Lille had its early beginnings in 1030 as a little town surrounding the
castle of Buc. It suffered hostilities during the 13th and 14th centuries having
been destroyed, rebuilt, besieged and retaken. By the end of the 14th century
the town came under the jurisdiction of the Duke of Burgundy and prospered until
1667 when it was besieged by the French in war with Spain. Further reversals
occurred in the 20th century but now it is a peaceful and prosperous town.
We made an early visit to the tourist office by Gare Rihour for maps and
services. It is open from 9.30 until 6.30 PM except Sundays and Bank holidays
when it closes at 5 PM. The Lille Métropole City Pass, which includes day
tickets for the metro, tram and bus services, costs 18 euros for one day, 30
euros for two days and 45 euros for three days. The Pass provides entrance to
some 32 tourist sites and reduced admission to theatres. To make the purchase
worthwhile be sure that at least two sites are open on the days you travel.
Minibus tours of the city (included in the pass) leave outside the tourist
office on the hour. A two hour guided tour of the Old City leaves at 2.30 PM on
The Palais des Beaux Arts is a short walk away. It is near the station of
that name, and is considered the second most important Fine Arts Museum in
France, after the Louvre. It is a nineteenth century building with extensive
galleries containing an impressive array of paintings. Artists include Rubens,
Goya and Van Dyck amongst many others. A large collection of 17th and 18th
century ceramics from many European countries is housed in the basement. A
further gallery is devoted to 19th century French sculpture. An unusual feature
is the set of 18th century models of the countryside during various phases of
the town's development.
WE relaxed at a café in the nearby pedestrian precinct. It was
welcome after touring the museum. It was the place to watch the world go by. If
the cafés are full then the restaurants will serve you coffee except at
The Citadelle, constructed by the order of Louis XIV in 1667, is the work
of the Marquis of Vauban. It started as a little town surrounded by five
bastions in the form of a star. 60 million bricks were used in its construction
together with 3 million stone blocks. Guided tours can be booked at the Tourist
Office. Three blocks to the East is the birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, which
has been converted into a museum.
From the citadel it is a short walk to the river. The riverboat tour is
included in your City pass. While waiting for the tour we visited the nearby
zoo. The boat, which starts from the lock, does not arrive until a few minutes
before the advertised time. The hour-long tour takes you past the zoo and on to
the Canal de la Deûle where commercial shipping still operates.
The Conservatoire de Lille by Rue Colos is opposite the Palais de
Justice. In consideration of the public providing an audience, recitals by the
students are free. The programmes of events are posted on the notice board; it
may be necessary to book a ticket for popular events. Less frequently the
Conservatoire gives free concerts at the Théâtre Sébastopol
in Rue Solférino. These are popular occasions but it is a large theatre
and we had no trouble in getting seats.
On the other side of the Palais de Justice is The Musée de l'Hospice
Comtesse. It was formerly a hospital founded in 1237 by Jeanne de
Constantinople. It now displays work by Flemish, Dutch and French artists.
There are numerous restaurants in Lille offering food of every
nationality. The excellent guide to restaurants, bars and discothèques is
free from the tourist office.