Lille 3000 Eldorado: A Year-Long Cultural Extravaganza in the North of France

Lille 3000 Eldorado: A Year-Long Cultural Extravaganza in the North of France

Once again, the city of Lille, nestled right at the northern tip of France near the Belgian border, is bracing itself for a year of culture with the return of Lille 3000.

It all began in 2004, when Lille, capital of the Hauts-de-France region, was named European Capital of Culture, and attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Residents loved it so much, they said they wished it could happen every year until the year 3000 – hence the name.

Now the festival returns every three years and for 2019, the theme is Eldorado.

Adel Abdessemed, Hope 2011-2012, installation, bateau de sauvetage en bois

Sadly, stormy weather meant the opening parade on April 27 had to be cancelled – but visitors heading to Lille in the next few days can enjoy a surprise bonus, as the parade is now scheduled for May 4.

Lille 3000 runs until December, with various events and exhibitions throughout the year. For full details of what is happening when you visit, pop along to the tourist office, where you can pick up a handy map of events and exhibitions – or scan the QR code and get the Carte Aux Trésors on your phone. You can also buy a city pass (€25 for 24 hours or €35 for 48 hours), which gives you free access to 40 museums and other sites, as well as free public transport.

To whet your appetite, here’s our pick of what to see…

Thukral and Tagra, Match Fixed, 2010, Studio 2 at Tripostal

Street Art

You can’t very well miss it, to be fair. Everywhere you turn there are enormous, brightly decorated skulls, vast murals and other delights. But the pièce de résistance has to be the 10 enormous Alebrijes which line the elegant Haussmannian rue Faidherbe. Made in warehouses on the outskirts of Lille, these brightly coloured Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures are well worth a visit, especially at night when the flood-lighting really brings them to life.

Les enfant du paradis at MUba Eugène Leroy, Tourcoing (until August 26)

A colourful and captivating collection of art by a new generation of French and international painters who journey between figuration and abstraction, creating indeterminate landscapes and lost paradises. This sizeable exhibition has plenty to spark the imagination.

Ren Hang at the Tripostal

L’Algérie de Gustave Guillaumet (1840-1887) at La Piscine, Roubaix (until June 2)

This glorious art deco swimming pool has been reinvented as a museum of art and industry and, following its reopening in October 2018, welcomed a staggering 100,000 visitors in just two months. Marvel at the opulent sculpture-lined pool and visit the replica atelier of Henri Bouchard. Ever-changing exhibitions mean you can easily while away a few hours in these resplendent surroundings. If you’re there before June, check out the Gustave Guillaumet retrospective – the first dedicated to the artist since 1899. He was captivated by the great outdoors and inhabitants of Algeria, which he discovered by chance en route to Italy, in the early days of the colonial yoke.

Intenso/Mexicano at Musée de L’Hospice Comtesse, Lille (until August 30)

Featuring 48 paintings, etchings and photographs from the Museum of Modern Art of Mexico City, this collection aims to explore certain recurring cultural traits in the art of Mexico from the Revolution (1910-1920) until the turn of the 20th century. If you’re a Frida Kahlo fan, keep your eyes peeled – there is only one small piece and it’s easy to miss.

Frida Kahlo, Los Cocos, 1951

Eldorama at Tripostal, Lille (until September 1)

Split over three floors with the themes of The Dreamed Worlds, The Rush and New Eldorados, this thoroughly modern exhibition allows a variety of artists from around the world to explore their versions of Eldorado, through sculpture, paintings, installations and more.

Alberto Giacometti, une aventure moderne at LAM, Villeneuve D’Ascq (until June 11)

Not really anything to do with the theme of Eldorado, but possibly the most stunning exhibition to be found in Lille at the moment. Here you will find 150 masterpieces – sculptures, sketches and paintings – charting the unparalleled journey of one of the most inventive and daring modern artists of the 20th century.

Getting there
The Eurostar leaves from London St Pancras to Lille every couple of hours. The journey takes approx. 2.5 hours.

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Gill Harris has 20 years' experience of travel writing and journalism. She fell in love with the French language at school and then with the country when, as a teenager, she spent a summer working in Languedoc. She visits whenever she has the chance.

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