25 Pros and Cons of Living in Lille, France (2024)

Wondering about the pros and cons of living in Lille, France?

With its historic Old Town, low cost of living, and friendly locals, it’s no surprise that expats are drawn to Lille.

But there’s a lot you’ll want to consider before deciding to move.

I’ve been living in France for more than six years and have completely immersed myself in the culture. I understand the way of life, speak French, and have traveled extensively around the country.

I’ve also spent more than ten years abroad, so I know what to look for in a new place to live.

In this post, I’ll help you decide whether moving to Lille is the right choice for you.

Here are all the pros and cons of living in Lille, France.
Life as an Expat in Lille

23 Pros and Cons of Living in Lille

Lille offers a unique mix of French and Flemish cultures, making it an enticing place to call home.

But like any city, living here has its pros and cons.

Here’s a list of 23 things to consider before making the move.

1. Pro: It’s Walkable

Here is some street art that I saw when I walked from Grand Place to the Wazemmes Market in Lille. It's four cartoon figures standing on top of each other and they are wearing different costumes. It's painted on the side of a tall stone building.
Easy to Get Around on Foot

If it’s a choice between living in a city where everything is accessible on foot and one that’s not, I’ll choose the former every time.

In fact, it’s one of the first things I look for in a new city.

And Lille is very walkable.

The city center is compact and easy to navigate, making it convenient for daily errands or exploring on the weekends.

When I was in Lille, I loved walking from Grand Place to the Wazemmes Market.

It might seem far, but there are lots of beautiful buildings and cool street art (photo above) along the way.

2. Con: Weather

This is the view from the belfry in Lille. It's a cloudy day, which is very common here. You can see the entire city and the sky is totally gray.
Cloudy Day

If you’re used to warm, sunny weather, Lille might come as a surprise.

It’s in northern France and has a climate similar to Belgium and the Netherlands.

That means winters can be long, gray, and cold.

Lille is also one of the rainiest cities in France with an average of 126 rainy days per year.

For me, the weather has never been a deciding factor, but it’s something to keep in mind.

3. Pro: Friendly People

One of my favorite things about Lille is the people.

The locals are known for their warmth and hospitality, making it easy to feel at home even if you’re new to the city.

I found the locals to be welcoming and always willing to help me if I was lost or needed recommendations.

As an example, one morning, I was wandering up and down Rue de la Monnaie looking for a store and someone stopped to show me where it was.

It’s what makes it one of the top places to live in the country.

Helpful Tip: Meetup is the best platform to find groups and activities in Lille.

4. Con: Language Barrier

This is a sign in French. It says Vivez Votre Futur. It means live your future. If you want to live in Lille, you'll have to learn some French.
There’s a Language Barrier in Lille

Even though Lille is one of the most popular destinations in northern France, English isn’t widely spoken.

And the language barrier is one of the biggest challenges you’ll face as an expat.

When I arrived, I signed up for courses with Alliance Française and had a private tutor.

I spent all my free time learning French. It was intense and, at times, exhausting, but it made my day-to-day activities, like grocery shopping, a lot easier.

All in all, it took me about six months before I was able to have basic conversations in French.

You don’t have to be completely fluent before you arrive, but you should plan on learning French if you want to live in Lille.

5. Pro: Vibrant Cultural Life

This is the inside of the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille. There is an aisle in the middle and paintings on the wall. There is a cushion where you can sit and admire the paintings in the middle.
Palais des Beaux-Arts

Lille is a city that values arts, culture, and entertainment. It was even named the European Capital of Culture in 2004.

There are tons of museums, galleries, theaters, and concert venues scattered throughout the city.

One of my favorite museums was the Palais des Beaux-Arts. It’s the second-largest fine arts museum in France and has one of the most impressive collections I’ve seen.

And if you’re a music lover, Lille has a giant venue, Zénith de Lille, with concerts and festivals happening year-round.

6. Con: Far from Everything

This is the front of a High-Speed TGV Train, which you will need to take if you want to go anywhere else in France.
High-Speed TGV Train

Since Lille is so far north, it’s not exactly in a central location.

If you’re like me and love traveling to new places, be prepared to take long train rides or flights to get to where you want to go.

There are high-speed TGV trains that run to and from Paris regularly. It only takes an hour, but it’s an added expense that you’ll have to factor in.

Since my parents are still in the United States, I prefer to live in cities that have direct flights to major US cities so I can visit them easily.

I always check the total travel time before deciding to move somewhere. If it’s more than 24 hours, I usually pass on the opportunity.

Helpful Tip: Lille does have an international airport, but it’s very small and tickets are expensive.

7. Pro: Historic Old Town

This is Place Gilleson at sunrise in Lille. There are five stone houses standing side by side. Each one is a different color and there are bushes in front. This is part of Lille's Old Town.
Place Gilleson

Lille’s Old Town, Vieux-Lille, is a charming area filled with cobbled streets, quaint cafes, and beautiful architecture.

The main square, Grand Place, is lined with colorful buildings. The most known is La Vieille Bourse, which hosts a fantastic second-hand book market every afternoon.

I loved wandering around and getting lost in the side streets.

