2 Days in Lille: The Perfect Itinerary (Local’s Guide)

Lille, a city renowned for its cultural heritage and historic architecture, is one of the most underrated destinations.

When I moved to France more than six years ago, Lille was the first place I visited in the Hauts-de-France region. Since then, I’ve come back several times.

I love the charm of Vieux Lille, the warmth of Lillois hospitality, and the local food.

In this post, I’ve put together the ultimate itinerary for spending 2 days in Lille. There are popular sites to help you get to know the city and some lesser-known spots.

Here is the perfect itinerary for spending 2 days in Lille. It has everything you need to plan an incredible trip.
A Weekend Break in Lille

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2 Days in Lille Overview

If you’re short on time, here is an overview of my helpful guide.

  • Day 1: Grand Place, Old Town, Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse, Book Market, Aux Merveilleux de Fred
  • Day 2: Wazemmes Market, Parc de la Citadelle, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Palais Rihour, Beffroi de Lille, Méert

48 Hours in Lille – Day 1

Your first day in Lille will be spent exploring the heart of the city, known as Vieux Lille.

This area is filled with picturesque cobblestone streets, quaint cafés, and stunning architecture.

Visit Grand Place

This is Grand Place in Lille. It's a large square with people walking around. In the distance there is a row of colorful buildings, including the Old Stock Exchange from the 17th century.
Grand Place

There’s no better place to start your day than at the Grand Place.

During the Middle Ages, it was used to host the city’s local market. It’s now a popular meeting point for locals.

Here you’ll find stunning architecture with varying styles, including Flemish, Renaissance, and Neo-classical. The most famous building is, undoubtedly, La Vieille Bourse.

There are also tons of cafés and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the atmosphere. There are some pickpockets in the area, but it’s overall very safe.

My favorite place was Bibi’s café. It’s next to La Vieille Bourse and, since the weather was nice, I sat outside and watched the city unfold.

Stroll Around Vieux Lille

This is Place Gilleson in Lille, France. There is a row of colorful stone houses and there are a few bushes in front of the houses.
Place Gilleson

Vieux Lille, or Old Lille, is a charming district full of cobbled streets and gorgeous brick houses.

It’s most known for its Flemish-Baroque architecture, which gives it a distinctive character.

Some notable landmarks include:

Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral – a stunning fusion of old and new architectural styles.

Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse – a former hospital showcasing art from the Middle Ages.

But what I loved the most about this district was the hidden streets and courtyards. It reminded me of Lyon’s secret passageways called traboules.

There’s the Abbaye de Loos Garden, which I almost missed because the entrance was so discreet.

Here you’ll find beautiful houses surrounding a lush garden. And when I was there it was empty.

Place Gilleson is another hidden gem.

It has a picturesque courtyard surrounded by colorful houses, but you’ll have to walk behind the Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral to find it. That’s where I took the photo above.

Explore the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle

This is the Baptismal Dress of Charles de Gaulle. It's a white lace dress that is behind a glass enclosure.
Baptismal Dress of Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle is one of the most famous individuals in French history. He’s most known for leading the French resistance during World War II and founding the Fifth Republic during his Presidency.

You can visit his birthplace, Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, which has been turned into a museum dedicated to his life and legacy.

Here you’ll learn about his childhood, military career, and political contributions.

The museum also features furniture and paintings, giving you a glimpse into the everyday life of de Gaulle’s family. They even had his baptismal dress (photo above).

I enjoyed touring the different rooms and seeing where de Gaulle spent his early years. It was a great way to gain a deeper understanding of this influential figure.

Discover the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse

This is a painting at the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse. It shows people working in the former kitchen at the hospital. Then it's hung on a wall with ceramic tiles.
Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse

The Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse is a former medieval hospital from the 13th century that is, now, a museum.

It houses a vast collection of artwork and ceramics, which offer a glimpse into life in Lille before the French Revolution.

The building itself is also spectacular. It features architecture from the 15th, 17th, and 18th centuries, showcasing the elegance of the Renaissance era.

This is an old toilet at the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse. It's a ceramic container with a hole on top.
A Toilet from the Middle Ages
This is a drawing a person going to the bathroom at the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse.
The Toilet in Use

Of the museums I visited in Lille, I loved how the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse showed the city’s evolution throughout history. They even had a toilet from the Middle Ages and a painting of someone using it!

