Lille is a dream destination for history lovers

Since its founding in the latter part of the 11th century, the city of Lille has seen a remarkable parade of rulers and for a history buff, Lille is a goldmine of past glories, defeats, invasion and resistance, destruction and reconstruction. Today it is the fourth largest city in France, a survivor of countless wars and one of the most scenic cities in the whole country.

Take the kids to the Open Air Museum; almost 25 acres that comprise a rural village of yesteryear, complete with thatched cottages, barns and craft shops where artisans practice the skills of their ancestors. For a powerful dose of culture, visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts, an ornate masterpiece in itself, and home to an art collection that rivals the Louvre.

A stroll through the Old Town (La Vieille Ville) affords another glimpse of life as it used to be. The streets are narrow and cobbled, lined with old Flemish townhouses (many now home to upscale boutiques). Try to catch the lively Sunday market, and allow some time to sit and watch the rest of the world go by.

On the other end of the time line you’ll find the dazzling modern architecture of the Euralille Shopping Centre. This is a huge construction, just a few minutes walk from the Eurail station, with every sort of shop you can imagine plus loads of cafes and restaurants. The only drawback is the mall toilets are not free, so be prepared.

Lille has so many parks and gardens that you can’t go far without encountering green space and enticing walks, but the largest open space is the Bois Boulogne, Here you’ll find a zoo, a leisure park, a game area and designated walking, jogging and cycling tracks, even a little train if you tire of shanks mare.