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Quickfix: Lille

O Zoom around the cobbled streets on a self-balancing Segway O Buy false teeth and live hamsters at the city’s best fleamarket O Take a Moroccan bath in a 19th-century textile factory O Cruise down the canals to a traditional distillery O Admire paintings and sculptures in an art deco swimming pool Words: Sarah Elliot; pictures: Sarah Elliot unless otherwise credited

Where is it? North France, about 45 minutes from the English Channel

How do I get there? Catch the Eurostar from Waterloo or Ashford – you’ll be there in less than two hours

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DAY ONE: DO THE SEGWAY Roll around town at 7km/h on a two-wheeled contraption before quaffing Lille’s best booze in a traditional distillery

Gary Yeowell/Getty Images


op on the 6.27am Eurostar from London Waterloo and just over 100 minutes later you’ll arrive at Gare Lille Europe, well in time for breakfast. It is a fiveminute taxi ride to Station Oxygène at Champ de Mars and its futuristic fleet of Segway Human Transporters. Introduced to Lille six months ago, the name is based on the word ‘segue’– literally ‘to make a smooth transition’. However, at first glance, you might be more concerned about staying upright than making any kind of transition, smooth or otherwise. A 30-minute crash course will give you the basics. Powered by electricity, a twist of the key illuminates a grinning face on the handlebar display – soundless and without any exhaust fumes, this is the only indication that the Segway is ready for action. You may feel unsteady, but don’t worry – the self-balancing Segway has it all under control. Top tip: Segways are designed to work with your body’s movements, using gyroscopes and tilt sensors to monitor your centre of gravity about 100 times a second. Relax and let the Segway do the balancing for you. A solid grasp of Franglish will help during the training but the instructors are good at charades, which is just as well – controlling the Segway goes against most of your natural reflexes. Lean slightly forward, the Segway wheels turn and you inch forward. Lean slightly back and you’ll slip into reverse. The more you lean, the faster you’ll go, which is fun until you reach for the brakes to stop – there aren’t any. The only way to stop is to smoothly return your centre of gravity to the middle. Half an hour later you’ll be executing figure-of-eight manoeuvres, stretching the Segway to its exhilarating top speed of 7km/h and even trying a bit of hands-free. Once the instructor hands you a certificate of aptitude, you’re ready to go.

studios, boutiques and eateries. When you reach Place du Lion d’Or, bear left along Rue de la Monnaie, stopping off to explore Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse and nearby Notre Dame de la Treille. Heading south on Rue du Cirque, you’ll find a small bakery called Paul, filled with delectable pastries – load up your Segway and weave through the backstreets back to Rue Nationale. Go right and zip down to Square Foch, where another right turn takes you through gardens, past the canal along Quai de Wault and back to the huge Citadelle and Bois de Boulogne – the perfect spot for your picnic. Top tip: Usually, it’s fine to store your Segway outside against a wall while you nip into shops, etc. Station Oxygene and Relais Oxygene can provide locks – ask for one. A few of the museums have special facilities to store your Segway.

Time for refreshment

Clockwise from left: Lille’s cobbled streets are lovely for strolling... but why not jazz things up and go by Segway?; leave room in your basket for delectable pastries from Paul

Top tip: Guided tours are only available in French, departing 11am, so grab a copy of Itineraires conseillées (suggested routes) or read on for Wanderlust’s recommendations.

Hit the town Early in the morning, Lille’s streets are blissfully quiet. From Station Oxygène glide along Boulevard de la Liberté then turn left along Rue Nationale to get to the town centre. Follow the road around to the back of the Opéra and head north towards Vieux Lille, a labyrinth of old streets lined with antique shops, artists’

Drop off your Segway and take a boat trip up the Deûle canal to laid-back Wambrechies. Seven kilometres north of Lille, Wambrechies is home to Distillerie Claeyssens, which has been producing the local tipple, genièvre (a type of gin), for 200 years. Lille is a haven for gastronomic dining but for something a bit different try Au Bout des Doigts (meaning ‘with the ends of the fingers’). Here, canapés are the order of the day – tempting morsels of meat, fish and vegetables are served in an art deco setting without a knife or fork in sight.

NEED TO KNOW Segways can be operated by anyone over 16 and require no special skills, although a 30-minute orientation is compulsory on your first visit. Station Oxygène (Bois de Boulogne Park, 9am7pm) or Relais Oxygène (Gare Lille Flandres, 2pm-5pm) will rent you a unit for €20/£14 per day, including first lesson. Check out

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Stock up on everything from fruit to fancy dress at the eclectic fleamarket before admiring Lille’s ingenious architecture


ille has undergone something of a renaissance since being crowned Capital of Culture in 2004. Rather than tear down or throw away relics and rubbish, the residents of Lille are keen to recycle their history in a much more innovative way.

