Lille is the perfect choice for a group holiday from England. It’s so quick and easy to get to, thanks to the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, it takes just 2 hours 30 minutes from Folkestone.

lille-main-square

Take the car and once you’re in France you have the freedom to move around as you like, and to leave when you want. Driving on the right is pretty simple too, even I can do it.

As France’s fourth largest city Lille has lots of things to do. The cobbled streets of the 17th and 18th century old town hide many boutique shops, interesting restaurants and plazas featuring stunning architecture. Perfect for sitting around and soaking up the atmosphere with your friends.

And of course, you’re in France, one of the gastronomical centres of the world – the food must be explored!

– Post in collaboration with Eurotunnel

1. The food

So let’s start with that. Dining in a group in Lille is easy. Yes, many of the ‘Estaminets’ (little shabby restaurants) are quite small, but that just gives the opportunity to huddle up and eat family style.

The Old Town is full of these Estimanets. The hovel-like bistros are packed with artefacts, atmosphere and deliciously calorific food, just waiting for you to try. You and your friends will look great on Instagram in here!

Lunchtime set menus are usually about half the price of dinner, so if your group is on a budget, dine at noon.

Deli food is in abundance in Lille, as is the food at the Sunday Market. Gather up whatever takes your fancy and settle down for a picnic in one of the city’s many parks. Pick up a few of Au Merveilleux’s famous meringues for dessert too.

Charles de Gaulle’s favourite tea room is located in Lille, the 18th-century Patisserie Meert. Go for the filled waffles, it’s what he would’ve wanted.

2. The drink

Lille is so close to Belgium that you can guarantee an extensive and exciting beer menu for your group to get through. Why not embark on an unofficial beer tasting by trying a different one each? There are plenty of bistros to sample them in, or ask a local to direct you to a ‘cave’. They’re a thing, honest.

3. The views

lille-in-the-main-square

Climb the 104 steps from the elevator up to the top of Lille City Hall. The panoramic view from the ‘Beffroi’ will make the work out worth it. It’s the highest municipal building in France and a UNESCO Heritage site. It’s also free.

4. Beautiful squares

One of the best aspects about going on a group holiday is sitting with a drink and just chatting. Talking more than you would at home because there’s no pull on your time and you just have each other to focus on. The beautiful squares of Lille are perfect for this.

Just outside the Theatre du Nord you’ll find a quaint café to relax with a drink al fresco, or you could treat yourselves to a drink at the Grand Palace. If you’re going at Christmas, this is an absolute must.

And do not miss the Vieille Bourse – it’s the most stunning building in Lille.

The locals hang out in Solferino Street on a weekend evening, so make sure you schedule in some time there too.

5. Beautiful parks

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There are many beautiful spaces in Lille, starting with the Bois de Boulogne. The green space would be perfect for a group picnic, and a great way to save some money too.

The Jardin Vauban is another great choice, filled with picture postcard falling foliage and water. The city zoo is just across the bridge and has free entry.

6. Museum of Fine Arts

Museums are always good to include in group holiday itineraries as they’re often cheap, or free (first Sunday of the month), and each of you can take as much time as you like to explore, while the rest wait in the coffee shop. Even if you don’t want to go in the Museum of Fine Arts, go and take a picture outside – the building is stunning.

If you’re not into the Fine Arts Museum, how about the Natural History Museum or the Musée de l’Hospice Comtesse? It’s an ex hospital turned museum. Kind of creepy, but gives a fascinating insight into hospital care of times gone by.

7. Go for a meal and beer in Brussels

Brussels is less than an hour away from Lille in the car – logistically you could easily just pop over for a Belgian waffle and beer and then come back again. Two countries in one group holiday, sweet.

8. Cinema and culture

Keep an eye on the listings for the Gare Saint-Sauveur. It was once a train station, but is now a cultural space with cinema screenings, concerts, festivals and exhibitions. You never know what could be on when you’re there.

9. Shopping

lille-at-christmas

The Old Town of Lille (Le Vieux Lille) has many little, charming boutique shops to explore. There are some big high street and luxury names here, along with Paris’ prestigious Galleries Lafayette. Groups can split up to explore their interest and then meet up again for a coffee. You can’t really get lost in Lille’s Old Town, so just do it on your own time.

If you’re really into your shopping the Rem Koolhaas-designed Euralille shopping centre has hundreds of shops to choose from. I’m sure everyone in your group will find at least one thing they like there, if not 100s.

Group bookings can be cheaper on the Eurotunnel, and you don’t have any restrictions on how much you’re allowed to bring – as long as it all fits in the car!

For more holiday inspiration, check out there inspiring ideas page.

All photos from Flickr under the Creative Commons License. Thanks to jinlongwaang, dronepicr and HaileF for the images. 

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