Lille is one of the cultural epicentres of France. Its proximity to the Belgium border gives it a distinct Flemish feel, and being the Eurostar’s crossroads for three European capitals makes getting the train to Lille very easy indeed. With high-speed Eurostar and TGV lines, the journey from London St. Pancras to Lille only takes around 1h30mins. Brussels to Lille by train is just over 30 minutes, and the French capital is 1h06mins away. Lille Europe station opened in conjunction with the Eurostar and serves TGV lines, apart from Paris trains, which use Lille Flanders. Both stations are within 500 metres of each other and close to the city centre. With a wealth of cultural, historic and gastronomic attractions, jumping on the train to Lille is always a good idea!
Once one of the great industrial powerhouses of France, the northern city of Lille has reinvented itself to become a creative hotbed, and it even out-parties Paris according to some! Taking the train to Lille puts visitors a stone’s throw from its historic centre. Walking west from Lille Flanders towards the centre soon brings travellers to the Opéra de Lille and Chambre de Commerce, both of which are especially pretty when lit up at night. Adjacent, the UNESCO-protected Grand Palais is home to the Déesse column and a list of confident, colourful and historic edifices. Lille’s Neoclassical cathedral, which took a century to complete, is an unusual mix of styles, with the most recent editions made in 1999. A couple of minutes away, the Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse has turned a 15th-century poorhouse into a fascinating museum on local history.
On the other hand, those more interested in art than history will want to make a beeline from the station to the Palais des Beaux Arts, Lille’s renowned art gallery. The collection includes pieces by Rubens, Van Dyck and Manet, and it’s just a 15-minute walk from the station. For a dose of tranquillity in the midst of lively Lille, the 17th-century, star-shaped fortress, Citadelle de Lille, provides plenty of grassland, woodland, play parks and even a small city zoo. Finally, before heading back to Lille train station, visitors shouldn’t miss sampling some traditional and local dishes, which include a lot of fries and Flemish influences too.