Lille is one city on the edge: it’s architecture hints at its closeness to neighbouring Belgium, it’s a major French student town (always cultural edgy…) and it’s a major intersection in the European rail network with Eurostar coming through from England with links to Brussels, Paris and the southern cities of France. Lille is the fourth largest city in France after Paris, Marseille and Lyon.
I guess then its not surprising that in the five weeks leading up to Christmas, Lille hosts a massive Christmas market with 80 little wooden chalets popping up to serve us the festive spirit. There are arts and crafts, Christmas decorations, and naturally seasonally appropriate food and drink (mulled wine, gingerbread, roasted chestnuts) to sustain us during a shopping frenzy. There is an international flavor with stalls featuring cultural products from Poland, Russia, even Canada. Lille also has nearly 4000 other shops to browse in, many of which compete for the prize of best festive window.
To keep those not fascinated by shopping entertained, the city turns Place Rihour, the main square, into a winter paradise with a 165 ft (50 m) ferris wheel giving great views over the city, and a Christmas paradise with a 60 ft (18 m) high Christmas tree. But don’t forget to explore the rest of this city: it has great art galleries, a lovely Book Market in the lovely historic Vieille Bourse, a citadel and grand park, and of course a massive cathedral although some are unimpressed by its 19th century Neo-Gothic façade. But back to the Christmas shopping: don’t forget all those year-round French treats to be tempted by: wine, cheese, perfume, clothing… Who says you can’t buy yourself a gift too?