Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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Lille City Break

Lille in France is one of the country’s more under-sung destinations, yet it is also one of its more interesting ones, and over recent times it has had a huge facelift which has transformed it from what once was a decaying post-industrial city to the sparking busy and attractive metropolis it is today. It is also much easier to get to than Paris; London to Lille on the iDBUS takes just five hours and forty minutes, making it an ideal destination for a city break. The bus leaves London from the Victoria Coach Station and arrives in Lille at the Boulevard de Leeds right in the heart of the city.

Lille is still a relatively small city with a population of just 220,000, making it the tenth largest city in France. It is also a surprisingly young city, and over a third of its population is younger than 25. This concentration of youth means that the city is both vibrant and dynamic, and there is a big focus on things for the younger members of the population to do.

Lille takes its name from the fact that originally it was an island on the River Deûle. Founded in the eleventh century, it did not become part of France until 1667 when it was captured by Louis XIV. It became the textile center of France and as a result, prospered until the Great Depression in the 1930s. It recovered in the following decades but suffered badly in the 1960s and 1970s as its industry, based on mining, coal, and textiles declined. Not until the 1980s, and following considerable government investments, did it recover.

Much of the city’s history can be found in Vieux Lille, the ancient quarter. Here is the main square, the Grand Place, which is also called Place du Général-de-Gaulle, so named after one of Lille’s most famous residents, who was born there in 1890. The old stock exchange, a seventeenth-century building, is located there. In the center of the square, there is a memorial to the victory of the city’s inhabitants over invading Austrians who had attempted to lay it to the siege, raining cannonballs down on it.

Other places of note are the Catholic Cathedrale Notre Dame de la Treille, the Porte de Paris built by Louis XIV in 1667, and the more up to date L'Opéra in the Place du Théatre which was completed in 1923.
Lille is rightly proud of the Musée des Beaux-Arts, which is one of the country’s finest museums and is considered to be second only to the Louvre in Paris. Exhibited there are many fine works by the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, Rubens, Goya, Renoir, Raphaël, and Donatello. There are other galleries too and a medieval flea market every week called the Grande Braderie. Lille is a little gem of France and an ideal location for a city break.

Now that we can get to center of Lille just by hopping on the iDBUS and travel by bus from London to Lille, and with bus fares which are considerably cheaper than any other means of transport, there is no reason to be a stranger to the city.

This is a guest post by Claire Sim a new Londoner, travel passionate and animal lover. She blogs about Pets and Travelling in Europe. If you want Claire to write you specific content, you can find email her here or contact her on Twitter (Claire_Sim).

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