Our first stop on our 2 week French road trip was the beautiful city of Lille. Home to jaw-dropping French architecture, wide open spaces and the type of French cuisine that make this country so foodie famous. We absolutely loved our short stay and after reading this guide to Lille with kids I hope you will too.
The town feels super historic and is full of French and Flemish architecture. Being located right on the Belgium border you’ll notice the huge Flemish influence throughout the city.
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Where to stay in Lille with kids
First up you’ll need to book some fantastic family friendly accommodation. During our stay in Lille we based ourselves at the Ibis Lille Centre Grand Place. Read all about our stay at the Ibis Grand Place in Lille if you’re looking for a super family friendly budget hotel slap bang in the centre of town.
If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket then the L’Hermitage Gantois also located near the Grand Place looks amazing. Plus it has a pool which will always keep the kids happy! And a spa and two restaurants for the adults.
Family friendly things to do in Lille
Wander the streets and visit La Grande Place
I know slow ambles around narrow alleyways wont be an easy sell if you’re in Lille with kids. But even if you can convince them to walk for half an hour it will be worth it. Lille is such a very pretty city. All colourful buildings just oozing history. I highly recommend including the Gland Place, or the main square in your walk. The buildings bordering the square are just magnificent and it absolutely comes alive over the summer months or in the evening as locals enjoy dinner outdoors.
Grab a culture fix at a world class museum
The small city of Lille is home to a surprising amount of excellent and unusual museums. Although kids wont be interested in all of them, I think the following three are particularly family friendly.
Natural History Museum
Every child I know loves a Natural History Museum and the one in Lille really is pretty cool. This is one of the oldest Natural History Museums in the whole of France and houses thousands of wonders of the Natural World. Kids will love the huge whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling and the massive woolly mammoth on the ground floor. They also have a fantastic insectarium where you can spot live mantis, giant beetles and tarantulas.
Entry to the Natural History Museum is free for children under 12 and just €5 for adults. The museum is closed on Tuesdays. Check out the Natural History Museum website for more details.
Have you ever visited a museum in a swimming pool? No? Nor had we until we headed to Lille. La Piscine is located about a 20 minute drive from the centre of Lille in the pretty town of Roubaix. Housed in a gorgeous art deco building, with an incredible array of sculptures, textiles and paintings surrounding the original pool.
The museum also has a brilliant cafe filled with sweet treats which should be enough to persuade the kids to visit!
Kids can visit the museum for free and it’s just €9 for adults. La Piscine is closed on Mondays. Check the website for more information.
Lille Museum of Modern Art
I always find modern art museums so much more accessible for kids rather than the more traditional types. Bright colours and bold subject matter hold the attention that little bit longer. Which is why the Museum of Modern Art in Lille is a great option for your visit with kids. It has the added benefit of a lush green sculpture garden with large scale installations and is often a venue for open air events.
The museum is located just 20 minutes drive East from Lille centre. Kids under 12 can visit the museum for free and adults are €7. On the first Sunday of the month the museum is free to visit. You can find out more on the museums website.
Climb up the tower at Lille Town Hall
The Belfry at the City Hall in Lille is the best place for views of the city. You’ll need to tackle 100 steps up first and then take a lift right to the top. The tower is 105 metres high! This is a very popular attraction in Lille so make sure you arrive early. Walk up tickets are €7 each. You can hire binoculars when you’re there for a closer look at things. A climb up the tower is free on the first Wednesday of every month.
Zoo de Lille is another great activity in Lille with kids. This is a small but sweet zoo with plenty of cute creatures to keep the kids entertained. Also some larger crowd pleasers such as rhinos and zebras. Under 2s are free, older kids are €2 and adults are €4. Find out more on the Zoos website.
You can easily walk to the zoo from Lille town centre in around 20 minutes. It’s located in Citadel park, a huge open space to explore. Here you’ll also find Cita-Parc, a small amusement park with several kid friendly rides.
Opera de Lille
The Opera House in Lille is an absolutely beautiful building and a surprisingly good place to visit with kids even if they’re not too keen on sitting through a performance. Once a year the Opera House opens up the backstage area offering children a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes. Keep an eye on the website for the next date.
Parc Jean-Baptiste Lebas
A bit of green space is always a welcome treat when on a city break with kids so we’re always on the hunt for the best. I think Parc Jean-Baptiste Lebas is my favourite in Lille. Its right in the centre of town making it an easy stop off between other activities. It’s not huge at just 7 acres but it has several lovely play areas and plenty of space to run around or enjoy a picnic.
