article - Lille

Lille (Dutch: Rijsel) is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France and the core of one of the largest metropolitan agglomerations in the country. Historically, it has also been the capital of Flanders, and later an industrial powerhouse, thanks to which it now boasts a large and handsome historic centre. Today, it is known as a major economic and academic centre, with a very large student population. Situated at the literal crossroads of Europe, Lille is within a 90-minute train ride from Paris, Brussels and London.

Place du Général-de-Gaulle

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Lille is France’s fifth largest metropolitan area, and its most northerly. The city sits on the Deûle River, very near to the border with Belgium. While the city is moderately sized (233K inhabitants as of 2018), over 1.2 million people live in the French side of metropolitan area, while the cross-border metropolitan area, which covers both French and Belgian territory and includes Kortrijk and Tournai, is estimated to have more than 2.1 million inhabitants. It is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region and the prefecture of the Nord department.

While the area of present-day Lille has been inhabited since as early as 2000 BC, the first mention of the city dates back to 1066, when it was referred to as apid Insulam in Latin. Meaning “at the island”, this toponym is reflected in both the French and Dutch names of the city, both being contractions of the same expression (L’île and ter ijsel).

Map of Lille

Most visitors will probably arrive by train at Gare de Lille Europe or Gare de Lille Flandres. It is possible to land at the Charles de Gaulle Paris airport and then continue by train, but do not try this at the Ryanair’s Paris airport (Beauvais) as there is no train connection at all and the only bus is back to Paris itself.

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