With Such Memorials We Will Never Forget
By Stewart Creasey
23 April 2014
With the centenary of World War One, Great Rail Journeys bring you a moving series of trips to the battlefields and graves of Northern France and Belgium.Read more
Standing on the banks of the Deûle River close to France's northernmost border with Belgium, the city of Lille dates back to the tenth century when the Counts of Flanders built a castle on an 'island' of dry land entirely surrounded by marshes. Over the next two centuries L'isla ('the island') grew from a settlement into a city with an estimated ten thousand inhabitants and rose to prominence as a centre of trade and industry, gaining prosperity initially from textile production and later from coal and mining.
Lille's prosperity endured until the nineteen-eighties, when traditional industries began to decline. Consequently Lille embarked on an extensive programme of urban regeneration, embracing its wealth of historic buildings, landmarks and architecture and adding new public parks, galleries, museums, entertainment venues and shops.
The introduction of a high-speed rail service to Paris, itself connected to Britain by the new Channel Tunnel, in the 1990s cemented Lille's transformation into a desirable destination for visitors; an easily accessible, friendly and handsome city rich in culture, history and attractions.
Today, visitors can discover Lille's beautiful Flemish-influenced 'old town', admire the stunning central Grande Place and its surrounding historic buildings, be inspired by artworks both classical and modern in galleries such as the Musee des Beaux Arts or Musee d'Art Moderne or simply relax in one of Lille's many attractive parks and gardens.
La Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange)
Built in 1653, the magnificent Vieille Bourse is built around a rectangular courtyard with an arched entrance on each side. Architectural decoration in the Flemish-Renaissance style features cherubs, garlands, lions and cornucopia (the 'horn of plenty'). The courtyard hosts regular flower and book markets.
Located within Lille's largest public park, the vast, star-shaped seventeenth-century Citadel is still used today as a military base. Whilst entry is prohibited without prior appointment a pathway follows the walls of this remarkable fortress and the fifty-hectare Citadel Park itself is beautiful and offers many attractions.
Although the foundations for Lille's cathedral were laid in 1853 funding for the construction ran out in 1947 before the west façade and entrance had been built. A stunning marble-clad façade supported by steel cables was finally completed in 1999 to create an architecturally compelling cathedral notable for its stained-glass windows and internal mosaic decoration.
Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse
Housed in buildings dating from the fifteenth century, the Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse charts the history of everyday life in Lille over the centuries. Exhibits including paintings, furniture, ceramics, musical instruments and tapestries are contained in detailed recreations of period rooms including a kitchen, refectory, laundry and living quarters.
A short rail journey to Lille takes us close to the Battlefields of Ypres and the Somme, two of the most infamous and iconic sites of the First World War. We also explore the fascinating city of Lille on a guided tour which includes a traditional beer and waffle tasting.… see more
5 days from £585 ppView tour details >