One city that would always stand out for you, as a backpacker, is Lille, France. This city is one of the easiest and cheapest cities to travel to in the world. Whether you’re simply backpacking, on a vacation, or you’re just a student on an excursion, it doesn’t matter. Lille is a city that has a lot of fun and attractions to offer. For a backpacker with very little to spend, Lille has so much to offer.
A Beautiful City In Northern France
Backpacking is made even easier and better in Lille with the Lille City Pass. With the Lille City Pass, you have access to 28 historical sites and museums and the city’s transport network (including bus, tram, and metro). You also have access to special shopping benefits, nightlife, and leisure at discounted rates. Depending on your choice, there’s a 24, 48, and 72 hours passes available. The price starts from €25. For backpackers looking to maximize their money and time in Lille, this city pass is their best bet.
There is a long list of places to visit and things to do in Lille. In this article, we’ll mention our top 10 attractions in Lille.
Explore The Vieux Lille
This is the old Lille. It is a historic district with a lot of restored bourgeois houses. You’ll notice the Flemish influence on the city with the numerous baroque architecture that dates way back to four centuries.
Palais Des Beaux-Arts
Palais Des Beaux-Arts is one of the biggest museums in Lille, France. Many of the arts in the museum are representations of the periods between the 15th and 20th centuries. You might want to check out how Northern France and modern day Belgium looked like with the highly detailed scale model of these cities from the 17th and 18th centuries housed in the museum.
La Grande Place
This is the main square in Lille, France. It’s a hotspot for locals and tourists to meet up and there’s a lot of sights to see. The Colonne de la Deesse is built in the 19th century as a sign of the city honoring its part in the repelling of the Habsburg Empire in the 1792 siege of Lille. It’s also one structure to behold at the center of the square. It’s among many other famous buildings like the Theatre du Nord and Voix du Nord (art deco).
Since it was built in 1670, the Citadelle has been and still is, the French military base. It would be impossible to gain entrance into the Citadelle but you can look around and admire the giant star-shaped structure from outside.
The zoo in Lille is the most visited in the whole of France, largely because it is free to enter. You’ll find some rare animals here because it partakes in the international conservation program for endangered species. It is safe, with natural-looking and very large enclosures, in case you’re going on a family trip there.
This is the museum of modern contemporary art in Lille, France. It has over 6700 works from this century and the last century. In France, it has the largest collection of Art Brut Works. Works from notable artists like Picasso, Alexander Calder, and Georges Braque are all featured in the museum.
If you’re a football fan, you might want to take in the atmosphere of a live match at the stadium of Lille OSC, the local football team. The beautiful stadium is a 50,000 capacity stadium and makes for a wonderful scenery even without an ongoing match.
La Piscine Museum
This is an art and industry museum located in Roubaix. It is popular for two reasons. Firstly, it is built on a former indoor swimming pool. Secondly, it has a large collection of textile samples gotten from the numerous textile factories in Lille. The collections in the museum dates back to 1835. This will give you an idea of what Lille’s industrial past looked like.
Marche de Wazemmes
Visiting the largest outdoor market in northern France is one of the best things to do in France. The market holds in the morning on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays at the Nouvelle Aventure. The most colorful and vibrant of these markets is the Sunday market. There is usually a lot of people and you’ll get anything that you want here. This is one place where you can appreciate the diversity of people and products in Lille.
Town Hall & Belfry
The town hall in Lille is known for its very high belfry. It rises as high as 104 meters and is also a world heritage site for UNESCO. This belfry is a landmark in Lille, a city with many low-rise buildings. It’s advisable to use the lift to get to the peak of this building as there are 400 steps to climb.
The Best Time To Travel To Lille, France
As a backpacker, you want to be sure of the best time for you to go backpacking in a particular city. Most cities and countries usually have that time of the year when it is more expensive to travel there, and other times when they are cheaper to travel to. This doesn’t apply to Lille. Unlike many other cities, Lille is one city in France where you can travel to at any time or season in the year with just a small budget.
There are different times in a year that are considered the busiest times in Lille. The “la rentree”, at the start of September is the busiest period of the year in Lille. After this period, the months of October and December are the second and third busiest months. The autumn and winter seasons of the year are usually the times when most tourists go to enjoy the view and attractions. Events like the Lille3000, Le Marche de Noel, and La Grande Braderie de Lille are some of the interesting events that attract tourists to Lille during the autumn season.
