Lille is ideally situated for exploring north-western France and Flanders, with windswept beaches, historic towns, and the Belgian border all within day-trip distance. If you’re visiting Lille for the France Rugby World Cup 2023, why not make the most of the time between matches and take in some of the regional highlights?
Ready to explore the Belgian capital, visit WWI battle sites and memorials, and marvel over UNESCO-listed monuments? Here’s our pick of the six best day trips from Lille.
1. Arras and Lens
Indulge your inner art lover and history buff by combining these two northern France towns in one day trip. First up is historic Arras, where you can marvel at architectural landmarks—such as the UNESCO-listed Beffroi d’Arras and Flemish-style townhouses on Place des Héros—and visit WWI battlegrounds, memorials, and war tunnels used during the Battle of Arras.
Nearby, Lens has its own WWI museum, the Centre d’Histoire du Mémorial 14-18, housed in a striking black-cube building, but it’s most famous as the site of the Louvre-Lens Museum, the Louvre’s first-ever satellite museum.
Distance from Lille: 32 miles (52 km) to Arras
How to get there: Drive (45 mins) to Arras, join a tour from Lille, or take the train (59 mins to Lens and a further 13 mins to Arras)
Don’t miss: The Louvre Lens Museum
Forever synonymous with the heroic WWI evacuation of Allied troops, Dunkirk is also a lively student hub and a busy Channel port. After admiring the Flemish-style Hôtel de Ville, the Beffroi de Dunkerque belfry, and the 16th-century Church of Saint-Éloi—the few landmarks not demolished in WWII—Dunkirk’s biggest draw is its wide sandy beach.
Don’t miss the Dunkirk 1940 Museum, which chronicles the fateful events of Operation Dynamo, the LAAC modern art museum, and the Mémorial des Alliés (Allied Memorial), which stands right by the beachfront.
Distance from Lille: 47 miles (75 km)
How to get there: Drive (1 hour), join a tour from Lille, or take the train (1 hour 8 mins)
Don’t miss: The Mémorial des Alliés (Memorial to the Allies)
3. Le Touquet
On the southern cusp of the Opal Coast, at the mouth of the Canche River, Le Touquet has long been the beach getaway of choice for sun-seeking Parisians. The town’s connections with the capital are so strong that its full name is actually “Le Touquet-Paris-Plage”, and it even boasts its own Eiffel Tower sandcastle, the almost 10-metre-high Tour Paris-Plage sculpture.
Miles of sandy shores await along the coast, but you can also climb the red-brick lighthouse for a view across the Channel, head to the Parc de l’Estuaire (Estuary Park) for a walk or horseback ride through the sand dunes, or party into the early hours at the many bars, clubs, and casinos.
Distance from Lille: 93 miles (150 km)
How to get there: Drive (2 hours)
Don’t miss: Hit the beach
4. Ypres, Belgium
Just over the Belgian border, Ypres’ (Leper in Dutch) charming Old Town and medieval monuments are all but eclipsed by the importance of its WWI history. This Flemish town sits at the heart of the poppy-filled “Flanders Fields” and some of WWI’s bloodiest battlefields, and it’s impossible to pass through without feeling the weight of its history.
The Menin Gate memorial hosts its moving Last Post ceremony every evening at 8pm, and the city is surrounded by battlefields, trenches, war cemeteries, and memorials, most notably Tyne Cot Cemetery, Hill 60, and Zillebeke.
Distance from Lille: 25 miles (40 km)
How to get there: Drive (40 minutes), join a tour from Lille, or take the train (1-hour 10 minutes via Kortrijk).
Don’t miss: The poignant Last Post ceremony.
5. Bruges, Belgium
Arguably the most picturesque of all Belgian cities, Bruges is an artful jumble of medieval landmarks, fairy-tale churches, and impossibly pretty canals. Architectural wonders abound in the UNESCO-listed Old Town, and the Basilica of the Holy Blood, the Church of our Lady in Bruges, the Market Square, and the Belfry will all have you reaching for your camera.
Hop aboard a traditional wooden boat for the most romantic views, cruising along the flower-lined canals, past rows of pastel-coloured gabled houses and leafy parks. Alternatively, hire a bike to visit the city’s windmills and Beguinage before heading back to the city to enjoy a beer tasting at one of the many brewpubs and breweries.
Distance from Lille: 47 miles (75 km)
How to get there: Drive (1 hour 10 minutes) or take the train (1 hour 51 minutes via Brussels).
Don’t miss: A cruise along the canals.
6. Brussels, Belgium
All roads in Brussels lead to the Grand Place, and the central hub is an architectural feast with its baroque façades, gothic guild houses, and medieval townhouses crowned by the magnificent Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).
There’s plenty to fill up a day tour of the Belgian capital. Once you’ve strolled around the Grand Place (and perhaps indulged in a Belgium waffle from one of the square’s many cafés), pay a visit to the Notre Dame Du Sablon church, snap a selfie with the beloved Manneken Pis statue, and enjoy a stroll through the lush Parc Du Cinquantenaire. Don’t forget to pick up some Belgian chocolates from the artisan chocolatiers along Rue des Bouchers.
Distance from Lille: 68 miles (110 km)
How to get there: Drive (1 hour 30 mins) or take the train (34 minutes).
Don’t miss: The magnificent Grand Place.
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