Northern France Tourism : official website

The sunny terrace of the ‘L'Ecart’ café with some young cyclists

Exploring the streets of old Lille

The streets of the North may have created the famous Paris-Roubaix road race, but it’s something gentler that awaits you in ‘Le Vieux-Lille’.  It is a great way to explore the streets, squares and alleyways which create the charm of the city today. Peddling against the wind, you pass an uninterrupted succession of magnificent 17th and 18th century façades and prestigious brands from ‘La Rue Grand Chaussée’ to ‘La Rue de la Monnaie’.  Two stops are essential: one by ‘l'Huîtrière’ (a stunning Art Deco building), and the other by the‘Hospice Comtesse’. This is one of the most beautiful places in Lille. Go down past the weaver’s cottages in‘La rue Pétérinck’ until you reach the small ‘Place aux Oignons’ - which you will love. Visit ‘La Treille’. You will like the colourful houses with their wooden bridges.

The terrace of the tavern ‘Au Vieux de la Vieille’ in Place aux Oignons in the old quarter of Lille
  • La Place aux Oignons in the old quarter of Lille
  • © Samuel Dhote

You can explore all the small streets of the ‘La Treille’ district, such as ‘La Rue Doudin’, ‘La Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau’ and the narrow ‘Rue Coquerez’. Then cross ‘La Rue Royale’ with all its individual hotels to explore Sainte Catherine church square - a charming place. Traces of the old canal network are not far away. The water which flowed through the old town can still be seen in the architecture today and is remembered in evocative names. Take the magnificent, narrow ‘Rue de la Halloterie’ which is not that easy to spot. Follow ‘Rue de la Baignerie’ and turn into ‘Rue du Quai’. You will arrive in ‘Les Quais de Wault’. This is a place from another time that evokes an old Lille when barges would have moored here at your feet. One turn of the pedals and you arrive at the citadel.

A café terrace situated on the corner of a shopping street in the old quarter of Lille
  • Cycling through the old quarter of Lille allows the area’s charm to be explored
  • © Xavier Alphand

Follow the water flowing around the citadel

The citadel is a perfect place for cycling. Cycle paths and tree-lined avenues make touring by bike very pleasant. There is no better way to explore the defences designed by Vaubin and to enjoy this beautiful, natural area. You will not disturb the herons beside the water, or the Soay sheep on top of the ramparts. And if two large horns appear over the tall grass - don’t worry. It’s only an impressive, but gentle, Irish bull naturally maintaining the green surroundings. This is a place not to be missed, where you can cycle beside the water along the shaded Mathias Delobel avenue.  Go over Ory bridge and follow the ‘Le Bois’ path. You will come to the picturesque ‘Quai Géry Legrand’ with its moored barges.

View of the ‘Parc de la Citadel of Lille’ with runners and people out walking
  • The peace and quiet of the ‘Parc de la Citadelle’ is available to all
  • © Samuel Dhote

Riding along the grand boulevards

The grand, tree-lined boulevards will make you feel like you are riding through another century. They were part of the expansion of the city in the second half of the 19th century and show the bourgeois architecture of that era. The major difference between them and their Parisian counterparts is the penchant the people of Lille have for detached houses. The successive façades bear witness to this. Each is decorated in their own individual way. Today, they provide an exciting tour of Belle Epoque architecture.  They symbolically form a kind of pentagon, which creates a perfect route for seeing the monuments and different aspects of Lille. All these boulevards have a cycle lane shared with the bus lane going in both directions.

Low-angle shot of the belfry at Lille Town Hall in sunny weather
  • The belfry at Lille Town Hall, which is the highest in Europe and close to the main boulevards
  • © Rémi Vimont

Go down the ‘Bd de la Liberté’ admiring the ‘Place de la République’ and the Fine Arts Museum in passing.  ‘La Porte’ and ‘Rue de Paris’ are at the end where all the unmissable landmarks in Lille are located (the belfry, ‘l'Hospice Gantois’, ‘La Noble Tour’.).   The ‘Bd Jean Baptiste Lebas’ and its central park is nearby. Cycle along the ‘Wazemmes’ and ‘Moulins’ districts, which have kept their popular vibe, by following the boulevards ‘Victor Hugo’ and ‘Montebello’. There is so much evidence of the philanthropic city to explore - the last ‘courées’ (workers’ houses),  markets, etc. Finally, on the last leg, the ‘Boulevard Vauban’ and the amazing Catholic University -  a vision of Oxford or of Hogwarts - it’s up to you!  Last stop, the beautiful ‘Jardin Vauban’ before returning to the citadel.

View of La Porte de Paris, the imposing triumphal arch sited in the centre of a roundabout
  • The imposing Porte de Paris
  • © Michel Legay

Completed in 1692, it was listed as an historic monument in 1875

Ilot Comtesse

Visit - Discover Lille

Price for 1 person for a 2 days / 1 night stay