Some of my favorites were:

  • Place Gilleson
  • Rue de Weppes
  • Place aux Oignons
  • Rue des Vieux Murs

8. Con: Job Market

In general, the job market in France is not good, especially if you don’t speak French.

And Lille is no exception.

The biggest industries are trade and transportation, but the job market is saturated and there are fewer opportunities than in other cities like Paris or Lyon.

So, if you’re hoping to move to Lille for work, make sure to do your research and have a plan in place before making the move.

I, personally, had a very difficult time, which is one of the reasons I started my own business (this blog) and now work remotely.

9. Pro: Lots of Green Space

This is Jardin Vauban in Lille. There is a a large grass lawn with trees in the background. Then on the left hand side there is a small plot of colorful flowers. It's the perfect place to enjoy some nature.
Jardin Vauban

One of the things I loved about Lille was the amount of green space. There are tons of parks and gardens spread throughout the city.

The Parc de la Citadelle is Lille’s largest park. From gardens to walking paths, you could easily spend an entire Saturday afternoon here.

There’s even a Parcours Sportif de la Citadelle, which is a circuit with workout stations along the way.

But my favorite garden was Jardin Vauban.

It’s much smaller and quieter than the Parc de la Citadelle. It’s a great place to have a picnic or read a book.

10. Con: Pollution

This is Grand Place and there are cars driving around. It's a large square surrounded by buildings. People are also walking around. Since there are so many cars you can't escape the exhaust and pollution.
Lots of Cars

Like many urban areas in France, Lille has a lot of issues with pollution. It’s not as bad as Paris, where I, actually, developed a cough while living there.

The main source of pollution here is transportation.

While there is public transport, many people still use cars and motorbikes to get around. This leads to a lot of smog, especially during rush hour.

Luckily, efforts are being made to reduce pollution.

Starting January 2025, Lille will become a low-vehicle emission driving zone. And air quality certificates will be required for all vehicles.

11. Pro: Cost of Living

This is Place aux Oignons where there are restaurants with tables and chairs. It's set up for lunch. And, since Lille is so affordable, you can expect to go out to eat if you live here.
Lille is Affordable

As the largest city in the Hauts-de-France region, you might think that the cost of living in Lille is high. But it’s not.

In fact, it’s relatively low compared to other major cities in France like Paris or Lyon.

Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the center of Lille costs about €750 per month, while a similar apartment in Paris would be at least double that.

Groceries and other expenses, like going out to eat, are also affordable. As an example, I only paid €20 for a meal at Estaminet Au Vieux De La Vieille, one of the best restaurants in town.

For me, I love knowing that I can enjoy where I live without going bankrupt.

12. Con: Bureaucracy

This is a photo of my passport and visa application. Dealing with the administration and bureaucracy is a downside to life in Lille, but it's something you'll have to deal with.
Lots of Bureaucracy

There is no bigger downside to living in Lille, or France, for that matter, than the bureaucracy.

I’ve spent years dealing with the French administration, and the best advice I can give you is to be patient.

I prepare for every scenario. I bring extra copies of every document (in black and white and color), and I always assume it’s going to take longer than I thought.

Believe it or not but I’ve had administrators ask me for things that are not listed anywhere.

It’s happened so many times that I, now, expect the unexpected.

But, once you get through all the paperwork and bureaucratic hurdles, everything else is worth it.

13. Pro: Delicious Food

This is a fruit and vegetable stand at the Wazemmes Market. There are two levels of all kinds of good fruits and vegetables. It's completely overflowing.
Wazemmes Market

Lille is known for its local dishes like carbonnade flamande (beef and beer stew). It’s hearty and comforting, perfect for the colder months.

But my favorite food is the Merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux de Fred. It’s made with meringue and whipped cream and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.

Then, there’s the Wazemmes Market.

It’s the best place to shop for fresh produce, meats, and cheeses. The market is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday so you can always be sure you’ll have the freshest ingredients for your meals.

14. Con: Less Diverse Cuisine

This is a plate of regional food that you can expect to have at restaurant in Lille. here are fries, a salad, potjevleesch, and carbonnade flamande.
Typical Food

While the local specialties are delicious, Lille may not have as diverse a food scene as cities like Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France.

Most restaurants tend to serve traditional French cuisine, so you may have to search for international options.

It’s not the biggest downside to life here, but, if you’re like me, and love Thai or Indian food, you may be very limited.

15. Pro: Excellent Healthcare

These are healthcare products that I got at a pharmacy in France. There is a box of tea, a bottle of mouthwash, a box of band-aids, a box of ibuprofen, and a box of doliprane.
Affordable Healthcare

The biggest advantage to living as an expat in Lille (and France) is the healthcare.

Typically, 70% is covered by the public health system or Sécurité Sociale, which means you’ll pay around €7.50 to see a general doctor.

But it’s not only doctor’s visits, medications and hospital stays are also covered.

I grew up in the United States, where everything related to healthcare is expensive.

When I moved to France, it was a relief knowing that I could see a doctor without having to empty my bank account.

