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Palais de Beaux-Arts, Lille


The capital of French Flanders, Lille sits grandly at the crossroads between French Flanders and Champagne country.

Besides its colourful Flemish architecture and its narrow ornamented facades, Lille has a rich and varied heritage. French classical style houses sit alongside the “grands boulevards”. Its historic centre, Vieux Lille is a lively concentration of cobbled squares and narrow streets packed with stylish shops, smart cafes, restaurants and brasseries. When Napoleon decreed that France’s artistic treasures should not be hidden away in the palaces of the aristocracy, Le Palais des Beaux-Arts was one of the museums to take advantage. Today it enjoys a reputation in France second only to the Louvre's.

Lille also boasts the Old Stock Exchange and the Museum of the Hospice Comtesse. If you are an art lover you’ll find some of Monet and Renoir works at the Musée des Beaux-Arts and fine examples of Picassos, Braques and Derains masterpieces at the Musée d’Art Moderne.

Is there a local speciality?
Vieux-Lille or Gris de Lille is a local cheese also known as 'le Puant' ('smelly'). It owes its characteristic taste and aroma to a distinctive maturing process, which encourages the growth of 'gras' on the outside, and gives it a greyish colour.

Any good activities around?
General de Gaulle grew up in Lille and you can visit his house, which is a museum located in a distinctly Flemish neighbourhood. French military architect Vauban was responsible for the star-shaped Citadelle (accessible by guided tour only – ask at the tourist office) across the canal.

As well as its many places of cultural interest make sure you don’t miss Lille’s markets where you can indulge yourself in regional food and local drink specialities.

When's market day?
Wazemmes is the most popular market in Lille, held at de la Nouvelle Aventure on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Sébastopol market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Market de la place du concert on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday morning. And on the first weekend of September each year, the town becomes a huge flea market.

Interesting town fact
General de Gaulle grew up in Lille and today you can visit his house in the Flemish neighbourhood, which is now a museum.