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A Lille travel guide – fine arts, avant-garde fashion and hearty Flemish flavours

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Mornings spent exploring fine arts galleries slide into afternoons eating waffles in Art Nouveau patisseries on Lille city breaks. Stay at a central Lille hotel and discover a walkable city with French finesse and Flemish spirit.

Flemish masters to Art Deco

Rise early at your Lille hotel to beat the crowds to the cavernous Fine Arts Museum, showcasing Rembrant, Van Dyck and Monet masterpieces. Trams rumble past Art Nouveau façades to the Art Deco pool-turned-gallery La Piscine in Roubaix, where stained-glass windows dapple light on Rodin busts and 19th-century Flemish oil paintings. Founded as a hospital in the 13th century, the redbrick Hospice Comtesse Museum shelters a fine collection of Lille faïence pottery and tapestries. Dress up for opera or ballet in the Opera House's elegant red-and-gold auditorium.

Mussels and microbreweries

Linger over vanilla cream-filled waffles in Méert's palatial 19th-century tea room. Old Lille's twisting alleyways are packed with cosy estaminet pubs. Tuck into hearty Flemish dishes like creamy waterzoï stew and moules-frites (mussels and chips). Shaded by step-gabled façades, the pavement cafés on the Grand' Place are great for people-watching over a coffee. Seafood lovers can splash out on oysters and champagne in opulent Michelin-starred l'Huitrière. Microbreweries serve pizza-like flammekeuche with homebrews in the area around the station. Take home pungent Vieux-Lille cheese and mini waffles from your Lille city break.

Diverse shopping

Peruse antiques and bric-a-brac stalls to the sound of accordions at Sunday's sprawling Wazemmes Market on Place de la Nouvelle Aventure. Comfortable shoes are recommended when shopping around the Old Town's cobbled lanes. Browse rue de la Monnaie for designer prêt-à-porter, rue d'Angleterre for quality antiques and rue Nationale for mouth-watering cheese and chocolate shops. South of the centre, rue du Faubourg des Postes is dubbed the fashion district, being home to the workshops of up-and-coming local designers. Find a bargain at one-time factory L'Usine in Roubaix, now a designer outlet with cut-priced brand names.