Walking through the cobbled streets of Vieux Lille (or the old town) is a great way to spend an afternoon. The Place du Général du Gaulle, otherwise referred to almost exclusively as the Grand Place, is the city’s main square. It’s lined with historic buildings and is an attractive central hub of the old town.
**La Vielle Bourse **(in between the city’s two main squares - the Grand Place and the Place du Théatre) is one of the oldest parts of the city, and a must-see. The former commercial exchange still acts in its original capacity, with booksellers and other trades in the central court.
Any stroll around the city centre has to take in these wonderful squares and their surrounding streets. The Opera and the Chamber of Commerce are situated next to each other just off the Grand Place and are particularly striking, especially when they are lit up at night.
The Palais des Beaux Arts on the Place de la Republique is one of Lille’s world-renowned attractions, displaying a huge collection of fine artworks from the 15th century to the modern day. It’s home to various works by Manet, Rubens and van Dyck among others, as well as a collection of archaeology, statues and pottery. Admission is just €6.50 (kids go free).
The Citadelle on the northwest edge of town is a stunning military monument and piece of architectural history, which still serves as a French and NATO military base. The enormous star-shaped brick structure was built in the late 1600s after the French captured the city. There are still more than 2km of ramparts surrounding the castle, and while visiting is strictly limited (there are tours on Sundays in the summer - enquire at the Tourist Office) the large gardens which surround the fortress are great for kids, featuring a playground, amusement park and a small zoo.
The Hospice Comtesse, located on Rue de la Monnaie in the old town, is home to a museum dedicated to life in Flanders from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution.
Wazemmes food market on a Sunday morning is a sight to behold (the market also operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays) - mixing all manner of cuisines along with books, shoes, clothing and pretty much anything you can think of. It caters to the district’s population of immigrants, bohemian students and trendy hipsters, so there’s something for everyone.
The birthplace of Charles de Gaulle, on Rue Princesse, was made into a museum in 1983, which comprises two parts on opposite sides of a courtyard garden – the family accommodation and the 'Fabrique d'histoire' presenting De Gaulle's life and works.
There’s also the Natural History Museum, and slightly further afield is La Piscine (or the Musée d’art et d’industrie de Roubaix), housed in a beautiful art deco swimming pool in the nearby town of Roubaix, which you can reach on the Metro.