Read about my first solo road trip to Lille from Amsterdam and discover the top things to do in Lille, including what and where to eat and to stay based on my personal experience.
Lille is an adorable city in the very north of France, near the border with Belgium. Locals even told me that you can take the metro from Lille to Belgium, how crazy is that?
Last summer I was planning to go on a solo road trip from Amsterdam to Paris, crossing off a few cities along the way. My itinerary would include Gent, Brussels and Lille. Unfortunately, for a couple of weeks I was in kind of a “homeless” situation, spending most of my savings on Airbnb. I thought I’d have enough time to do it another time. And you know, time goes by…
Then, three weeks ago I got a job opportunity that required me to move back to Bulgaria. I realized that leaving the Netherlands would also mean leaving behind my dreamt road trip. I really needed to have this new experience, to explore a bit of the world on my own.
And so, I decided to go for a weekend getaway to Lille.
My weekend getaway to Lille was exquisite.
I’ll always cherish those three days in Lille because I felt more open and more empowered than ever before. I was there for me, choosing to wander across the narrow streets or to just spend the whole morning sipping dark roast coffee, eating French croissants and pain au chocolate.
Although my trip started quite poorly, the actual experience was more than amazing. My Airbnb hosts cancelled my reservations twice so I opted for less exciting but safer option. I booked ibis Budget hotel via Booking.com for €40 per night, which was very clean and very close to the city center of Lille. Its only disadvantage, which is not really a disadvantage: I didn’t have a balcony. I really wanted to.
What to do & see in Lille
As usual, I didn’t quite have a plan for what to do and visit. I did have, however, a list of must-try French meals and pastry. I’ll get to that one later, so keep scrolling down.
I just walked around, immersing into the calm atmosphere of Lille. One narrow street after another, I somehow managed to reach all the good places to visit.
Here’s what I think is worth visiting in Lille.[checklist-box title=”” extraTitle=”” extraUrl=””]
- Grand Place (Place du Général de Gaulle) – the main square of Lille
- The Old Stock Exchange (La Vielle Bourse)
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame de la Treille
- Rang du Beauregard
- Librarie Furet du Nord
- Palais Des Beaux-Arts
- Eglise Saint Maurice
But if you ever go, please, just breathe and wander. Lille has a unique vibe, an exquisite mix between marvelous historical architecture and dynamic modern life. I loved the tiny cobblestone streets surrounded by grandiose Renaissance and Baroque Flemish buildings with neoclassical facades. I loved the sleek and cozy cafés and brasseries. And opposite to everything I’ve been told about French people, I loved the locals, too.
What and where to eat in Lille
So, the very big question: what and where to eat?
Choosing where to eat was very difficult. I totally relied on my luck and on my sense of aesthetics. On my first night I chose a delightful small restaurant near my hotel, Le Chalet de Candice. As I really had no idea what to order, I asked the cute French waiter to choose his favorite. Now, I’m not quite sure what exactly that was but it tasted delicious. And the wine, oh, the wine…
I had lunch in another pretty restaurant cuddled up at the building of the Old Stock Exchange. The lady who served me didn’t speak English so I thought “that’s going to be a mission impossible”. Luckily, the guy sitting next to my table helped me order and saved my lunch. We got to talking and quickly became friends. This once again reminded me that you can meet amazing people if you keep an open mind and let yourself be you.
So, here’s the list of what to eat in Lille.[checklist-box title=”” extraTitle=”” extraUrl=””]
- pain au chocolat (every bakery shop but my favorite was Paul’s Bakery)
- merveilleux (flavored whipped cream with different toppings, you can find your treat at Aux Merveilleux de Fred)
- French croissants
- French macaroons
- moules frites
Although it was not planned at all, somehow I managed to be in Lille for both the national day of France (July 14) and the final match of the World Cup. The French celebrated their Bastille Day with half an hour of fireworks, which were totally amazing. And nothing can compare to the atmosphere before and during the football match. Everyone, literally everyone, was out on the streets, with painted faces and raised flags. That was the perfect way to say goodbye.
Spending three days in Lille on my own, with no strings attached, doing whatever I wanted to do and not having to do anything I didn’t feel like—this was an amazing experience. If you ever have the chance to visit, go. You’ll fall in love—with the stunning architecture, with the narrow cobblestone streets, with everything Lille has to offer.