I’ll be honest, I’d never really thought about a city break in France, asides from the standard trip to Paris, nip up the Eiffel Tower, grab a croissant, snapchat yourself with the Mona Lisa and head home. So when Lille was decided to be destination of choice I grabbed one of the few guidebooks I could find on the city. That turned out to be the smartest choice I made and the Bradt Guidebook of Lille became my little travel bible for the few days we had.
Top of my list was Lille Zoo. I honestly can’t tell you how I feel about zoos. Seeing caged animals is awful, but educating people about the wildlife beyond their back gardens is great, and seeing monkeys and owls up close and personal was absolutely magical. My mind isn’t made up on zoos yet. The Lille Zoo is open to the public most days, and is absolutely free. It has a huge assortment of animals ranging from birds, rhinos, reptiles and of course the wonderful tapier. We happened to be visiting over a weekend and what appeared to be a public holiday, so in an attempt to be better safe than sorry I did a quick Google using the hotels’s free wifi to check whether the zoo would be open and luckily it was!
Alongside the zoo is the Citadel of Lille – an imposing building still used to this day as a base for the French armed forces. The surrounding pathway – which I believe works out to be just over a kilometre in length – is the go to destination for Sunday morning joggers and you can see why! It is a free area of the city, easily accessible with no cars or distractions – just a beautiful moat and surrounding trees and shrubbery. Whether you’re a jogger wanting to keep up the habit whilst abroad, or just someone looking to take in the sights of Lille at a more leisurely pace, this is definitely a great walk.
The city is scattered with museums and galleries, so really it is up to you to work out what interests you most! We chose the hospital museum as it sounded fascinating, and something you wouldn’t find round the corner at home. With student rates available for any young’uns (under 25) it’s an affordable and really interesting place to visit whilst in Lille.
As with many European cities, you can barely turn a cobbled corner in Lille without encountering another fantastic church or cathedral. Even if religion isn’t normally your cup of tea, I would absolutely recommend taking a moment to step inside these beautiful buildings and appreciate the artistry, time and love that went into them. The arches, stained glass windows and carvings are all stunning and took my breath away every time. There is plenty to do in Lille without splashing the cash, however if you fancy doing so then the theatre and opera house have some amazing shows on offer all year round and the shops vary from cheap nick nacks to incredible designer items.