Bienvenue à Lille!

A walk through the capital of Flanders

Having just been to the Capital of the Gauls, this time Midnight Weekly is heading to the Capital of Flanders: Lille. It may not be as far from home as Verona, Valletta or Leipzig, but this city – equal parts modern and historic – must be one of the most beautiful places to spend the weekend in all of France. So whack on some sun cream (yep, you never know) and a pair of comfortable shoes – we’re heading to the north of France.

One really great thing about Lille is that the city is really well connected by rail. Whether you’re coming from France, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg or Germany, it’s very easy to get there by train. As always, we’d recommend kicking off with a casual walk through the historic city centre, with its charming alleyways and ancient buildings. But it doesn’t feel like an open-air museum in any sense. These days the city brims with young people, who flock here for the bars, bookshops and trendy boutiques. Stop off at Aux Merveilleux de Fred to sample some of the city’s finest local delicacies.

Now head to the Wazemmes market, one of the largest in France. This always-buzzing spot offers up fresh produce, clothes, art objects and furnishings. In short, it’s the perfect place to soak the atmosphere of the real Lille, all while filling up your bags with souvenirs and gifts to take home.

At lunchtime, try Compagnons de la Grappe. Hidden in a rather pretty courtyard, this place serves up the very best of northern French cuisine. The traditional dishes come paired with bottles from independent vineyards, and the flowery terrace makes an idyllic spot to while away the afternoon.

But don’t stick around too long. Next, head to the Saint-Sauveur train station, which has been transformed into a gigantic cultural centre. Its various buildings host excellent and original exhibitions, many of which are designed to entertain kids and adults alike. Before heading off, make sure to take a look around the urban farm around the back of the building – it’s a pretty impressive place.

After that, have a mooch around the Place Gilleson, overlooked by the towering Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille cathedral and some of the city’s finest café-terraces. Head inside the neo-gothic cathedral and you’ll discover a place that feels more like an extraterrestrial temple than a Christian place of worship. Inside, the mish-mash of traditional church decor and its own very particular style give the place a very unique feel. Now grab a drink or two at one of the square’s many amazing bars. Brimming with students and other young people, this place really sums up the spirit of the city: busy, jovial and full of life.

And as for dinner? We’d suggest heading to Aux Epherites. Just around the corner from the Palais des Beaux-Arts, this bistro offers some of the finest top-level gastronomy in northern France. In a setting that puts a modern twist on traditional bistro decor, the expert team serves up dishes that place an emphasis on both freshness and originality. Chef Alexandre Suergiu’s menu really is unique, and the organic wine list is wonderful.

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