Lille, in the heart of the Pas de Calais region in northern France, isn’t blessed with the best of the weather, but it more than makes up for it in grandeur with its impressive architecture, superb museums and gastronomy.
Along with nearby Lens, the city has passed between control of France and the neighbouring Belgians throughout the centuries, and there’s a distinct influence of the Flemish in the city, not least in its local dialect. Your secondary school level French might be of little use when trying to understand the strong local accent, but fortunately the growing tourist influence in the city (it was European Capital of Culture in 2004) means that you should be understood whatever you’re speaking.
While the city wasn’t a host for France 98, it’s no stranger to major sporting events, having hosted stages in the Tour de France, Davis Cup ties and the annual Paris-Roubaix cycling race pulls huge crowds.
It’s been a popular weekend break destination for Brits since the Eurostar arrived 20 years ago, but there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for more than a day or two either side of the match. And with a big student population, a reputation for excellent beer in its many bistros and brasseries, and a lively nightlife scene, it will likely prove a hugely popular destination with visiting fans this summer.
Department - Nord
Population - 228,000
Average June temperature - 16.2 C
All fixtures local time (BST +1 hour).
Sunday 12 June, 21.00: Germany v Ukraine – Group C
Wednesday 15 June, 15.00: Russia v Slovakia – Group B
Sunday 19 June, 21.00: Switzerland v France – Group A
Wednesday 22 June, 21.00: Italy v Republic of Ireland – Group E
Round of 16
Sunday 26 June, 18.00 (Lille): Winner C v Third-place A/B/F
Friday 1 July, 21.00 (Lille): Winner Match 2 v Winner Match 6
A lot of fans are likely to arrive in Lillle by train - the city being home to one of Eurostar’s main hubs, it is also well-connected to the rest of France (as well as neighbouring countries) by rail.
There are two stations in the city centre - Lille Flanders is where the TGV arrives from Paris (roughly 30 services a day) but the bulk of arrivals, including Eurostar, international Thalys services to Brussels and Amsterdam, and other TGV services to the likes of Lyon and Marseille arrive at Lille Europe.
The two stations are only a few hundred yards apart, either side of the Euralille shopping centre, so if you have to make a connection between stations please allow enough time. The two stations are also connected by the Lille Metro, if you want to save yourself the walk.
Eurostar trains from London take around 1 hour 30 minutes, the majority of which carry on to Brussels. Connections to Paris take just over an hour, Lyon from around 3 hours, while Marseille is 5 hours away. Services are likely to be incredibly busy around the tournament so we’d advise you to book as far in advance as possible - reservations on both Eurostar and TGV services are mandatory, so don’t assume you can just turn up and grab a seat (or stand in the aisle).
Lille Europe has all the facilities you would expect from an international terminal - cafes, shops, a bureau de change and cash machines aplenty, along with left luggage. Anything that you can’t find in the station you’ll likely be able to get from Euralille next door.
The ticket office is open from 5.45am to 10.00pm Monday to Saturday, and from 07.30am on Sundays.
Lille does have its own international airport, Lille Lesquin, located around 7km outside the city. There are only a handful of budget operators who use the airport, however, with infrequent connections to other French cities through Easyjet and Hop! (Air France’s budget carrier), including other host cities Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Nice and Toulouse.. It also serves charter destinations.
If you’re looking at arriving on one of these services, a shuttle bus runs hourly from the airport to the city centre, at 30 minutes past the hour from 5.30am to 7.30pm. There are a few services after this, with the last departure at 10.10pm (10.45pm on Saturday).
Getting from the city to the airport is equally straightforward - the shuttle leaves from in front of the main entrance to the Euralille shopping centre in the city centre. Services run every hour, on the hour (apart from the 5.10am departure), with a reduced service on Sundays, starting later in the morning. The last departure for the airport is 8pm.
Tickets can only be bought onboard from the driver, and cost €8 for a single, or €10 for a return. The journey takes around 20 minutes.
For the full timetable, see the airport’s website www.lille.aeroport.fr
A taxi for the same journey would cost around €20.
Lille is one of the best connected host cities in terms of its road network - it can be reached by the A1 to/from Paris (220km), the A26 to/from Calais (110km) and Lyon (690km), as well as the A22 from Ghent, Antwerp and Amsterdam and the A27 to/from Brussels.