Europe’s best treasure hunt? It’s a brisk 20-minute walk from the centre of town to Wazemmes where, just past the Palais des Beaux-Arts, there is a distinct change in atmosphere. As the bourgeois streets of the old town disappear and the tourists thin out, you get the impression that you are delving deeper into the real fibre of Lille. Traditionally, the city’s servants were granted just one day each year to earn some extra cash by selling their masters’cast-offs, but wander through the Wazemmes quarter on any given Sunday morning and you’ll

discover a series of ramshackle markets packed with all sorts of treasures from the past – antique ballgowns, false teeth, gilded mirrors, hand-stitched cushions, pots, pans and bottles of all shapes and sizes. Combined with racks of sizzling rotisserie chickens, (live) hamsters, broken alarm clocks and the odd (used) portaloo, this is an exclusive peek into local life – grab a coffee at one of the cafés, sit back and watch. Top tip: The exact location varies from week to week – telephone the Hôtel de Ville (town hall) before you arrive in Lille for an up-to-date schedule.

LILLE’S FINEST. . . Best pastry

... stock up on chocolate tarts an patisserie Paul d other goodies at

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Best busker... accordions

serenade shoppers at Place du Concert’s Sunday morning market

Best park...

just in front of the Citadelle, Jard in Va spot for a picnic uban is the perfect

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OPaul ( has seven branches in Lille but the best is at 8-12 rue de Paris. Pastries start at €2/£1.40.

OAu Bout des Doigts (+33 (0) 3 2074 5595,

Lille Tourism (Place Rihour; +33 (0) 3 595 79400, and the Hôtel de Ville (Place Roger Salengro; +33 (0) 3 2049 5000, both offer advice. La Piscine (+33 (0) 3 2069 2360) is in Roubaix – take the metro to Gare Jean Lebas then walk. It’s open every day (except Mon) from 11am (1pm Sat and Sun) until 6pm and costs €3/£2.

Art with a difference After a morning’s bargain hunting, head to Rue des Sarrazins, where a 19th-century textile factory has been revived by architect Lars Spuybroek. This is one of Lille’s Maison Folies, a series of regeneration projects kicked off in 2004. Several of the region’s decaying buildings, many built on a whim by aristocracy, have been transformed into modern cultural centres. Check out the contemporary art upstairs, all produced by local artists, then descend to the subterranean hammam, a Moroccanstyle bathing complex where you can

Best cheese

... it looks radio but Mimolette is a delicious, fu active, llflavoured hard cheese – not fo r the faint hearted

steam, scrub and soak away the afternoon. Further out of town, La Piscine is another museum with a watery twist. The former municipal swimming pool has been reinvented as the city’s Art and Industry Museum, complete with art deco swimming pool, bath house, stained-glass windows, mosaics and gardens, with hollow acoustics that remind you of the building’s earlier role. The enormous collection of art provides an excellent gauge to measure whether your fleamarket bargains are really worth a centime or two. 

Best pastime... idle away an afternoon playing chess at Vieille Bourse, the merchants’ exchange


Travel Library/Robert Harding

NEED TO KNOW is tucked away at 5 rue St Joseph. A plate of six canapés costs around €9/£6.20. ODistillerie ClaeyssensTake bus 3 from Gare Lille Flandres to Wambrechies Centre where guided tours (€6/£4) are available by prior arrangement (+33 (0) 3 2014 9191, From April to October you can reach Wambrechies by boat from the Citadelle (2pm, €22.50/£15.50 including tour; contact +33 (0) 3 2139 1515). OHôtel Le Brueghel, 3-5 parvis Saint-Maurice (+33 (0) 3 200 60669,, offers rooms from €65/£44. OMaison Folie Wazemmes, 70 rue des Sarrazins. There is a hammam in the basement, prices from €18/£12.50. Check the website for timings (+33 (0) 3 2014 3434, OEurostar (08705 186186, operates daily trains to Lille from £55 return. Until 31 December, Eurostar is offering special discounts in Lille in shops, bars and restaurants for passengers showing their Eurostar tickets.

From far left: Rue au Peterinck is Lille’s best backstreet; Wazemme’s market is the top shopping spot; pay attention to the signs when you’re on your ‘speedy’ Segway; if the going gets too tough, you can always peoplewatch from a café

t ride... hop on th e 1920s cage lift at cosy Ho tel Brueghel

What does it cost? (Approximate costs per person) Eurostar


Hotel (one night, based on two sharing)






Museum admissions





k refreshing Best cuppa... drinsion at Maison tea after a steamy ses Folie Wazemmes’ hammam

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48 hours in Lille, northern France


48 hours in Lille, northern France