• Lille – Worth a Visit Despite Recent Problems at the Channel Ports

    by  • July 26, 2015 • Christmas Markets, City Breaks, Lille, Rail

    Lille has a lot to offer the visitor and is only 1 ½ hours away from London by Eurostar

    Lille

    When seeing pictures of the disruptions at the Channel ports and Eurotunnel terminal, it’s hard not to think of the residents of Calais and nearby towns and villages, whose lives and livelihoods are being affected so greatly. Problems caused by migrants attempting to cross the Channel illegally to reach the UK have been compounded by blockades at the French ports by workers objecting to the sale of MyFerryLink’s passenger vessels to DFDS, resulting in job losses.

    Eurostar services have remained largely unaffected by the current disruption although some delays and cancellations have been inevitable. The city of Lille is very well served by Eurostar, with trains from London St. Pancras taking as little as 1 hour 22 minutes to cover the distance between the two cities.

    Overlooked by many as they head through Northern France in a bid to get to warmer climes, Lille is none the less a fascinating city and well worth a day or two of anyone’s time. Although in many ways a typically French city, Lille has a strong Flemish influence which gives the city a distinctive character. Lille city breaks can offer excellent restaurants, stylish shops, elegant shopping streets and a beautifully preserved 17th century old town.

    The station itself is part of Euralille, a vast, Rem Koolhaas-designed shopping and leisure complex that is home to scores of shops, restaurants and nightclubs. A more picture-postcard place to start any visit is in the Grand Place, with its cafés and bistros. This is the heart of old Lille, and is where the Christmas Market takes place in December

     Probably the most stunning building in Lille is the Vieille Bourse in the Grand Place, the flamboyantly decorated old trading exchange that has been restored to its original Renaissance glory.

    The 13th-century Musée de l’Hospice in the Rue de la Monnaie offers a glimpse into the city’s past. It was founded as a hospital in 1237 by Jeanne de Constantinople, the deeply religious Countess of Flanders, and its dim rooms, which include a ward from the 15th century, sum up very appropriately life in a different age.

    Lille is also home to some excellent shopping with a good selection of designer boutiques, and busy street markets as well as the shops and cafés in the narrow, winding, cobbled streets of the beautifully restored 17th- and 18th-century old town.

    Lille is really a very pleasant surprise, and much more than just somewhere to change trains on the journey south.