Get your Hands on a Lille travel pass
If you’re in Lille for a few days and planning on visiting several attractions then it’s probably worth picking up a Lille City Pass. It gives you entrance to over 30 tourist sites and free use of public transport on the metro, bus and Lille tram. It costs just £30 for 48 hours.
You can book a Lille City Pass online at Get Your Guide.
What to do in Lille at night
If you’re visiting Lille with kids this will probably be very little. Busy days exploring should mean an early night for all. But if you do want to venture out after dark you’ll be welcome with kids in most places. We always take dinner in France a little later than when we’re home so this is always our favourite way to end the day. Then an evening wander through the streets back to our hotel. The area around the Grand Place is always buzzing in the evening with groups of family and friends enjoying outdoor meals and drinks.
Where to eat in Lille with kids
Lille is a very foodie city. Locals are proud of their food and it’s origins and there are bars, bistros, estiminets (brasseries) and high end restaurants all over town. My only recommendation is to take a wander and stop somewhere you like the look of. The Grand Place is a good place to start, it’s easy to spot the popular restaurants, these are likely to have the best food. The surrounding streets are also a good place to find food at slightly better prices. One evening we stopped at La Pate Brisee on Rue de la Monnaie and it was totally brilliant.
Some Lille specialities the kids might enjoy are:
la Carbonnade Flamande – Beef stew
This is a very rich beef and onion stew. Absolutely packed with flavour and smothered in rich gravy. The meat melts in the mouth and is served with great hunks of bread. Comfort food at its very best!
The waffles you’ll find in Lille are not like regular waffles. They’re paper thin waffle sandwiches, stuffed full of vanilla cream. In my opinion this alone is reason to take the kids to Lille!
This is toasted (and often pre soaked in beer) bread, ham with melted cheese poured all over the top finished with a fired egg. It’s absolutely delicious but pretty heavy going. I found a whole one a bit too rich but it’s perfect for a shared lunch.
Best time to visit Lille, France
Before the pandemic hit, Lille would host the historic “braderie” flea market once a year in September. This is a really special time to visit as you can really watch the city come alive. Hopefully it will be back on for 2022. This is also a good time of year to visit weather wise. The roasting hot summer temperatures drop off but there is still definitely some warmth in the air. Spring is another great choice as temperatures are a warm but not too warm. The summer months can be pretty hot although not as bad as the baking south. But hotel rates do rise during the main European holidays.
December is fun in Lille as the Christmas market arrives in Place Rihour. It’s a quick and easy festive mini break from the UK.
How to get to Lille with kids
It’s really easy to get to Lille from the UK with several Eurostar trains from London departing each day. Lille would make a great starting point for an Interrail adventure. It’s just over an hour and twenty minutes and a return journey on the Eurostar is included in your Interrail pass. We did this a few years ago and found it was a brilliant way to explore Europe. Check out my post on Interrail with kids if you’d like to know more.
If you’re arriving from Paris then it’s just over an hour by train. The train station is right in the middle of town so it shouldn’t be far to walk to your hotel or all the major attractions.
As we were road tripping through France, this time we arrived by Car having taken the ferry to Dunkerque. It was an easy one hour drive across country to get to the centre of Lille. If you’re arriving into Calais it will add another half hour to your driving time so not too much in it.
There is also an International airport in Lille although I could not find any direct flights from the UK.
How to get around Lille, France
You can explore most of Lille by foot if you’re happy to put the steps in. But if the little ones can’t handle any more miles then the public transport system is pretty good. It’s easy to hop on a tram to get around, they are frequent, cheap and the routes are easy to understand.
Parking in Lille
We agreed a special overnight price for parking opposite our hotel in Lille. There are several car parks around the city and side streets to park on. Make sure you pay either at the meter or via a mobile app. Many parking areas are free on Sundays and public holidays. You shouldn’t struggle to find a space but spaces can be tight so just take it slow.
Good to know
Many of the restaurants close between 2pm and 7pm so don’t leave lunch too late if you want to go somewhere in particular.
Another stunning French town to visit is Versailles, just an hour away from Paris make sure you add it to your French bucket list.
Make sure you pin for later for planning your next trip to Lille with kids.
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