16. Con: Too Urban

This is a view of Lille's city center. There are tons of skyscrapers and tall buildings. For some, this might be too urban.
Far from Nature

While it’s a bustling city with plenty to do, if you’re like me and love the outdoors, you might find Lille to be too urban.

The city is home to beautiful parks and gardens, but they can’t compare to the vast countryside of France.

I love hiking and camping, so I need to live in a city that is close to nature. It’s one of the main reasons I moved to Strasbourg.

So, if you’re someone who prioritizes outdoor activities, be ready to travel to Dunkirk or somewhere much farther.

17. Pro: Public Transportation

This is the Gare de Lille Flandres in Lille. It's one of the main train stations. This is the front of the building. It has three stories and there are four entrances. Then, there are people walking in front of it.
Gare de Lille Flandres

When I first moved abroad, I didn’t have a car, and I still don’t. So, I need to live in a city that has a good network of buses, trains, metros, and trams.

Luckily, Lille has a great public transport system.

You can get anywhere in the city using the bus, tram, or metro. Tickets are affordable (€1.80 for a single ride) with options for monthly passes or discounted tickets for students.

Lille also has two big train stations, Gare de Lille-Flandres and Gare de Lille-Europe.

From there, you can easily travel to other major cities in France. You can even take a train to London or Brussels.

18. Con: A Lot of Strikes

The French are known for their activism, which often translates into strikes. And Lille is no exception.

Whether it’s transport strikes or general protests, they can be very inconvenient.

And, of the cons listed here, I think this one is the biggest (after the bureaucracy).

On more than one occasion, I found myself with no way to get home because the metro or bus workers were on strike. It can be very stressful, especially when you first arrive.

But, over the years, I’ve learned to always have a backup plan.

19. Pro: It’s Safe

This is a photo I took of people walking around Grand Place. It's the biggest and busiest squares. It's also very safe to walk around.
Lille is Safe

One of the biggest pros of living in Lille is its safety.

While there is some pickpocketing in crowded areas, it’s not as common as in other major cities like Marseille or Paris. And violent crime is almost non-existent.

I never felt unsafe walking alone at night or taking public transportation.

I did come across a few beggars and panhandlers around Grand Place, but they were harmless.

If you follow general safety guidelines and are aware of your surroundings, you shouldn’t have any problems in Lille.

20. Con: Lack of Diversity

I’ve been an expat for more than ten years and one of the most important things I’ve learned is the value of diversity.

And unfortunately, this is one area where Lille falls short.

Helpful Tip: The diversity in Lille is better than other cities in northern France, but it’s not as good as Paris.

The city’s population is predominantly French, with a small percentage of international students.

That means it will be harder to meet other expats, make friends, and build your social support network.

On the plus side, there is a growing number of expats and international students, so the diversity is improving.

But it’s something to keep in mind if you’re looking to meet people with a similar background to your own.

21. Pro: Variety of Neighborhoods

This is Rue des Vieux Murs in the Vieux-Lille neighborhood. It's a cobbled street lined with brick buildings and there is a sign hanging down that says Passage des Arts. It's one of the many different types of districts in Lille.
Vieux-Lille

Lille offers a range of neighborhoods to suit different lifestyles and preferences.

If you want to live in the heart of the city, Vieux-Lille is a charming area with beautiful architecture and plenty of restaurants and shops.

If you prefer a more laid-back environment, Wazemmes has a bohemian vibe with its bustling market and trendy cafes.

There are also quieter residential areas like Vauban, which is perfect for families.

Overall, I found the variety of neighborhoods in Lille to be a significant advantage. And, as cliché as it sounds, there’s an area for every lifestyle.

22. Con: University Town

This is Lille's city center during the school year. There are restaurants and the street is crowded with people. It's something to consider before moving here.
Crowded Streets

Lille is home to several universities, which means that during the school year, the city can get very crowded with students.

While this may not bother everyone, I found it to be overwhelming at times.

It also means that most housing and dining options cater to students. So, if you want something higher-end, you’ll be disappointed.

Helpful Tip: I found student atmosphere is very similar to the one in Dijon.

23. Pro: Quality Education

These are my textbooks from my French class. There are two books one for level A1 and one for level A2. They were affordable and it was a high quality class. No matter what type of education you pursue in Lille it will be excellent and cheap.
Top Notch Education

Lille has several prestigious universities, making it an excellent location for students.

From the prestigious Université de Lille to specialized institutions like EDHEC Business School, there are plenty of options here.

While it does not seem like a pro, I found that living in a university town comes with a few extras. There are more resources for expats.

You’ll also find more job opportunities in fields like education and research.

Helpful Tip: While there are more jobs in these areas, you’ll have to be fluent in French.

Conclusion: Living in Lille, France

Lille has its fair share of pros and cons when it comes to living in the city. Despite its size, there is a diverse range of neighborhoods and lifestyles to choose from.

The cost of living is affordable, and it’s well-connected to other major European cities.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that Lille can get crowded during the school year and there are limited job opportunities.

If the pros listed above outweigh the cons, then Lille is for you. And it’s time to start planning your move to this charming French city.

I recommend looking into the visas that are available and learning some basic introductory French phrases.


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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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