Check Out Lille’s Book Market

This is the second-hand book market in Lille. It's a few rows of used books stack in plastic crates.
The Book Market

If you’re like me and love to read, Lille’s book market is for you. It’s housed in the courtyard of La Vieille Bourse, which is, itself, stunning.

Here you’ll find a wide selection of second-hand books. It’s predominantly French literature, but I find this is the best way to learn new French words and immerse myself in the culture.

It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, between 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Stop by Aux Merveilleux de Fred

This is a Merveilleux Pastry from Aux Merveilleux de Fred. It's a round ball topped with chocolate shavings. Then next to it is the box it came in with Aux Merveilleux de Fred written on the front.
Le Merveilleux

The Merveilleux is an airy, light confection, made from two meringues and topped with whipped cream. It’s a specialty that was born in Belgium but has since become a staple of northern France.

There’s only one place to try them in Lille, and that’s Aux Merveilleux de Fred. This popular patisserie is run by none other than Frédéric Vaucamps, who created his own version of the Merveilleux.

And I have to say it’s far better than the original. It’s somehow lighter and tastier at the same time.

They also sell tons of different flavors. But the pastry chef told me the chocolate Merveilleux was the best, so I tried that one.

Compared to other treats in northern France, like the macaron from Amiens, I found the Merveilleux to be much more unique.

48 Hours in Lille – Day 2

Your second day in Lille will focus on the city’s art and culture. You’ll visit the best of the best parks, museums, and markets.

I’ve also added some must-visit sites in Lille’s Euralille neighborhood, which is a stark contrast to Vieux Lille.

Shop at the Wazemmes Market

This is a fruit and vegetable stand at the Wazemmes Market in Lille. There are rows of different fruit and vegetables.
The Wazemmes Market

The Wazemmes Market, or Marché de Wazemmes, is easily one of the most popular markets in Lille.

It’s known for its vibrant atmosphere, fresh produce, and diverse selection of vendors.

As you wander through the stalls, you’ll find everything from cheese and charcuterie to flowers and clothing.

The open-air market is only open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings. But, if you can’t make it, the covered market is open every day except Monday.

I went early in the morning to grab some fresh fruit for breakfast and picked up a few things for a picnic in the Parc de la Citadelle.

Walk Around Parc de la Citadelle

This is the view from the Pont Napoléon in Lille's Parc de la Citadelle. In the center there is the Deûle canal. Then on either side there are tall lush trees and walking paths.
View from the Pont Napoléon

The Parc de la Citadelle is the largest green space in Lille. It spans a whopping 60 hectares (123 acres).

And, at the center, is the historic Citadelle de Lille, a 17th-century military structure designed by Vauban.

Here you’ll find tons of recreational activities.

Go for a stroll along one of its picturesque paths, picnic on the lawn, or relax on a bench and people-watch.

There are also beautiful bridges, like the Pont Napoléon, that offer spectacular views over the Deûle canal.

Of the walking paths, I found the Tour des Remparts de la Citadelle to be the most peaceful.

It circles the Citadelle de Lille and is completely engulfed in greenery.

You won’t find a better place to escape the hustle and bustle.

Helpful Tip: The Citadelle de Lille is still used by the French military and is not open to visitors.

Tour the Palais des Beaux-Arts

This is the Houses of Parliament by Claude Monet at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. It's a painting of the parliament houses in London. It's in a wooden frame and hung on the wall.
The Houses of Parliament

The Palais des Beaux-Arts is one of the best art museums I’ve been to in France.

It houses an impressive collection of works ranging from modern art to antiquities. There’s also a large section dedicated to fine art.

The museum is spread across several floors, so you can expect to spend at least an hour here.

There was so much to see I had to revisit a few sections to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

My two favorite pieces were the Feast of Herod by Donatello and the Houses of Parliament, London by Claude Monet (photo above).

I also enjoyed the exhibit dedicated to the relief maps. This section showed what various fortified towns once looked like along the French border, including Lille.

Helpful Tip: The collection of relief maps is easy to miss. It’s located on the bottom floor and there’s a big arrow pointing to the exhibit.

