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Accessible on the Eurostar and close to the Belgium border, Lille is an ideal place for an eco-friendly weekend – without having to hop on a plane. The capital of the Hauts-de-France region has got bucketloads of charm thanks to annual festivals like the popular Braderie de Lille flea market. Explore its huge central Grand Place square by day and sip strong Trappist-made beers on the cobblestone streets of the old town among 17th-century townhouses by night.
Find Lille hostels with garden courtyards covered in ivy for a tranquil space to relax post-sightseeing. Hostels with a Scandi-inspired decor, brightened by pops of colour, will add style to your stay (not to mention your Instagram stories). You can choose hostels with curtain-lined pod beds for a bit of privacy while still having a social experience. Opt for a Lille hostel offering free city maps and city tours to help you get to know the area.
Vieux Lille is the historic centre of the city but it also has a modern vibe thanks to its hipster cafés and bars, especially around Rue de Gand, L'avenue du Peuple-Belge and Hospice Comtesse. Wazemmes has more of a multicultural feel with its Asian takeaways and Arabic boulangeries. A fun flea market pops up on Sundays around the Wazemmes Market Hall. Quartier Sébastopol is also popular: head here to see the Saturday morning farmers' market and the elegant facade of the theatre.
Tap into Lille's art scene – it's poised to become the World Design Capital in 2020 – by checking out the Gare Saint Sauveur cargo station, now a cultural and exhibition centre hosting film showings, art exhibits and events. For traditional paintings, try the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille with works spanning the ancient to the modern era. Head to the star-shaped fortress nestled in the Parc de la Citadelle to people-watch: locals come here for picnics and games of pétanque (French style bowling).
Lille has two metro lines, two tram lines with more than 35 stops and around 60 bus routes, so getting around is easy. If you prefer, you can rent a V'Lille bike from self-service stations across the city. Lille Europe Station in the centre is where you'll come in on the Eurostar from Brussels or London. Lille-Lesquin International Airport is 10km from the centre – a shuttle service goes from the Euralille shopping centre and takes about 20 minutes.