The square of General Charles de Gaulle is historically the central square of the city of Lille and it houses the largest market in the region. The Grand Place square is typical of the north, such as you will find in the big cities of Belgium and Holland. People still call it Lille Grand Place despite the fact that its name was changed on the August 12, 1944, to honor the general ve had just liberated France. The Grand Place is the heart of the old city. It is on the edge of the pedestrian part of Lille. You will find a column with a goddess, famous buildings such as the regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, the old bag, one of the most prestigious buildings in Lille with their typical facades dating from the seventeenth century and the Flemish Renaissance. At night and at Christmas time when it is lit up it is a very beautiful place.
Between the towns of Calais and wissant, is the natural park of Blac-Nez, mostly formed by cliffs that lend it's name to the park but also encompass some monuments of the Second World War, as the area was deeply affected due to it's close proximity to Great Britain. The best way to see these cliffs is following the recommended route towards Calais - wissant (north to south). From the beginning we realized that the continuous warnings are not in vain, as the winds are particularly strong and enveloping there. But it's worth it because if the day permits, the sea, the coast of Dover and even the surrounding valleys are beautiful ... you must take into account that the when you're at the top of the cliffs, you're at the highest point in the area. Another great area to lose yourself in nature, which in the present case we have to brand as French!
Once we leave behind the bunkers and cliffs in Calais, we see the existence of a huge obelisk, one of the deepest there is in the sea. This monument indicates the existence of one of the most important in the natural park of Blanc-Nez. When we get a little closer, we can see that this obelisk is a tribute to everyone who died in this area during WWII in this strategic enclave. The views are breathtaking and usually visitors spirit is most solemn, after there are numerous panels explaining the history of this place. As one of the recommended stops on the itinerary of the Opal Coast (either on foot or by car), this corner is usually quite crowded, mostly by British citizens.
The Vieux-Lille is the oldest part of the city, you can visit it out of the Lille Flandres station. Most of these old streets are made for walking around, with the north which is the most conserved part of it all. Until the First World War, the old Lille included all of the center before the enlargement in 1858, ie the portion between Boulevard Louis XIV and Freedom Boulevard. You can get lost walking around these streets, which are now full of restaurants, bars and shops. But looking a little at the facades, you will see that some are of the 17th century, when the military general Vauban decided to create a new urban plan for the medieval city. The outsides have details of characters from Greek mythology, above the windows and balconies. Among the older streets you find strange names like Onions Street, of Bossus Chats, Off Street ... Now you can find luxury stores, and the prices have risen, but it is still a very popular place to go and walk around.
Not far from Lille, situated in a beautiful town called Roubaix, you can find one of the most interesting museums in the area. It's a very old swimming pool which houses a good collection of sculptures and paintings, including one by Picasso. We could not resist going to the cafeteria on our way out, to eat the sweet waffles which are typical of the area.
The Chamber of Commerce of Lille is an important landmark in the city. It has a clock tower that plays popular songs in the Theatre's square. The carillon, that is composed of 25 bells that weigh 100 kilos each, plays songs from the north, four times an hour. The tower is 70 meters high and is a sort of neo-flamenco style with vegetable decorations like those of the 17th century. The rest of the building was constructed by the architect Cordonnier in 1910. It is one of the six chambers of commerce and industry of the northern department, and a beautiful historical monument. The chamber organizes activities for companies in the region, offers technical support and even manages the port and airport of Lille. The Chamber of Commerce is now integrated with the urbanisation "grand Lille", I.e. the metropolis which includes cities such as Roubaix and Tourcoing.
Lille Opera House, a neoclassical building built early last century by the architect Cordonier, burnt down ten years before in a large fire, and there was a competition to design the new theater. But just as it was about to open, the first world war started, and the Germans occupied the theater. During the four years of occupation, there were 100 shows, but the first French work was in 1923. They say that was the official opening. The theater is in the plaza of the same name, a lovely square, next to the old stock exchange. Now the theater is like new, refurbished in time for Lille to be European Capital of Culture in 2004. It closely resembles the Opera Garnier in Paris, since at this time the two cities competed much for public buildings and the arts.
The Palace of Fine Arts is a must-visit museum if you are visiting the city of Lille. It is a lovely palace of the Belle Epoque and Napoleon ordered the construction in the late nineteenth century. The Emperor created several major museums in the largest cities of France. The museum had been renovated before Lille become a European City of Culture in 2003, and is located in Republic Square, five minutes walk from the old center. Napoleon wanted the most beautiful works of art to be accessible to the public, instead of being stored in the palaces of aristocrats and archbishops. As the empire expanded, he maintained this policy and had many works of art transported to France. As for the quality of the works, the museum of Lille is one of the best after the Louvre in Paris. The paintings include works by Donatello, Raphael, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Goya ... The museum is every day with the exception of Tuesday, and you can reach the plaza via metro.
