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Lille is one of France’s undiscovered gems. With the Old Quarter’s beautiful wide squares and a labyrinth of narrow cobbled shop-lined streets that stand out against the modern futurist buildings around the centre, the city is now a major tourist attraction. Its vibrant cultural life, with one of the best art galleries outside Paris, and thriving music scene, plus the annual Braderie – the biggest flea market and antique fair in Europe which takes place every September and when more than a million visitors create a virtual 36-hour street party – are rapidly making Lille northern France’s unofficial capital.
Main City Paris
Surface 39.51 km²
Density 5,720 /km²
The lovely art museum La Piscine in Roubaix, close to Lille, is set in a former art deco municipal bathhouse, with graceful buildings surrounding a courtyard and garden. Today, the high vaulted swimming pool building still exists, but now it makes an impressive and stunning exhibition space for sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries. La Piscine’s art collection is equally impressive and includes works by leading artists from Bonnard to Dufy and Picasso, with many of the paintings and ceramics originating from collections amassed by Lille’s wealthy industrialists. The museum regularly holds excellent international exhibitions of contemporary art and plays an important part in Lille’s cultural life.
The vibrant club B-Floor is a favourite nightlife venue amongst the students and party-goers of Lille, famed for the size of its huge dance floor, which can take up to 500 people, and which gets really packed on Fridays and Saturdays. B-Floor’s top DJs play electro, house and dub, and with evenings of salsa, rock, reggae, merengue and blues there’s something to please the most demanding of dance fans. The well-stocked bar has an extensive cocktail menu, plus there’s a happy hour on Friday nights.
Set around the covered courtyard between two old town houses of Vieux Lille, a series of candlelit red brick and panelled rooms with wooden tables creates an inviting and warm décor at restaurant La Cave aux Fioles. The staff here are friendly and welcoming, and the cuisine – a fusion of excellent traditional cooking with a modern twist – lives up to the intimate atmosphere of the restaurant. The menu is full of choice, from mouth-watering waterzooï de Homard – a rich lobster stew – to mushrooms stuffed with Roquefort. For dessert try the typical Délicatesse du Nord: glace au genièvre et à la chicoré – a tantalising ice-cream flavoured with local gin and chicory.