Lille’s dynamic arts scene ranges from classical music to clowning and fringe theatre at Le Prato (www.leprato.fr). Tickets for many events can be bought at the Fnac store (www.fnac.com) on the Grand’ Place. If you want to hit the town, Rue Royale, rue Thiers and the studenty area around the former covered market on rue de Solférino are good places to check out Lille’s bar culture, with many venues staying open late.
Shopping wise, head to picturesque Vieux Lille. The city’s big, hectic market experience is the Marché de Wazemmes, although there is also a smaller, more chic affair on place du Concert in Vieux Lille on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday mornings.
Also check out these adresses...
Le Nouveau Siècle, Vieux Lille, 30 pl Mendès France (03.20.12.82.40/www.onlille.com). Tickets €18-€30. You could easily be forgiven for thinking that this circular 1960s building is a multi-storey car park. In part it is, but it is also home to the Orchestre National de Lille, one of France's most respected regional symphony orchestras, which performs here when its founder and principal conductor Jean-Claude Casedeseus is not carrying out his mission of bringing classical music to the people in community halls and cultural centres around the region.
Opéra de Lille, Vieux Lille, Pl du Théâtre (03.28.38.40.50/08.20.48.90.00/www.opera-lille.fr). Tickets €5-€62. Lille's opera house is an old-fashioned feast of gilding, marble and chandeliers, curiously designed in the 1920s by Louis-Marie Cordonnier, who was also responsible for the very different-looking Chamber of Commerce next door. Beautifully restored in 2003, it puts on opera ranging from Mozart and Puccini faves to Kurt Weill, plus big names in contemporary dance.
Tri Postal, Vieux Lille, Av Willy Brandt (03.20.14.47.60/www.mairie-lille.fr). Tickets prices vary. Ever since Lille 2004, the monster-sized former postal sorting office squeezed between the city's two train stations has become a focus for cutting-edge contemporary art and video exhibitions, often complemented by lively debates and DJ sessions.
Aéronef, Vieux Lille ,Centre Commercial, 168, av Willy Brandt (08.92.56.01.50/www.aeronef-spectacles.com). Tickets prices vary. The pillar of Lille's live music scene for 20 years has a slightly incongruous location in one of the towers of the Euralille shopping centre. The choice ranges from upand- coming local bands and international indie outfits to big-name comebacks and even afternoon goûter-concerts for five- to 12-year-olds.
Le Biplan, République & Wazemmes, 19 rue Colbert (03.20.12.91.11/www.lebiplan.org). Tickets prices vary. This dynamic, shabby-looking music venue in Wazemmes has two halls putting on an almost nightly programme of live music, including monthly jazz and folk jam sessions, along with stand-up comedy and café-théâtre.
L'Abbaye des Saveurs, Vieux Lille, 13 rue des Vieux Murs (03.28.07.70.06/www.abbayedessaveurs.com). Open 2-7.30pm Tue; 11am-7.30pm Wed-Sat; 10.30am-1.30pm Sun. This tiny shop on a pedestrianised street near the place aux Oignons is stacked high with bottled beers from small northern French and Belgian breweries - plus the rightshaped glasses to drink them from - along with other regional specialities, such as chicory conserves, terrines, jars of carbonnade and bétise de Cambrai sweets.
Bleu Natier, Vieux Lille, 26, 26bis & 40 rue Basse (03.20.74.04.54). Open 2-7pm Mon; 10.30am-7pm Tue-Sat. Three neighbouring outlets are dedicated to adventurous fashion labels (Jérôme Dreyfuss, Celine, Notify, Citizens of Humanity), a selection of young independent clothes and jewellery designers, and sophisticated interior decoration.
Le Furet du Nord, Vieux Lille, Pl Charles de Gaulle (03.20.78.43.43/www.furet.com). Open 9.30am-7.30pm Mon-Sat. Behind its modest shopfront, the ferret, named after a furrier that used to occupy the premises, conceals one of the largest bookshops and stationers in Europe, in an enjoyable maze of levels and stairways.
Meert, Vieux Lille, 27 rue Esquermoise (03.20.57.07.44/www.meert.fr). Open 9.30am-7.30pm Tue-Fri; 9am-7.30pm Sat; 9am-1pm, 3-7pm Sun. Vintage pâtissier and chocolatier Meert is famous for its wonderful gauffres fourrés, waffles stuffed with vanilla cream, which have been made on the premises since 1849, although others also rave about the stripy tigrés and bitter chocolate tart. An elegant tearoom at the rear serves fullscale meals at lunchtime, and tea and cakes all afternoon.