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Lille is for France what Manchester is to England - the beating heart of the country's industry! So, keeping that in mind, welcome to the industrial center, the 10th most populated city, and the 4th largest metropolitan area in France. Despite being grossly underrated in the past, Lille has now become a shining center of culture and trade and extends an invitation for you to explore it! After all, the city was nominated as European Capital of Culture 2004 and ""City of Art and History"" for a reason, since Lille has many things to offer to everyone interested in arts and culture. Its multitude of museums, combined with Lille's outstanding architecture, is definitely something to appreciate and admire when you visit. So, don't forget to see the Vieille Bourse, the famous 17th-century stock exchange building, and also see the modern properties in the district of Euralille, with a modern design and contemporary - perhaps futuristic - architectural styles that will lift you from the past and transport you right back to the present day. Wander around the city, and make a stroll down the clean cobbled streets of Vieux Lille. See the awe-inspiring Hotel de Ville de Lille, the old Town Hall, classified as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, go up its Belfry and enjoy a unique view of Lille. In addition, nature lovers will discover that the city offers an abundance of blooming gardens and beautiful parks, where you can relax and recharge your batteries for your explorations! Last but not least, don't skip tasting the delicious local cuisine, which, because of Lille's place on the map, has been influenced both by Belgium and France. So, take a seat in one of the small traditional Flemish restaurants, which are called estaminets, and see Lille through the eyes of its local residents! Now, are you ready to explore the unique, fascinating and exceptionally charming city of Lille?
Let us begin from the fact that despite being founded in 1030, Lille has so far experienced a very tumultuous history. This is indeed confirmed by the 11 separate cases in which the city was laid under siege. Known as "L'isle" - "the island" - in its early years, Lille's strategic location was the reason behind its ideal defensive location, a quality that did not go unnoticed by the counts of Flanders, who made Lille the capital city of the entire region. After a time, Lille fell to the Dukes of Burgundy, and following the demise of the last Duke in 1477, it was first annexed to the Holy Roman Empire, and afterwards to Spain. In 1667, it was ceded to France and became the favorite city of Louis XIV, its conqueror. Following the German invasion during the First World War, Lille was left bombed and burned to the ground. 20 years later, it was besieged by Hitler's army, and during the Second World War, it was ruled by the Nazi regime as part of Belgium. As is the case with the majority of European cities, it fell to decline during the war, yet managed to recover and turn itself into a nexus of industry and tourism in France.
Place du Général de Gaulle (Grand Place)
The Place du Général de Gaulle, Lille's bustling main square, is surrounded by impressive Flemish Renaissance and Baroque-styled buildings with neoclassical facades. Being also known as Grande Place (the Great Square), it is a favorite meeting point for locals and visitors alike. Enjoy your walk and admire the bronze monument of La Colonne de la Déesse, the column of the Goddess, erected in commemoration of Lille's resistance during the Austrian siege in September 1792. Go to the south side of the square, where you will find the Vielle Bourse (the Old Stock Exchange), founded in 1652, and currently one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole of Lille. It goes without saying that you should not skip the opportunity to relax in one of the many coffehouses and brasseries found in the square.
"How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?" This famous question was once posed by Charles de Gaulle, former president of France, who was born in the city of Lille. Although we don't know the answer to this question, we can certainly say that visiting such a country will definitely be a pleasure! France actually has more than 300 different varieties of cheese, ranging from the creamy Brie de Meaux to the spicy Munster - and this translates as more than 300 opportunities to become infatuated with french fromage! Cheeses are valued and esteemed in contemporary France, to the point where they have won a special place as parts of the meal: it is a common and traditional practice to serve a plate of cheese between the main course and the dessert.