The church of Saint Maurice is one of the most famous in the city of Lille in northern France. It is just a few steps from the train station Lille Flandres. It was built in old medieval part of Lille during the the fourteenth century, which explains that the streets around are so attached to the facade of the church. The décor is quite simple. The construction of the church took over four centuries to complete because they had to deal with destruction, wars and invasions. But the city architect ve made the last works during the nineteenth century, made sure not to make the differences between the new works and the oldest part very obvious. At the time of the French Revolution, the church had been emptied of its furnishings and artwork, but it has been redecorated since then. Now there are works of Le Jeune, and the famous Watteau de Lille, a great painter from the eighteenth century. The style of the wood furniture is neo-gothic. The windows are fairly recent, dating from the nineteenth century, but several of them have been renewed after the bombings from the two world wars.
It is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in the city of Lille. Its construction began in 1651, as a way to provide a meeting place for business people and finance, who previously gathered in the main square outside, in the wind and cold. It was built by Architect Julien Destrée in 1652. When you enter the courtyard, you have the impression of being in a single square building, but they are really 24 small identical houses built by 24 different business. It forms a very quiet square around a courtyard with arches; When you walk in you no longer hear the noisy and bustling streets around. The walls are beautifully decorated facades, with Atlanteans and caryatids, characters from Greek mythology. Inside the courtyard (open every weekend from Tuesday to Sunday) there is a market for second-hand old books and sometimes people come to play chess. On Sundays in the summer, there are organised tango nights.
In 1867 the stones of the facade of the Gare du Nord in Paris, were transported in order to construct the Lille-Flanders station. The architect Léonce Reynaud was in charge of it´s construction. Then they built a large, covered hall. The complex was completed in 1890 with materials brought from Paris. More specifically, they came from the Universal Exhibition of 1889. With the Lille 2004 European Capital of Culture event in mind, structures were placed in the hall playing with the colors. This is a beautiful landmark that welcomes travelers in the heart of the City.
Roubaix was named by the French Ministry of Culture city of history and art. In the year 1911, is was the European center of fabric. All Northern France is full of factories that make the best fabrics, clothes and costumes of the country. The climax came when the city hosted international exposure of cloth, and that was when the "hotel de ville", the lovely town hall opened. It is a work of architect Victor Laloux, constructed to the glory of the textile industry, because at this time of industrial expansion it was thought that the success of the city was going to last forever. But in the year 1914, during WWI, the city suffered, and the textile industry the most. It continued a bit, but in the 70's there was a crisis, and it was only 10 years ago that the city again became an economic center. But the structure remains, and today it is the seat of the city council. There is a part that became an art gallery and one that is a tourist information office.
Lille Europe station, opened in 1994, is one of the modern buildings that are so typical of Flanders, with its rigid architecture. Euralille is located opposite the shopping center and is just five minutes walk away from Lille Flandres. It´s also famous for the colorful flowers that adorn the François Mitterrand square.
This cathedral is really beautiful! the facade is gray on the outside when you enter the cathedral, inside the facade is transparent translucent orange! This is because of the veil of marble form which it is constituted, filters sunlight, which is honestly amazing!
Lille Zoo is situated in the Leisure Park of the Citadel. You will find over 80 different species from 5 continents. This zoo has the distinction of harbouring endangered species and it is actively involved in conservation and development. The park's mission is to educate the public, especially young people through many games. In summer, the zoo is open from 9am to 6pm weekdays (7pm at the weekends and during holidays) and admission is free. It is a place waiting for you to discover it.
The Sacred Heart Church of Lille was built by the French architect Jules Batigny between the years 1875 and 1898. The bell tower was completed some time later, in the middle of the following century, and when you walk down the street of Solferino you see it from quite a distance. The chapel boasts beautiful stained glass windows, one of which is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and others depict scenes from the Bible. The strange thing is that the church, instead of having it´s facade facing directly onto the main street, is built on the corner of the street. Due to this, you cannot walk around and see the back part like most of the old churches in this era. The neighborhood itself is worth a visit, and you also have the citadel park close by as well.
The Citadel Park is the green lung of the city of Lille. It is a 20 minute walk from the centre, but you can go by bus. The Citadel was built by the military architect Vauban in the seventeenth century, and the park around it is surrounded by water, as part of the defensive strategy. During invasions, the military could fill the channels with water, and when the English and Dutch attacked the citadel, it held out for over seven weeks. The park is very large, and often hosts a fair with rides and games for children. It lies northwest of the city, and was first used as a park in the second half of the nineteenth century. Locals come here to run, relax or go for a bike ride. There's a zoo, founded in 1955, and the Grimonprez stadium where you can do lots of running and other sports. It was all renovated for 2004, when Lille was European City of Culture.