Poised less than 10 miles from the Belgian border, Lille is celebrated for its unique blend of French and Flemish cultures. Given its proximity to numerous World War I battle sites and memorials, it’s also a jumping-off point for history tours. Two days is enough time to explore both the city and surrounding region. Here’s what to do.
Day 1: City Wanderings
Morning: History-saturated Lille is packed with landmarks, and an introductory city tour is the perfect way to discover them. Set off on foot, by car, or by bike, and glimpse highlights such as Lille City Hall (and its soaring belfry), the strikingly modern Lille Cathedral, and more.
Afternoon: Following your introduction to the city, dedicate your afternoon to a cultural excursion. Spend several hours discovering the collection highlights of the Lille Museum of Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille), hop in a cab to the recently refurbished Museum of Art and Industry (La Piscine Musée d'Art et d'Industrie), located in a restored swimming pool, or visit the heritage Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse.
Evening: Stomach rumbling? Happily, Lille is host to a vibrant drinks and dining scene. Sign up for a local-led cooking class to discover how to make its specialties for yourself, or secure a table at one of the city’s refined restaurants. Wash it all down with a Belgian-style beer before tucking in for the night.
Day 2: World War I Excursions
Morning: Lille and the surrounding region played a pivotal role in WWI. On your second day in town, follow in soldiers’ footsteps, visit memorial sites, and learn more about this dark period in the area’s history. Begin in the town of Fromelles: a quick trip from Lille, a former post along the Western Front, and site of a bloody battle involving British and Australian troops.
Afternoon: In the afternoon, continue your somber explorations across the border in Belgium when you visit the Tyne Cot Cemetery. The final resting place of many thousands of Commonwealth soldiers, the cemetery stands on the site of the Third Battle of Ypres. Pay tribute to all those who lost their lives as you go.
Evening: Finish your WWI history tour in the Belgian city of Ypres (Ieper in Dutch), which was the site of several major military campaigns. See where the Battle of Hill 60 was fought, and attend the moving, nightly Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. Finally, cross the border back into France and return to Lille.