Lille – a Flemish city in Northern France
Lille was an ailing industrial town with only a defunct textile industry to show for itself. Since then it has undergone a multi-million euro facelift, attracted world-famous designer shops into its gabled buildings, became a feted university town, and got itself onto the Eurostar network.
With its Flemish culture, its Ch’ti dialect, and gorgeous Flemish architecture, Lille has lots to offer Le Weekender .
Why go now?
Lille’s streets are ablaze with festive lights and the market is in full swing. Eighty wooden chalet-shaped stalls grace Place Rihour, roasting chestnuts and selling jewelry, toys, and gifts. Don’t miss the waffles and gingerbread.
Nearby at Grand’Place, a big Ferris wheel offers a bird’s eye view over the city and there’s a merry-go-round dancing to the sounds of Noel.
Life is a Cabaret
Spend an evening at the all sequins and feathers dinner and cabaret show at La Prestige Palace (think mini Moulin Rouge) for a spectacular show. After a three-course dinner, the pink and silver curtains draw open, the drums roll and outcome the dancing girls and boys singing tunes like Hello Dolly in Franglais and of course Life is a Cabaret.
You will find world famous designers such as Hermès, Louis Vuiton and Lacoste in rue de la Grande Chaussée to smaller boutiques by individual designers on Lille’s oldest street, rue de la Monnaie so named after the royal mint. The best department store is Printemps (think Debenhams) on rue Nationale or pop by the market in Wazemmes on Sunday morning and rub shoulders with the locals.
Lille’s cobbled medieval Vieille Ville – an old town – is dotted with Renaissance architecture. On Grand’Place the stunning 17th century Vielle Bourse, a quadrangle of 24 ornate houses surround a rectangular courtyard where trading took place. Note the cute chubby cherubs, saucy female forms, and garlands.
Sun King Louis XVI left his mark on the city too. The Grand Gard once used as military barracks is today the Théâtre du Nord – you’ll see his sun symbol sandwiched between the coats of arms of France and Lille on its pediment.
Also, check out the Opera House on nearby Place du Théâtre. On the façade is Apollo surrounded by his muses. To the left is a depiction of Amédée Cordonnier’s allegory of Music and on the right Tragedy by Hector Lemaire.
For local fare head for an estaminet – hop decorated, wooden-floored Flemish style restaurant. Specialties include carbonnade flamande (beef cubes cooked in beer and brown sugar), potjelvesch (a cold dish of porc, rabbit, and veal), and waterzooi (a mix of three white fish). Drink with locals’ beers and finish off with the local eau-de-vie genevièvre.