Depending on your preference as a backpacker, you might decide to backpack Lille during these busy seasons and experience the French culture in Lille. You can also decide to go during the less busy and less glamorous times of the year to see the day-to-day French life. Whatever time you decide to go, you can be sure of various attractions in this beautiful city in France without having to break the bank.
Getting To Lille
One very important feature that this city has is its accessibility. The number of transport networks and systems in Lille makes it easy for backpackers to move in and around the city. The major means of transportation to Lille are by air, train, or bus.
The airport in Lille, Aeroport De Lille Lesquin, is home to a lot of low-cost European airlines. These airlines make it cheap and feasible for you to travel by air to and from Lille. Once you arrive at the airport, there’s a shuttle, which departs every hour, to transport you to the center of the city. The shuttle costs just €8 if it’s a single journey, but €10 if you’re returning. Traveling as a group on this shuttle costs just €35 if you book 10 tickets.
If you’re in a neighboring city to Lille, the fastest means of getting to Lille is by train. There are two train stations in Lille, Lille Europe, and Lille Flandres. It’s 35 minutes if you’re coming from Brussels, 60 minutes if you’re coming from Paris, and 80 minutes if you’re coming from London.
This is the most appropriate means to travel to Lille (especially from neighboring cities and countries) if you have a very small budget. The demerit to this is, whether you’re coming by car or by bus, it takes a lot of time. If you’re cash strap, you should have excess time, if you’re going by bus. OuiBus and FlixBus are two bus companies that offer the cheapest rates to Lille. Rome2Rio can help you with information on every possible mode of transport from one point to another.
Transportation Around Lille For Backpackers
When in Lille, France, backpackers will need a type of transportation to get around. Because there’s much to explore in this amazing city, many prefer to travel in ways where they can see most of the city. Three main ways backpackers travel around Lille, France is by walking, biking, or taking the metro for further distances. These three ways are also cost-saving and affordable.
This is another interesting option if you don’t want to walk. There are affordable bikes around the city, called V’Lille. These bikes are up for rent. You could use them to travel anywhere in Lille. The base rent rate is €1.60. After the first 30 minutes of rent, you’re charged €1 for every 30 minutes you’re away with the bike.
This gives you the chance to see things and interact with them as you journey from one place to the other. Luckily for you, Lille isn’t a very big city and is known to be a walking paradise. This makes it possible to go around and see the numerous sites, museums and street paintings that serve as attractions around the city, on foot.
The metro system in Lille is world-class, one of the best in the world. As a matter of fact, the first driverless metro system in the world is in Lille, France. It can take you anywhere you want to visit in the city.
Dining For Backpackers In Lille
Your trip to Lille isn’t complete without experiencing the beer culture in Lille or tasting some of their Flemish cuisine. The Flemish dish is offered in most restaurants in Lille. Its components are cheese, prunes, chicory, brown sugar, raisins, meat, and of course, beer. It’s something you should try because you’ll definitely love it. There are a lot of other classic foods in Lille as well. The most popular dishes served in restaurants in Lille are:
- Flamiche Aux Maroilles: Creamy and rich Quiche with cheese flavors
- Potjevleesc: White meat in Mousseline
- Carbonnade Flamande: Braised beef sprinkled with gingerbread and slowly cooked in Flemish beer
- Moules Frites: Mussels and fries.
Accommodation For Backpackers In Lille
Getting a hotel room, hostel, or apartment to lodge in Lille is relatively cheaper than in many European cities. The most expensive hotels are in the city centers but there are many cheap options in other locations all over the city. Some of the cheapest hotels are:
Hotel Gastama: This is one of the most popular hotels in Gastama. It’s in Vieux Lille, a 20-minute walk from the train station and a 10-minute walk from La Grande Place. It offers both shared dormitory rooms and private rooms. The average price is less than €59.15 per night. Free Wi-Fi, 24-hour front desk service, bar, and restaurant are also available.
Hotel Faidherbe: This hotel is located opposite Lille’s train station (the Lille Frandes train station). It charges just €35.83 per night, offers a 24-hour front desk service, and free Wi-Fi connection.
Ibis budget Lille Centre: Less than 1 mile from Nouveau siècle Convention Center. It charges just €42.98 per night, offers a 24-hour front desk service, and free Wi-Fi connection.
Kyriad Lille Centre Gares: it is located not far from the conference center, historic quarter, and train station at the center of Lille. The average price is €46.65 per night.
With so many attractions to see, food to eat, and lots of options that meet a backpacker’s needs; Lille promises you one of the best backpacking experiences you will ever have. Lille is every backpacker’s dream city because it has it all.