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FRANCE : LILLE

The City of Lille (Rijsel in Dutch)  is a city in northern France on the Deûle River, near to the border with the Flemish region of Belgium. It is the préfecture (capital) of the département of Nord, in the région of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Population 180,000. A large part of Lille’s socio-economic hinterland lies in Belgium, in Flanders. From Belgium, Lille can be easily reached by the high speed Eurostar train (38 min from Brussels). From the Belgian city of Kortrijk (Courtrai)  a highway leads almost right into the heart of Lille. Although the “Lillois” consider themselves “flemish”, they don’t speak any word of Dutch. Lille has been part of France for 350 years, yet the architecture and cobbled streets of the attractive medieval centre offer a glimpse of its Flemish past.  

In 1312, the city of Lille was ceded to France but was subsequently subjected to Burgundian, Austrian, and Spanish rule. It was part of the Spanish Netherlands, until it was conquered by Louis XIV and incorporated into France in 1678. 

The metropolitan area has a population of more than 1 million inhabitants. The historic centre is very pretty and is a show piece of flemish architecture. The old centre has been nicely renovated. Because most of this was done with private capital, a lot of the ancient buildings now house shops and offices. Because of the population boom, new city quarters on the outskirts of the city were build, (example : Villeneuve d’Asq). Most of the shops are in the historic centre. Lille, therefore, is considered, one of the major shopping town in the entire region. The city also has a very modern underground (Métro) system. 

One of the city's top attractions, the beautiful Hospice Comtesse, includes a museum of Flemish art, furniture and ceramics, in addition to a lovely garden and chapel. The former hospital, dating back to the 12th century, also hosts a variety of concerts throughout the year. The neo-Gothic cathedral Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille and the Gothic St-Maurice church are popular with visitors and are further examples of the fabulous architecture in Lille.  

Art lovers are very well catered for; with the highly regarded Musee d'Art Moderne housing works by Picasso, Braque and Derain, while pieces by Monet and Renoir are part of the collection at the Musee des Beaux-Arts.
 


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