Lille Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > France > Lille > History

Lille has eight 'police' districts. If you ask someone your way, not many passers-by will be able to help you. Only the plaques showing the street names can tell you. Lille is divided up Vieux Lille - rue de la Monnaie into districts and as you pass through these on your way to the town centre or Vieux Lille (the old part of the town), you will discover many interesting places that will enliven your stay.

In the north-west, the Bois Blancs woods - which lie on the bank of one of the River Deûle's tributaries - surround the river port and provide a large area of green spaces. It is a residential district with a low population, and is an ideal place for walking or fishing along the 3.5 km-long banks of the canal, which runs from the nearby Bois de Boulogne. It's also a great place to go for a swim in the Max Dormoy swimming pool or to see one of the numerous shows at the Grand Bleu.

The Faubourg de Béthune adjoins Wazemmes, (a name which is synonymous with the Sunday morning market and northern friendliness) and the Vauban-Esquermes headland to the south-west. It is one of the most recent areas to have adopted a town- planning scheme, along with Lille-Sud which stretches out to the east. It is a fairly quiet, densely-populated residential area and, as far as tourism goes, offers nothing of particular interest.

Continuing your tour of Lille in an anti-clockwise direction, you will come to Moulins. This area contains remnants from Lille's working class past even though the disused industrial estates are gradually disappearing. Some of the old buildings are being rejuvenated. The Prato Theatre is blooming and almost right behind its stage lie the wonderful Jardin des Plantes.

Further to the east lie the residential districts of Fives and Saint-Maur Pellevoisin. These approach the town centre, opposite the Euralille monument and the Parc Matisse, and form a circle inside the town-centre by joining the Champ de Mars and the Citadelle via La Madeleine.

Between the Citadelle and the town centre lies the other headland of the Vauban-Esquermes district, where many students have taken up residence. The Jardin Vauban is one of the places in Lille where you can find an old-fashioned concert hall - just like the nearby Palais Rameau which is used as an exhibition hall nowadays.

It's only a stone's throw from Vauban to the Centre, along the 2.2km-long Rue Solférino. This main road runs along the south side of the Centre. Along the way, you will see the Carré des Halles, a paradise for those who enjoy nightlife, the Sébastopol Theatre and the nearby house of Colliot the architect (in the Rue Fleurus). Coming back to the centre means coming into the heart of the town via the Place de la République which is dominated by the Palais des Beaux-Arts. The pedestrian precinct is a hive of commercial activity with galleries, cinemas, restaurants and bars ' plenty to attract the general public. It also entails coming back to the Grand'Place, Lille's popular meeeting place, after having passed in front of the Palais RihourVieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange) and the Rang du Beauregard, opposite the Opéra and the Nouvelle Bourse - headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce. Before going on to Vieux Lille, the Porte de Paris and the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) opposite should be noted. The town hall is famous for its Belfry. Also of note is the smart Lille technological project: Euralille. Very few towns can pride themselves on such an exploit, which boldly propels Lille into the XXIst century.

Vieux-Lille - a district packed full of history, has changed with the times and become more modern. These changes have not altered the character of the district, but instead highlight memories of the past which make the district beautiful. Examples of these are Rue de la Monnaie with its Hospice Comtesse, (where it's always a pleasure to stroll around), the Place de Brettignies, where the façade of the Maison Gilles de Boë competes with the recesses and gargoyles of the neighbouring buildings, small streets with mysterious names e.g. the Rue des Trois Molettes, which leads to the square in front of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Treille and streets with charming names e.g. the Rue Princesse, where you can see the house in which General Charles De Gaulle was born. Vieux-Lille is also the place to find antique shops, art galleries and elegant boutiques. The latter are set up in tastefully renovated old houses and can be explored from the cellar right up to the attic. The same goes for the bars, Flemish taverns and small intimate restaurants - all proudly displaying authentic decor.

Lille and its districts have a style of their own - somewhere between Flemish mannerism and baroque - that's just waiting to be discovered. Since the XVIIth century Lille has been enlarged three times, thus giving the town its present day look, which is that of a fairly new town.