Although you may not make your way in a thousand years, you make take a few minutes to read about the beauty of the Northern France, Lille.
I was in, the Belgium’s neighbour and the capital of Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Lille for the fist time of my life for a two-month internship. Undoubtedly, when travelling, one of the most important details is figuring out transportation. In Lille, Transpole is responsible of all things related to transport except bikes. From single tickets to yearly passes, there are various tariffs for metro and tram. V’Lille on the other hand organises the biking system and require with credit cards. Even though these bikes give you time flexibility-because buses, trams and metro only run till midnight- you may end up disappointed when you reach your destination and see a full station.
It’s obvious that you won’t come to France and starve, but where specifically one should eat in Lille? “Boulangeri” and “patisserie” are the places where you can find the best treats of French culture such as the best “croissant, pain au chocolat, gauffre, crèpe” in the entire world. If you’re looking for a take-away, then you can simply find what you need at Paul or Le Pain Quotidien around the corner. If you’re feeling like taking a seat, then stop by Rihour and pick a restaurant on your way to the Grand Place(Be Yourself can certainly be a great choice). If it’s a sunday, you can go to the (not even exaggerating) legendary Meert between 11.00-14.00 to have a brunch and be full for the next 12 to 18 hours. My stay in Lille included bayram, so me and my flatmate went to Meert for a bayram brunch. The three course brunch included everything from exceptional french toast to sea-smelling salmon, from fresh orange juice to crispy macarons. Indeed, that was a morning to be remembered!
For fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and antique objets, you can visit one of the countless flea markets of the city. Looking for something a little more sophisticated? Visit Marché du Vieux-Lille. Looking for the local feeling? See Marché de Wazemmes. Typical French restaurants of Nord-Pas-de-Calais are called “estaminet”. We often had dinners and occasionally lunches at these delicious places around Vieux-Lille. For being in a lovely touristic neighbourhood Au Vieux de la Vieille is always super busy, so if you want to eat in a more quite place then treat yourself at Estaminet La Vieille France or Estaminet Chez la Vieille. Incredible macarons, beigners and waffles are just around every corner for snacks to go. Even though it doesn’t make much sense to sit at coffee-chains in stone-building European cities, you might still want to see Notting Hill Coffee for they are French owned and serve incredible viennoiserie.
It would be wise to start “tourist”ing from Rihour station of the metro. Begin by taking photos at Grand Place and follow on to Rue Esquermoise to reach Rue Royale or Rue Basse. Both streets would lead you to Vieux-Lille and Cathedral Treille with Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle(natal house of Charles de Gaule). Moreover, Jardin Vauban and Citadelle just below Champs de Mars are picturesque places to picnic over streets artists’ music and run. When it gets dark out in Vieux-Lille, relax at one of the bars or wine-houses on Rue de la Monnaie, Rue de l’Angleterre or Rue Royale.
Lafayette and Printemps are famous French shopping malls for those who prefers to shop at shopping malls, whereas all the glowing peripheral streets of Grand Place -particularly Lepelletier and Rue Esquermoise- and Vieux-Lille are excellent places to go for street-shopping.
Of course, you should always check out the holiday destination’s calendar for days like public holidays, celebrations, festivals-no one wants to miss those! When I was in Lille, I witnessed perhaps one of the most important days for French people: “La Fête Nationale Française” a.k.a. Bastille Day on July 14th. The day is celebrated with jets spreading red, white and blue colours across the sky all over France and concerts. In Lille, the day started with a jazz band at the gare and proceeded with military parade that took place on Rue de la Liberté, followed by fireworks at Champs de Mars when it got dark.
Eat lots of viennoiserie, drink French wine and get lost between colourful stone-buildings!