Visiting Lille this September for the France Rugby World Cup 2023? This host city is not only home to Stade Pierre Mauroy, where five of the pool matches will be held; it’s also one of France’s most dynamic cities and the gateway to Belgium. Plan a few days before or after match day to experience Lille and follow our insider tips to take in all the highlights.
Your France Rugby World Cup Itinerary: Lille
Day 1: Introducing Lille
Lille’s Old Town (Vieux Lille) is easily explored on foot, and a walking tour of the cobbled lanes and broad plazas is the best way to admire the city’s eclectic architecture. The Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange), Julien Destrée’s 17th-century masterpiece, takes centre stage on Place Charles de Gaulle, while traces of Lille’s Flemish heritage linger in the pastel-coloured townhouses with their gabled windows and ornate mouldings.
Stop to admire Lille Opera House, the Hospice Comtesse, and the Porte de Paris (“Gate of Paris”), Lille’s own version of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, then take a peek inside the Notre Dame de la Treille church. Finally, climb the belfry of Lille’s Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) for the ultimate city view.
Spend the afternoon admiring art masterpieces at the Palais des Beaux arts (Fine Arts Museum), one of the most important collections in France after The Louvre, and browsing the shops in the Old Town, from the designer boutiques along Rue de la Grande Chaussée to the antiques stores along Rue Basse. Adjourn to Rue des Bouchers in the evening hours—this foodie hub is clustered with restaurants, bistros, and crêperies.
Day 2: Match Day Fun
Kick off match day with a visit to the Citadelle de Lille, the star-shaped fortress that looms to the west of the Old Town. Set in lush parklands and hemmed in by the Deûle canal, it’s a scenic spot to stroll, and you can also hop aboard for a boat cruise along the canal.
There’s still time to spare before the match, so head over to the Méert tea salon to sample Lille’s most delicious sweet treats. The iconic Méert waffles—made from sweet brioche filled with Madagascan vanilla cream—make the perfect gift, so pick up a few boxes to take home with you too.
Post-match celebrations call for a beer (or several) and there are few better places to order a pint than Lille, one of the few French cities where beer has the edge over wine (you can thank their Belgian neighbours for that!). Head into Vieux Lille, where you can hop between bars, brewpubs, and estaminets (traditional taverns). Be sure to try local favourite, Blanche de Lille (white beer), and perhaps pair it with a hearty carbonade flamande (Flemish beer-braised beef stew).
Day 3: Market Day and Memorials
Wazemmes market is the place to pick up regional specialties from Maroilles cheese tart to potjevleesch (meat terrine), while mingling with the locals. It’s also the ideal spot for brunch, serving a mouth-watering assortment of Asian, Arabic, and Eastern Europe street food. If you can, come on a Sunday, when a giant flea market takes over the streets surrounding the covered market hall.
After lunch, set out on a tour of the region’s WWI battlefields and memorials, stopping at key sites such as the Museum of the Battle of Fromelles, Tyne Cot Cemetery, and Hill 60. See the Christmas Truce Memorial, and learn more about the Christmas Truce of 1914, and stop by the Commonwealth, American, and German cemeteries and memorials.
Time your arrival in Ypres to attend the poignant Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate. It’s a moving tribute to the soldiers who fought and died in WWI, and has been held in this spot every evening at 8pm since 1928.
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