Top French Cities - Lille at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Lille Tourism & Convention Bureau at

City region: Hauts-de-France

Population & what they are called: 233,897 inhabitants (1.2 million in the greater metropolitan area) (2014 census), called Lillois

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 2 h 25 min (140 miles) via the A1 autoroute du Nord

  • by train: about 1 h by TGV from the Gare du Nord, and about 50 min by direct TGV from Paris CDG airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Louis Pasteur, microbiologist, founder of the Pasteur Institute of Lille

  • Charles de Gaulle, general, former President of France

  • Nicolas Hulot, journalist, ecologist, writer and recent Minister of Ecology

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • With over 100,000 students – many of them from abroad – Lille is France’s third largest university complex.

  • As France’s fourth largest metropolitan area, Lille is an international crossroads, a dynamic financial center and city notable for its welcoming living environment, well-preserved heritage and active artistic and cultural life. In 2004, Lille was designated the European Capital of Culture.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Lille – a showcase of the city's historic French and Flemish architecture, including the Notre-Dame de la Treille cathedral

  • Vieille Bourse – the Old Stock Exchange, built on the Grand Place in the mid-17th century in the richly ornamented Flemish Renaissance style

  • Citadelle – massive Vauban fortress from the 17th century and considered a masterpiece of fortification, urban art and French architecture

Top annual events:

  • La Grande Braderie – the largest flea market in Europe that kicks off in the first week of September (

  • Latitudes Contemporaines – a festival of contemporary dance (

  • NEXT Festival – a celebration of contemporary theatre and performances (

Most notable museums:

  • Musée du Palais des Beaux-Arts – home to France's second largest art collection (

  • Musée d'Art Moderne, d'Art Contemporain et d'Art Brut (LaM) – renowned museum and sculpture park full of masterworks by modern and contemporary artist (

  • La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie – a showcases of fine and applied arts in a former art-deco municipal swimming pool (

Culinary specialties:

  • carbonnade flamande – small beef chunks stewed in beer and often sprinkled with gingerbread

  • petit salé lillois – a traditional potjevleesch, like a potted meat, made from lean ham

  • babeluttes de Lille – toffee flavored with vergeoise (beet sugar)

Local wines & spirits:

  • genièvre – also called jenever or Duch gin, a juniper-flavored traditional eau de vie typically drunk in small restaurant-cafes called estaminets

  • beer – this is the center of French beer country, so local micro-breweries have plenty of the typically strong-flavored beers with high alcohol content


  • Marché de Wazemmes – one of the largest markets in France, with everything from fruit and vegetables to furniture and electronics

  • Euralille shopping centre – has over 130 shops

  • retails chains – Lille is the birth city of several big retail stores like Auchan, Decathlon, Leroy Merlin and Castorama

Most popular night spots:

  • Gare Saint Sauveur – a former train station rehabilitated as a bar, cinema and space for exhibitions, concerts, clubbing events and more

  • Le Bar Paralléle – a local dive bar with lots of space, long hours and a DJ on the weekend

  • La Boulangerie Bar – small but extremely popular bar with sodas, wines, beers and nice appetizers too

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Parc de Loisirs de la Citadelle – Lille’s largest park, largest green area and a great place for the whole family

  • maisons Folie – used by artists, associations and passersby as places to meet, create and exchange ideas (

  • Parc Matisse – a central park and a great place to pause with family for a picnic, a stroll or some sports

Local industries:

  • Euratechnologie – a former textile factory that has become a temple of the digital economy

  • Eurasanté – the largest university/hospital complex in Europe, devoted to the health and biotechnology sectors

  • insurance – France's second largest insurance center, with six head offices, including AG2R - La Mondiale and Lloyd Continental

In Pop Culture:

  • Hanna – the 2011 thriller with Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett about a girl raised to be the perfect assassin

  • Witness (Die Zeugen) – a 2014-2017 German TV thriller mini-series set in a small village in France

  • A House in Flanders, by Michael Jenkins – an account of a shy and solitary 14-year-old boy sent to spend the summer with ͚the aunts in Flanders.

Major 2020 developments:

  • The great Northern capital Lille is the first French City to be named Lille World Capital of Design. The kick-off will be December 6, 2019 and followed through 2020 by the display of hundreds of innovative design projects affecting every facet of modern-day life. Just one hour from Paris by TGV

About Top French Cities -

Top French Cities is an association of 29 cities, from regional capitals like Bordeaux to important towns like Avignon and Versailles. They are perfect for young travelers, families and anyone else looking for fun and authentic French experiences that will fit their budget. Most of these cities are university towns with a youthful atmosphere, but all of them reflect the heritage and distinctive flavors of the regions to which they belong. Many are forward-looking too, with historic buildings repurposed to house contemporary art and activity centers like Les Docks in Marseille. Many have created or integrated new, modern museums to contrast with their classical, architectural heritage, like in Nimes, where the cutting-edge Museum of Roman Civilization (Musée de la Romanité) is located across from the historic Roman amphitheater, or in Nantes, where whimsical mechanical creatures are being created, or in the UNESCO World Heritage Site concrete city of Le Havre.


Marion Fourestier
Atout France-The France Tourism Development Agency