Marvel at the Palais Rihour

This is the Palais Rihour. It's a tall square stone building and there are two pointed towers. Then on the left there are two parts of the building that have triangle top.
The Palais Rihour

The Palais Rihour is a striking Gothic-styled building located in the heart of Lille.

It was built in the 15th century by Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy, and now houses the Lille Tourist Office.

Helpful Tip: In the 15th century, the Dukes of Burgundy lived in Dijon, which is an incredible place to visit if you want to learn more about their history.

I stopped by the Palais Rihour to pick up my Lille City Pass from the tourist office and I was surprised by the stunning interior. There was even a free exposition on Michel Serrault.

Climb the Beffroi de Lille

This is the view of Lille from the Beffroi de Lille. You can see the roofs over the entire town. There is also the outline of the fence, that encloses the view point, on the edges of the photo.
View from the Beffroi de Lille

The Beffroi de Lille is the tallest municipal building in France at 104 meters (341 feet).

It was built between 1924 and 1932 in an Art Deco style, and, in 2005, it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You can climb to the top for a stunning 360-degree view of Lille.

In total, it’s 400 steps, but, if you don’t want to walk up the last 300, there’s an elevator.

Unlike the time I climbed to the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral, I opted for the elevator here. The last 300 stairs were not enclosed, and I didn’t want my vertigo to get out of control.

At the top, there were two viewing platforms, one inside and one outside. Both were spectacular.

And compared to my visit to the Beffroi de Saint-Éloi in Dunkirk, where the viewing platform was entirely open, this one was completely enclosed. There was even a fence, which blocked some of the view.

Dine at Méert

This the main dish I had at Méert. It's salmon, scallops, and salmon eggs on a dish. Then in the back there is bread and on the left there is a bowl of rice.
My Lunch at Méert

Méert is most known for its exquisite pastries.

But beyond the sweet treats, the restaurant also boasts a menu full of classic French dishes with a modern twist.

I ordered the salmon and scallops, which were cooked to perfection. And for dessert, I had the Exotic, a sweet yet tangy pastry made from mango, pineapple, and almonds.

It was easily one of the best meals I had in Lille.

Helpful Tip: The dining room was elegant and sophisticated, so don’t do what I did and show up in jeans and a t-shirt.

Where to Stay

There are so many hotels to choose from in Lille. But for this two-day itinerary, I recommend staying near the center. Below is a list of hotels that I recommend.

✓ Hotel Chagnot – This is where I stayed, and I couldn’t have been happier. The room was comfortable and the warm croissants at breakfast were incredible.

✓ Best Western Premier Why Hotel – This hotel is in the beautiful Euralille district. The rooms are modern but cozy, and the staff are helpful.

✓ Grand Hotel Bellevue – Grand Place – Located in downtown Lille, this hotel has comfortable, quiet rooms. The breakfast is delicious and the safe are helpful.

Where to Eat

There are so many places to try in Lille. Below is a list of my favorite restaurants:

✓ Estaminet Au Vieux De La Vieille – This is the best place to try regional dishes. The menu is varied, and the atmosphere is lively.

✓ La Petite Table – A small restaurant that specializes in local dishes. Everything here is homemade. What more could you ask for?

✓ Table N9uf – The menu is varied and features fresh ingredients. Most regional dishes are heavy, so, if you want something lighter this is the place to go.

Conclusion: A Weekend in Lille

Spending a weekend in Lille is the perfect amount of time to experience this charming city.

From the top of the Beffroi de Lille to exquisite cuisine at Méert, there is something for everyone here.

I loved every minute of my stay in Lille, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Now that you have your itinerary, it’s time to book your trip.

Most visitors fly into Paris and take the train to Lille for the day, so I recommend reserving your train tickets as early as possible.

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I hope you enjoyed my post and found it useful. Here are some other articles that I think you might find interesting.

Jen Ciesielski
Jen Ciesielski

Jen Ciesielski is the creator of Dabbling in Jet Lag. She has lived abroad for over ten years, traveled to more than 50 countries, and speaks French and English fluently. Her areas of expertise include moving abroad, learning languages, and travel planning. Originally from the United States, she now lives in France, where she has been for more than six years. She has also traveled extensively around the country. She shares her experiences as an expat living in France and helps thousands of people plan their trips every month.

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