From Charles de Gaulle’s birthplace to a 200-year-old chocolate shop, here are six things to do on a day trip to Lille, France.
After exploring virtually every nook, cranny and craft beer-filled corner of Belgium on our European winter road trip, we opted to stop at another new-to-us city in one of my favorite countries: France. The lesser-visited town of Lille fuses Parisian charm with industrial environs. Lille—France’s fourth largest city—used to be a train-through town en route to Belgium; delicious bites and colorful architecture have driven an uptick in visitors over the past few years.
If you’re planning to visit Lille on your next European road trip, here are six things to do once you arrive.
1. Visit the Grand Place
Lille’s main square is home to the city’s most prominent monuments, including the Vieille Bourse, Déesse and the Grand Garde. During our late December trip, the Grand Place was transformed into a winter wonderland, so obviously we had to explore the holiday magic!
2. Enjoy Coffee and Quiches at Arthur & Co.
In a city filled with diverse restaurants, sometimes all you need is a tasty little quiche. We arrived bright and early (as in, pre-coffee), and spent the first hour trying to find the perfect java spot. Enter Arthur & Co, a tiny little Grand Place-adjacent cafe on Rue Esquermoise. They have coffee, sandwiches, fresh bread and baked good, including the savory smoked salmon quiche. And…now I’m hungry.
3. Stop by the Notre Dame Cathedral
Lille’s Notre Dame Cathedral is hardly the French Notre Dame Cathedral we all know and love, but that’s a big reason why I liked it. While the Gothic Revival architecture is magnificent, I most enjoyed the small handmade crafts decorating the cathedral’s interior.
4. See Charles de Gaulle’s Birthplace
Famous French politician Charles de Gaulle was born in Lille in 1890. The 9 Rue Princesse residence, where his grandfather had a lace workshop, is now a museum. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the museum, but we did see the outside for a few quick photos.
5. Eat Lunch at Le Porthos
After attempting to eat lunch at five different restaurants, we stumbled upon the chic—and spacious—Le Porthos restaurant. It was a godsend, particularly given most restaurants close around 3 p.m. (And we arrived at Le Porthos at, um, like 2:30…) Thankfully they stayed open late, and had the tasty, nutritious salads we’d been craving after way too many breweries and hearty Belgian meals. I highly, highly recommend this charming and delicious spot!
6. Buy Chocolate at Méert
Méert Chocolate dates back to 1761, when Sieur Delcourt opened the confectionery’s doors in the heart of Lille. Today, Lille visitors can stop by this tasty, historic spot for some of the best chocolate of your life (I particularly loved the truffles!). Definitely make time for a visit here so you head home with Lille’s most delicious souvenirs.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that is Lille! Of course, we only had a day to explore this charming French town; I’m sure we missed quite a bit. If you’ve visited Lille, please share your tips in the comments below!
Ready to see more of France? Here’s my guide to visiting Paris, the country’s heart and soul.