Despite its status as a cultural hub and bustling university city, Lille is still somewhat underrated it seems. Let’s try to change that! Located at the heart of the London – Paris – Brussels triangle and the capital of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, Lille is not only easy to reach, it’s also unique because of its proximity to and strong historical ties with Belgium (or rather French Flanders to be correct). It’s a dynamic, welcoming city with something for everyone. We asked our team for their preferred spots and they were happy to oblige.
You got to Lille in the morning, got some pain au chocolat on the go but now it’s almost noon and you’re hungry. Let’s look at our food options, shall we?
Culinary ambassador of the North, Florent Ladeyn is a man of ambition with no less than 3 restaurants to his name. Recently, he opened Bierbuik, an estaminet and brewpub in the middle of the city. Homebrewed beer, healthy food made from fresh and local ingredients – prepared on a traditional wood stove, all in an authentic, warm setting. Amazing ! Obviously, we also have to mention Bierbuik’s nephew; Bloempot, a Flemish canteen offering simple, yet rich local meals of the highest quality. Please do reserve before you go. And if you don’t mind going out of the city, Vert Mont is located in Boeschepe (30 minutes by car from Lille) and highly recommended for culinary connoisseurs.
On a different register La Bellezza—from the famous Italian restaurant group Big Mamma— is seriously worth the detour, if not for the food, for the impressive venue and super cool team. Get prepared to queue a little, as they don’t take reservations.
If you’re in for a quick lunch, Charlie’s Delicatessen is a good option in Vieux Lille (the old part of town). They specialize in veloutés (creamy soups), bagels and salads. Right across the street from our Bellerose store, Morel & Fils is worth a visit too, it’s a classic brasserie that offers Northern specialties in a building that dates back to 1792. Finally, for a place that is 100% Italian in terms of food, décor and vibe, try Papa Posto, our team loves their pizza dough bread.
If there’s one establishment that nears legendary status, it’s got to be Meert. Sure, you can get a fine cup of coffee or tea there, but it’s their amazing waffles that will leave you hooked. Get yourself a little table, with a view on the garden if possible, and let it all happen.
Still in the mood for sweetness? Head to L’Impertinente, a small and cozy tea salon/store run by a young couple. Their gâtals and other cakes are to die for. Another go-to in the genre is Aux Merveilleux De Fred, renowned for their meringue cake coated with whipped cream, a regional specialty. As a final tip, Caféine Coffee is there for coffee fans – as the name gives away – but also has lunch and snacks on offer.
A boat turned bistro and bar on the Deule river? Yes please. Archimède is a favorite among locals because of its unique location right near the Parc de la Citadelle and its lovely terrace. Get your evening drinks there or opt for Riddim, a more urban type of spot with a relaxed atmosphere and music you can bounce to. Guaranteed a fun time.
A contemporary treasure trove, that’s how Memento Mori describes itself. Beautiful, original and sometimes even strange objects from all over the world can be found right here. While we’re on the topic of concept stores, Cigoire is another must-visit. Focusing on quality slow shopping, you’ll find everything from cosmetics, jewelry and stationery to premium clothing.
On the ecologically aware tip, El Market is an undiscovered gem. As promoters of a new, more responsible way of shopping, they offer ethically produced fashion for the whole family, as well as kids’ toys, decorative objects and a lot more.
A concept of another kind is Homa, a place where you buy a new couch or cupboard, while enjoying homemade cake and coffee. Into denim and streetwear? Culture Denim is there to propose a finely curated selection of contemporary brands.
As stated, Lille is a hotspot for all things cultural. Ever since Lille was the cultural capital of Europe in 2004, every 3 years the Lille 3000 association organizes a cultural event throughout the whole city, bringing new artists and creativity to the forefront. This year’s theme being Eldorado. Let Google help you and check out what’s going on. Another no-brainer is the Lille Palace of Fine Arts, which has France’s second largest art collection (right after the Louvre). Get your dose of Rembrandt, Goya, Delacroix and Rodin there.
Built in the 50s as a mail sorting center in between both of Lille’s train stations, Le Tripostal was transformed into a wonderful space dedicated to exhibitions of all kinds, but also parties, conferences and more. On a slightly similar note, Gare Saint-Sauveur is an old train station that holds the middle ground between a bar and exhibition space and it’s definitely worth a stop too.
If it’s nice out, maybe you’d rather be outside? Le Parc de la Citadelle is the right place to go in that case. Encircled by the Deule river, the park includes the Boulogne woods and a zoo. A wide range of trees will gladly provide you with some shadow while you take a little break.
Finally, we wouldn’t forgive ourselves if we did not recommend Villa Cavrois. A stunning modernist villa constructed between 1929-1932 by architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, at less than half an hour from city center. After decades of neglect, it was restored to its original form from 2003 to 2015 and the result is spectacular. Nowadays it’s a historical monument, owned by the state.
Pictures : Louis Vielle
Words : Bjorn Dossche