For the longest time, I’d taken the train past Lille without even sparing a second thought about visiting it. There were just so many other places on the Eurostar that came to mind when I thought of places to visit that Lille just seemed to stay in the background, ignored for shinier cities like Paris.
On the way back to London from Amsterdam last year, we stopped to switch trains at Lille and it was just then that it occurred to me I’d never even considered visiting Lille. A quick google search later and I was sold – I had to visit Lille!
The easiest way to get to Lille is via the Eurostar (it’s like 1 hr and 20 mins) and figured I might as well go the Airbnb and live like a local! (Plus I had Airbnb vouchers…;-) ).
As it turns out, Lille is a pretty compact city and finding the apartment was actually fairly straight forward once we arrived in the city.
For some ridiculous reason (in retrospect), I decided to bring along a wheel hand luggage case instead of my backpack. The roads in Lille are old-style cobbled streets so the wheelie case ended up being something of a false economy as I had to lift the darn thing for the entire walk so just a heads up if you decided to visit!
The apartment in Lille by the way, was tiny but absolutely perfect!
It’s one of those places that feels perfectly French (it’s on a really old historic French building) and the quaintness just adds to the charm. (Also, coming from London where space is at a premium, you certainly get used to making the most of little spaces..).
…but enough about the apartment! I wanted to see what Lille had in store so after a quick change of clothes, I grabbed my jackets, got Lloyd to stop eating the chocolates I swear he’d seemed to haven’t stopped eating since we left London and headed out the door!
The first impressions of the city of Lille, by the way, were exactly as I’d hoped – beautiful architecture, patisseries and boulangeries at every turn…
… see what I mean?
Oh and then, there’s that architecture I told you about….
… by this point, as you can probably imagine, we just pretty much set about exploring Lille on foot and with no plans whatsoever and I’ve gotta admit, much as I want to know as much of a place as I can in advance, it makes such a refreshing change to just go with the flow – doing so always leaves room for more pleasant surprises!
By this point though, the only food I’d had was the breakfast on the Eurostar so I was pretty much starvation-central as we walked around. This is when I found out a little fact about lunch time in Lille – everything shuts from around 2/2.30 and doesn’t open till about 7!
This is the point my desperation kicked in and I started looking for even a supermarket to get some stuff to whip up lunch with. I had a kitchen after all!
(Turns out my panic was a bit pre-mature as we found a bar which served crepes so lunch consisted of dessert and wine – my favourite!!!)
Adequately fuelled (or at least on a drunken-sugar high), we carried on with our aimless ambling of the cobbled streets of Lille.
Before deciding to call it a day and do something I’ve not done while travelling for years – make my own dinner!
And, this isn’t out of laziness (or even a #HumbleBrag), hotels just aren’t equipped for making food. The trip to Lille has come off the back of a busy few weeks of travelling so the opportunity to stay in and truly ‘live like a local’ was greatly appreciated!
Plus I had so much trashy TV to catch up on so… 😉 .
The next day however, I got up bright and early and with a steely determination to see all that Lille had to offer…
…after a cake or two. (I can’t help the fact that I just happened to walk past a patisserie!)
I’d also like to caveat that ‘bright and early’ meant waking up a little past 12noon! (Told you this was a lazy weekend!)
I ventured through some already familiar paths…
…leading to not-so-familiar ones!
One spot you have to pop into in Lille is the main square! It’s not unlike many main squares in a city in that respect and has a plethora of amazing sights that make this city special.
There’s also a market in the Vieille Bourse on certain days that’s worth popping into!
By the time we eventually made it to the market though – everyone was clearing off so pick your time wisely if you want to rifle through the market…
Lille is quite literally one stunning building after another…
…though none is quite as stunning as Meert! (Okay fine, there are more stunning buildings but there are very few quite as tasty as this!).
Meert is a traditional French store with a history spanning several generations and a cornucopia of delicious treats that’s bound to leave even the grumpiest of people with a huge chocolate covered grin on their face!
There are two parts to Meert – 1.) the chocolate shop and 2.) the restaurant and while the shop is great, the restaurant is truly what you come here for. Be aware though, the queues sometimes carry on to the streets so it might be a while before you get seated!
After queuing for a few minutes, I quickly changed my mind and decided it probably made sense to come back later on. There was probably about another hour or so of daylight left and still so much more of Lille to see…
… and yes, I may have gotten myself a little treat from the shop to keep me going!
I’m not the biggest chocolate fan (you can look to Lloyd for that – I tend to go more for caramel and toffee) but even I know when it’s just good sense to stop and stuff your face senseless with chocolatey treats with a promise to be back for more later on!