There are, in particular old blockhouses by the sea. Much of the Christopher Nolan’s big budget film Dunkirk also took place on this beach.
What is the most celebrated holiday of the year in Lille?
Do not miss the Lille Braderie, the biggest one in all of Europe, in the first week-end of September ! The locals set up stands on sidewalks to sell things they don’t want anymore. It’s like a big flea in all the city and the atmosphere is amazing !! Shops also do unbelievable sales in this time. The tradition wants people eat mussels en French fries (and drink beers for sure) and then restaurants make big piles with mussel shells.
In the evening, people go to Masséna street to party crazily all the night. We call Masséna street « the thirsty street », no need to tell you why… 🙂
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Lille? Is it a vegetarian friendly city?
There is a dish called « welsh », which is a must to taste. It is made with bread, ham, beer and cheese. If you are on a diet, it is not for you 🙂
Another culinary speciality of Lille, sweet this time, is the « Merveilleux ». It is a small cake composed of two airy meringues welded together by a thick layer of butter cream, all richly covered with whipped cream and surrounded by chocolate chips. Two shops in the city named « Aux Merveilleux » make the best ones. One is in front of the Wazemmes’market, the other one is in « rue de la monnaie » in the old town. Be ready to wait to taste it if you go there on a Saturday or Sunday; the cakes are so good and shops so famous that they are always full, and there’s even sometimes a queue on the sidewalk.
About vegetarian, I am one, and I am living very well in my city. Lots of restaurants adapt their menu to vegetarian, it is really easy to find.
Where to head for shopping in Lille?
For shopping you have several options :
First there is a big mall next to the train station called « Euralille » where you will find all the famous brands as Zara, Mango, Pimkie, Pull&Bear… and some restaurants and fast-food joints too.
You can also go to the old town, where you will find lovely but expensive things. Some luxury brands have their shops in this area but there are also lovely little French shops with correct prices too.
Personally, I go in Bethune walking street when I want to do shopping. There are all the famous brands like Zara, mango, H&M etc… for all budgets !
In terms of markets, the Wazemmes is the best one for me. It is a big market which takes place every Thursday and Sunday morning. The better time to go there is on Sunday cause it is a day off in France and lots of locals go there to buy food, flowers and other things. In fact you can find everything in this market for a very reasonable price ! It is located on a square with a covered hall in the middle, surrounded by restaurants and bars.
There are two other markets on Saturday which are also good even though they are smaller : one is in the old town, the other one is next to Sebastopol theatre on Sebastopol square.
What is the local craft or speciality of Lille?
Without doubt beer is the thing to get as souvenir from Lille. In Lille there are all sorts of beers to discover and the most of them are delicious. You will find shops which make little packages with several beers of the city in lovely bottles.
Which are the best streets of Lille worthy of taking a stroll on?
For me it would be Esquermoise street in the old town and Inkerman street next to Republic square in the city center (this one is lovely, surrounded by big trees and with the Sebastopol Theater in the end).
You must also go to the principal square of Lille : « La Grand’Place » which is really beautiful!
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of Lille?
I think the best place to have a wonderful view is from the top of the belfry of the city hall. The belfry is a UNESCO World Heritage and it dominates Lille from its height of 104 meters.
Would you suggest any shows in Lille to drama, music or art lovers? Where can one spot street art in your city?
For art lovers, the best place to be is the « Gare saint so ». It is an old train station which has been transformed into an art place with temporary exhibitions all the year. And the entrance is free so don’t hesitate to go. I love this place ! There is also a pub-restaurant inside which organize concert or DJs sets during the evening.
If you like classic art, the « Musée des Beaux Arts » in the city center on Republic Square is really great.
About Street art, there is not so much in Lille. In the area of Five, you will find some wall with street art but I can not give you one precise place. I think it is more funny and interesting to find it by yourself (taking time to visit little streets 😉 )
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Lille?
For food delivery you can use Deliveroo. You will see lots of cyclists waiting in front of restaurants since it is used a lot by locals.
For transport, you really don’t need an app ! It is really easy to use.
I can just recommend you Uber to come back to your hotel in the evening if you don’t want to take publics transports or bike. It is like taxi but less expensive.
Do you want to give any suggestion/tip to tourists coming to Lille?
Lille is in the north of France, so sometimes the weather can be bad and it can start raining suddenly. Don’t forget to carry an umbrella in your bag always 🙂