Easily reached from the UK and with a petite and attractive central area, the French city of Lille is perfect for a city break. It's a thriving student city, so the atmosphere is young and playful, while the cultural calendar outshines many of its sister cities.
Located in the Nord-Pas de Calais region in the north of France and close to the border with Belgium, the urban sprawl of Lille makes it the largest city in French Flanders and creates one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the country, though there's a small-town ambience in Lille that puts a smile on the face of every visitor. Grand squares, striking architecture, tasty cuisine, fun nightlife, tremendous shopping, and elegant streets make this an ideal place to explore on foot, stopping every now and then for a bite to eat (moules and frites anyone?) and a glass of something delicious.
There are dozens of hotels in Lille, with a good mix of luxury hotels, budget rooms and mid-range accommodation. Step off the Eurostar link into the environs of ultra-modern Euralille, which is a huge glass-fronted shopping centre, but keep on walking towards Lille hotels in Vieux Lille, the old part of the city, or the very central area of Lille, which is surrounded by attractions such as the opera house, theatres and shops. You should book hotels in these areas to enjoy easy access by foot to the city's sights.
You'll find modern and luxury hotels, traditional and charming hotels, and a good number of budget hotels, housed in quaint old buildings; book hotels in Lille to stay in a pleasant and under-rated destination (and one of the nearest foreign cities to the UK). Look out for major brands such as Comfort Inn, Inter Hotel, Kyriad, Best Western, Citadines, Mercure, Novotel, Park Inn by Radisson, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Express and Golden Tulip.
Top five attractions
Marché de Wazemmes
Continents collide to make this one of the most diverse markets in Europe. It's indoors and runs every day with bargains galore. Thursday is the best day for fresh produce.
A luxury Gothic hotel in Lille that doubles up as a visual treat for tourists. An unusual national monument lives in one of its courtyards - a 200-year-old wisteria.
Palais des Beaux-Arts
One of France's largest museums, this collection of art and antiquity is second in size only to the mighty Louvre in Paris.
Place du Général-de-Gaulle
A host of stunning buildings surround this attractive square, which is punctuated with the sights and sounds of typical French café culture. Visit in April for the annual flower festival, or December for magical Christmas scenes.
Wander the enchanting streets of the old town with its array of shops and cafés that appear untouched by time.
Soup Festival; May:Each year, the nearby town of Wazemmes hosts one of the world's most unusual culinary celebrations - the La Louche d'Or, or “Golden Soup Ladle” - to pay homage to the skill and art of soup-making. Amateur chefs rub shoulders with professionals offering unusual recipes and insightful tips on making perfect soup. There's also an impressive street party with local bands and artists.
La Braderie; September: Almost two million visitors swarm to La Braderie - Europe's largest flea market. Streets are filled with stalls and tradespeople selling an astonishing variety of wares. One of the strangest sights to behold is the competition between rival restaurants to see who can claim to have the weekend's largest mountain of mussel shells as they dish out the traditional moules and frites to hungry visitors.
Christmas Market; December: Eurostar has made Lille one of France's most popular Christmas market destinations among British tourists. Stall-holders fill the Place Rihour with every possible yuletide item imaginable. A giant Christmas tree and a festive Ferris wheel complete the seasonal look.