Lille, a dynamic city bordering Belgium, has maintained its rich merchant past and lively commercial colour, making it one of France's most exciting shopping destinations.
Old Lille for All
Charmed by the restored, flamboyant architecture housing shops lined on narrow medieval streets, you may wish to never leave Lille's winding old city.
Here, each street has its own identity: rue de la Grande Chaussée boasts luxury names like Hermès and Louis Vuitton as well as the great French classics, whereas rue de la Clef is edgier, attracting a younger crowd into its skate-wear, comic book and record shops. Rue Basse takes the cake in elegance, with antique shops, art galleries and chic boutiques located in 18th-century mansions.
Wander onto the side streets to discover more favourites: Nathalie de Ruyffeleare (24 Place Louise de Bettignies), sells offbeat hats and accessories; El Lugar (27 rue des Vieux Murs) has beautiful leather and silver artisan jewellery; Ka-Puce-In (18 rue des Molettes) reigns for vintage haute couture; and Une Fée dans le Grenier (12 rue Masurel) is a treasure trove of antiques and decoration pieces. If you get chilly en route (or just want to top off your style), head to family-owned Benjamin's (45 rue de Béthune), Lille's renowned hat maker since 1926.
Readers beware when walking by Grand'Place: stepping into Furet du Nord (15 Place Général de Gaulle) will require at least one hour of your time! There's so much to explore in this 7000m2 bookstore - one of Europe's biggest -, you may simply decide to forego sightseeing and spend the rest of your day here...
Fuel in Food
Need a little energy? Old Lille is thriving with fine eateries. Meert (27 rue Esquermoise), a cute pastry shop dating back to 1761, is apparently where a young Charles de Gaulle bought his daily vanilla waffle. To take home, Fromagerie Philippe Olivier (3 rue du Curé Saint Etienne) sells hundreds of local cheeses, many of them award winning. A must! Stop also at L'Abbaye des Saveurs (13 rue des Vieux Murs), a beer lover's dream with obscure local brews from both the French and Belgian sides of the border.
Sunday Market Paradise
Get your walking shoes on if you happen to be in Lille on the first weekend of September: the entire city centre is transformed into the Braderie de Lille, the world's largest flea market with 200km of footpaths.
Those willing to adventure outside of the Old City will be well rewarded. The Wazemmes Market (Place de la Nouvelle) on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings is Lille's - and one of France's - biggest.
Over the past few years, Lille has launched two Maisons de Mode, clusters of studio-boutiques where young, cutting-edge designers showcase and sell their creations. The closest, Jardin de Mode (58/60 rue du Faubourg des Postes), is a must for those seeking well-tailored one-of-a-kind pieces.