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The capital of the Hauts-de-France region and straddling the Belgian border. Lille is home to around a quarter of a million people, making it France’s 10th largest city. Over a million people live within its urban area – the 5th largest in France.
Archaeological digs suggest that the area on which Lille was built has been populated since 2000 BC however the first recorded mention of Lille was in 1066 (AD). It has a history of invasions with Vikings, Magyars and Protestant radicals in the 16th century. It was occupied by German forces in both the First and Second World Wars.
Today, Lille is a centre of industry and has been hailed for its internet friendly culture. It is renowned for its universities, with its student population contributing to its vibrant nightlife. Visitors will be charmed by its stunning historical architecture, great shopping opportunities and modest gay scene.
For information about gay rights in France, please check out our Gay Paris City Guide page.
Due to Lille’s large student population (and France’s history of tolerance), Lille is very welcoming of LGBT+ travellers. Lille’s organised gay scene is modest in comparison to Paris or Brussels’, but the city has its fair share of gay venues including some Gay Bars, Gay Cuise Clubs and Gay Saunas
Lille hosts a popular annual Pride festival, usually held at the end of May/beginning of June. Its main event is the Saturday street procession and party; however, there are events programmed in the run up to the parade.
Lille-Lesquin Airport (LIL) is a small airport, located 7 km south of the city centre. It offers limited connections to domestic airports and destinations in Europe and North Africa. There is a seasonal long-haul connection to one of France’s overseas departments in the Caribbean.
A direct coach from the airport takes you into the city centre in around 20 minutes. The service runs every hour with single tickets costing £7. Taxis can be hailed at the airport or ordered in advance. A journey will cost between €25-30 into the centre. Car hire is available from the airport. The drive into the city takes around 15 minutes.
Due to Lille’s location, you are more likely to fly into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Brussels Airport (BRU) and Brussels South Charleroi Airport (CRL). From Charles de Gaulle it is possible to get to Lille in an hour by train, and there is a direct coach from South Charleroi to Lille which takes 90 minutes.
Lille has two main railway stations. Lille Flandres offers local connections and TGV services to and from Paris. Lille Europe offers a wider range of connections to destinations across France, Belgium and Eurostar connections to London St Pancras (in an hour and a half) where you can connect to other destinations
Lille’s historic city centre is compact and quaint which makes it perfect for exploring on foot. Rain is common throughout the year so pack accordingly.
By public transport
Transpole operates Lille’s integrated system of buses, 2 tramlines and 2 driver-less metro lines. Tickets start at €1 for a 3-stop Zap ticket to €14 for a set of ten tickets. The services run from 5.30am to around midnight every day except for the first of May. Some bus routes cross the border into Belgium.
Taxis can be readily hailed in Lille or found at ranks but it can be a bit more difficult to get a cab late at night or during rush hour. The taxi app operates in Uber. Take the usual precautions and don’t get into unmarked cabs and check for signs that the car is legitimate (meter, fare display, ID etc).
Lille has a great choice of accommodation in the city centre near the best sightseeing attractions. Our list of top Lille hotels for gay travellers can be found on the Lille Hotels page.
La Vieille Bourse – a stunning building, constructed in 1653. This former stock exchange is one of the city’s great landmarks and hosts booksellers or a flower-market in its inner-courtyard.
Le Furet du Nord – the largest bookstore in Europe, making it a tourist attraction in its own right. Here you will find 8 floors of books and a quaint cafe.
Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille – one of the largest art museums in France. In this dazzling example of the Belle-Époque architecture you will find works of art by Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Rubens and Rembrandt.
Lille Botanical Garden – a pleasant place to take a romantic stroll or picnic on a sunny day. Here you will find a varied selection of plants, a large and scenic lake, and the city’s astronomical observatory.
Vieux Lille Shopping – while the historic old town has most of Lille’s tourist attractions here anyway, it is also where you can find upmarket names and trendy designer boutiques.
Marché de Wazemmes – a treasure trove of antiques, farmers’ produce, craft goods and street food. Held every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning.
Lille Cathedral – with its museum of religious art, this Neo-Gothic cathedral is a national monument.
Citadel – constructed by the military engineer Vaudan in the 17th Century by the military engineer (who referred to it as the queen of citadels). It is worth getting a tour to take in the history of this fascinating building.
The weather in Lille can be described as moderate. Summers don’t get too high and while winters can dip below zero, this is not the norm. You can expect rain at any time of year. June and September are the busiest months so to avoid the hordes avoid these months.
There are many popular festivals and events held in Lille throughout the year. La Braderie is an extremely popular event in September when the city becomes a flea market with musicians and street performers everywhere. Once a month in Wazemmes’ is the Chalice Sound System reggae event which has a party atmosphere.
France is within the Schengen visa area. If travelling from outside Europe, you should check to see if you require a Schengen visa.
France is part of the euro. Cash dispensers are widely available. You may be asked for photo ID if paying with a credit or debit card in a shop.
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