The holiday hotspot less than two hours from the UK by train, with delicious food and amazing rooftops
“Get the champagne, you’re in France,” my hotel receptionist tells me with a cheeky grin.
And there was definitely something to celebrate. I was in Lille just an hour and 22 minutes after leaving London’s St Pancras station.
Eurostar has long been a revolution when it comes to flight-free holidays and Lille is the closest on the network – perfect for a cheeky city break.
Stepping off the train in the center of town, Meert was my first stop for one of their famous £3 filled waffles.
It was believed to be a favorite of Charles de Gaulle, leader of the Free French during World War II, who was born in Lille.
Small enough not to be overwhelming, the vanilla and chestnut cream filling certainly satisfied my sweet tooth and I devoured it while peering through the windows at the café’s stunning interiors.
Around the corner is the city’s other favorite treat – the delicious meringues of Aux Merveilleux de Fred. I chose the most popular chocolate version and had to lick cream off my sticky fingers. They’re delightfully light, so you’ll likely want a few more as you meander through this very walkable city.
The best view of Lille is from the 366 steps of the bell tower. But instead of working off my double amount of sugar, I decided to take a tour in an old blue-green Citroen 2CV.
My guide, Maxime, took me around the city, giving me bite-sized morsels of its history and pointing out French, Belgian, and Dutch architecture. And just as my sugar was running low, Maxime made a pit stop where we shared yet another waffle, this time orange flavored.
He even happily rolled down the roof while driving at a top speed of 20mph so I could take photos.
There are plenty of attractions to explore, I couldn’t help but laugh at the city’s Arc de Triomphe – a tiny roundabout with the 17th-century Porte de Paris in the centre.
But if there’s one reason to get away from the beautiful city, it’s a visit to La Piscine, an art museum just a short tram ride from Roubaix.
The former bathhouse was built in 1932 to combat the spread of tuberculosis caused by poor working conditions. The Art Deco pool closed in 1980 but reopened in 2000 with a full restoration. The huge stained-glass windows flood the art-filled atrium with light.
But when the sun goes down, the best place to visit Lille is Nu, which has the city’s only rooftop bar. The restaurant offers 360 degree views, DJs and live music on weekends, and friendly staff who didn’t judge my very broken “vin blanc, s’il vous plait”.
And if there’s one thing I had to try in France, it was snails – even though I was a hesitant beginner.
Luckily, sautéed with mushrooms and nuts, the delightfully rich and succulent appetizer converted me.
After the decadent chocolate mousse, I forgot about ever feeling hungry.
Luckily, after also having a few glasses of Bourgogne wine, my Hotel Mama Shelter was only a few steps away. The chain started in France and now has hundreds across Europe, including one in London.
Rooms feature huge double beds and wacky printed carpets, but make the most of the ground-floor buffet restaurant.
Cozy up under the painted ceilings with a coffee or cocktail, or visit the private outdoor patio.
So if you’re ever wondering what to do when you have 90 minutes, a trip to Lille is by far the best decision.
GET THERE: Eurostar tickets from London St Pancras to Lille start at £39. See eurostar.com.
STAY THERE: Mama Shelter rooms start from £78 when sharing in twos. See mamaszelter.com.
FROM & ABOUT: Tradi’Balade 2CV car tours from £30. See www.tradibalade.com. The Lille 24 hour city pass is available from £22, see en.lilletourism.com.
https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/travel/10456497/lille-travel-ideas-food-waffle-visit-train/ The holiday hotspot less than two hours from the UK by train, with delicious food and amazing rooftops