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Lille sights

Located in northern France, Lille (from the French “lille” – “island”) bears the stamp of the glorious Flemish past. Everything here breathes with history, and in Lille there are sights everywhere – every building is invariably a museum!

For centuries the main occupation of the inhabitants of Lille was textiles, which have fallen into decline due to the widespread proliferation of synthetics. But the city, founded in the early Middle Ages, managed to survive the hard times, remaining a commercial hub and center of student life. And one of the tourist spots of France!

Top 6 points of interest in Lille

The town’s forty or so square kilometers contain many places of remembrance. Many of Lille’s buildings bear the marks of different eras. Such is the church of St. Maurice: the construction of the temple was begun as early as the end of the 14th century, and in the 19th century the city commissioned the restoration of the Gothic monument by F. Canissa.

General de Gaulle Square

General de Gaulle Square in Lille

As the central square of Lille, it bears several names, including one in honor of the first president of the Fifth Republic, born in 1890. A peculiar center of political life has formed here: rallies and other social and political events are held among the Flemish-style houses, and another old building “shelters” the newspaper’s editorial office.

General de Gaulle Square - a landmark of Lille (France)

However, in the same place – and the center of leisure life: stores, cafes and restaurants. This may have been the reason for calling this square the Great Square. The place has been the center of commercial life since ancient times, as the Old Exchange building, which has decorated the architectural image of Lille since the mid-17th century, reminds us. It used to be a place of trade, deals, and negotiations, but now the city has made it a place of cultural recreation: there are dance evenings, bouquinis and flower fairs.

The square of the Goddess is another name for the central point of Lille. Installed in 1842, the fountain is crowned by a column with a female figure with an artillery fuse in his hand. Created by Sh. Benignat and T. Brat’s monument recalls the events of 1792, memorable for all of France, when the inhabitants of Lille heroically withstood a siege by the Austrians. The city is proud of its military past!

Riur Palace

Riur Palace in Lille

Among the oldest buildings built in the 15th century by the Dukes of Burgundy Riur Palace. It once had four “wings,” but time has been merciless to this masterpiece: only the chapel and staircase have survived. In the 17th century the city set up the city hall here, now it is a tourist center.

Old Town

Old Town - Lille, France

The center of the attractions is the Old City (if you are more comfortable in modern times, let’s go to the urban space of Evrolill!): buildings of Flemish and neo-Flemish, classical and neoclassical styles, art deco style… This is the case of Le Rang du Beauregard, an ensemble representing 17th century architecture. At this time it was ordered to build new structures in the same style as the neighboring ones, so that the city looks, corresponding to the strict rules of classicism.

The building of the Opera Theater and the prefecture, created at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, are worth seeing.

Paris Gate

The Paris Gate in Lille

The city is rich in statues – you can see both Hercules and Mars, recalling the military and commercial success of Lille: both statues complement the ensemble of the Paris Gate, built at the end of the 17th century. For a long time it was considered a city gate. There are also many sculptures dedicated to national heroes. This is the monument to General L. Fairhairb, creator of the Senegalese Rifles. The memory of his exploits was immortalized in 1896 by sculptor A. Mercier, depicting the hero on horseback.

Palace Museum of Fine Arts

The Palace Museum of Fine Arts in Lille

Located on the Place de la République (about half a kilometer from the central square of Lille), it is the second largest museum in France after the Louvre. Founded in 1809 at the behest of Napoleon himself, who wished to promote works of beauty, the Palais des Arts has amassed considerable wealth. The museum was first housed in the church, then moved to the house formerly occupied by City Hall. Finally, in 1885, construction of the Palace was undertaken and completed by 1892. By the end of the twentieth century, the structure had become dilapidated, and the Lille authorities had to undertake its restoration.

Lille - Palais-Museum of Fine Arts

Now the Palace of Arts is three floors filled with paintings, sculptures, ceramics, porcelain, and woodcarvings. The ground floor is also used – exhibits from ancient and medieval times are on display here. Among the paintings are masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance (Raphael and Donatello), but, of course, the city with its Flemish past bestows special honor on the Dutch: Rembrandt and Van Dyck, Bosch and Van Gogh.

However, it would be strange not to find French and Spaniards in that museum: Goya and Courbet, El Greco and Toulouse-Lautrec are waiting for the beautiful visitors of the glorious Lille!

Charles de Gaulle House Museum

Charles de Gaulle was a controversial political figure, but his native city honors his memory: in the house where he was born, since 1983, there is a museum dedicated to him, which has the status of a historical monument.

Charles de Gaulle House Museum in Lille, France

The house on Rue des Princes, where the future organizer of the French Resistance was born, belonged to Charles’ maternal grandparents. Nearby is the church of Saint Andrew: here the future honorary citizen of Lille was baptized.

In this house de Gaulle spent his first childhood years, but the collected exhibits will tell about all his activities and how the political career of the first president of the Fifth Republic and initiator of French decolonial policy developed. In addition to items of the little Charles’ clothes (even his baptismal shirt has been preserved!), a peculiar multimedia library about different periods of the hero’s life is kept here, and short films dedicated to him are shown.

Charles de Gaulle House Museum, Lille, France

A large part of the exposition is devoted to the life and lifestyle of the family members of the future general and president. It is a real monument to the life of a middle-class Lille man, which was Charles’s grandfather, the owner of a tulle factory. Characteristically, although the business was profitable, the furnishings and life of the family were quite modest, without any frills.

In addition to the living quarters, part of the former factory is also represented here. There’s also the History Factory cultural center, which the city can consider one of its calling cards.

Ways to get to Lille

Traveling in France and deciding to see the sights of Lille, you can get to the city from:

The two large train stations, the European and the Flemish (Lille Flandres), are about half a kilometer apart. They themselves can be considered the landmarks of Lille. The Lille Flandres building was built at the end of the 19th century, and the gable of the station copies the gable of the old Paris North Station. The box office in the form of a rotunda also looks luxurious. All this splendor is perfectly combined with modern facilities – information booths, ticket vending machines, etc.

Lille Flandres station in Lille
Lille Flandres station

Lille Europe opened to tourists in 1993 and is a convenient hub for high-speed trains, including international connections. You can come here from Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and even from England: the train from London to Lille takes a tourist in an hour through the tunnel under the English Channel.

Lille Europe Station, Lille (France)
Lille Europe Station

You can reach the city by air from Spain, Portugal and Morocco (the airport is about ten kilometers from the center of Lille). From Russia, unfortunately, there are no flights. The two shortest routes are to fly to Paris or Brussels, and from there by train: both are scenic and take about an hour.

Panorama and map of Lille sights

Video overview of the sights of Lille

Even a virtual trip will not show you a city whose amazing atmosphere is created at the intersection of modernity and antiquity, reality and fairy tale. Perhaps looking at pictures would be enough if such a miracle did not exist in reality. Go and see for yourself!

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