A Franco-Flemish architectural marvel, a key World War I location, and the birthplace of General Charles de Gaulle, Lille is a history-saturated city with culture to spare. Three days are enough time to discover the town itself and visit the region’s battle sites, memorials, and cemeteries. Here’s how to plan your trip.
The capital of the Hauts-de-France region, lovely, cosmopolitan Lille bursts with centuries-old landmarks, architectural gems, and world-class museums. Begin your first day with a cycling or driving tour of the city, seeing top attractions (such as the Grand Place, Lille Town Hall, and Lille Cathedral) while learning about local history. Afterward, relax at a nearby restaurant and sample a microbrew or two—located around 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the border with Belgium, Lille is known for its beer culture. Wind down your day by wandering around a museum such as the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille (one of the largest museums in France) or the Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse (inside an atmospheric old hospital), before heading to a bistro for a hearty evening feast.
Particularly if you’re a history buff, dedicate your second day to exploring the region’s major wartime locales. Tour itineraries might include the village of Fromelles (which saw a bloody conflict involving British and Australian troops in 1916), Vimy (site of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and now home to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial), or Western Front landmarks (including bomb craters, trenches, and memorials) related to the Battle of the Somme, one of WWI’s pivotal conflicts. Finally, return to Lille for a restorative meal.
Take a day trip to nearby Belgium. Departing early in the morning, make your way to Ypres, an important WWI destination that’s also home to plenty of architectural highlights. See Hill 62, where Canadian troops once fought; pay tribute to fallen Commonwealth soldiers at Tyne Cot Cemetery; and visit the celebrated Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, just beyond city limits in Zonnebeke. In the afternoon, pause for refreshments in central Ypres, and check out St. Martin’s Cathedral and the medieval Cloth Hall. When the sun begins to set, don’t miss the somber Last Post remembrance ceremony at the Menin Gate before crossing the border back into France.