Grand Place: Lille’s main square, also officially known as the Place du General de Gaulle, is a favourite meeting point for locals and is surrounded by several neoclassical buildings. Situated by cafés and brasseries, it’s the ideal spot to spend the time before it’s time to head to the stadium.
The Old Stock Exchange: In one corner of the Grand Place is the Vieille Bourse, the old stock exchange. Established in 1652, it’s one of Lille’s most beautiful buildings and consists of 24 houses around a courtyard containing a statue of Napoleon I. Locals can sometimes be seen playing chess here.
The old town: Wander on from the Grand Place and through Lille’s narrow cobbled streets, where some of the city’s oldest buildings still stand. Among them is the grand 17th-century Hospice Comtesse, now converted into a museum on the history of the hospice.
Citadel: Built in the late 17th century, it was dubbed ‘the Queen of the Citadels’ by French designer Vauban, who was to 17th-century citadels what Norman Foster is to modern-day architecture. It’s situated just to the west of the city centre, only yards from Lille Zoo.
Palais des Beaux-Arts: Considered the second-most important museum after the Louvre, it houses a host of European masterpieces by artists such as Goya and Rubens.
3 fast facts about the city
- The city of Lille is twinned with Leeds as well as Turin, Cologne, Haifa, Kharkiv, Valladolid, Buffalo and basically anyone who replied to the letters by the looks of it. Still no word back from Ouagadougou.
- Europe’s largest flea market, known as the Lille Braderie, takes place in the city every September.
- Lille is the city where Eden Hazard made his name. He crossed over the border from Belgium to join LOSC Lille's youth ranks, before going on to help the club to a French league and cup double in 2011.
Local cuisine and drink you have to try
- Welsh: fear, not Wales fans – it’s not what you think. The people of Lille aren't hunting down visitors from the Valleys and sticking them in a pot for later – ‘le welsh’ is actually a Lille version of Welsh rarebit and is made up of cheddar and beer.
- Petit sale lillois: Lille bacon, prepared from lean fresh pork, pre-cooked in a vegetable broth.
- Genievre: Juniper-flavoured liquor, also common in neighbouring Belgium and the Netherlands.
Lille with Ray Houghton, courtesy of Continental Tyres
There's six games to play in this northern city of France – including the Republic of Ireland's tantalising tussle against Italy on June 22. Belgium is just a free-kick away... so naturally, you won't be found wanting in the beverage department.
Facts about the host stadium
Stade Pierre Mauroy
- Capacity: 50,186
- Year built: 2012
- Record attendance: 49,626 (France v Jamaica, 2014)
How to get there: The stadium is actually situated in the small adjoining city of Villeneuve d’Ascq, a short metro ride out of Lille to the south east along line 1. Hop off at Cite Scientifique or 4 Cantons Grand Stade for the arena.
- Catch a film: there's no shortage of things to do around the stadium, with a golf course and driving range on one side of the arena and the V2 shopping centre on the other. It's home to retail outlets galore as well as restaurants and a cinema. We imagine they're still showing re-runs of Amelie or something.
- Fancy a round of golf? The Stade Pierre-Mauroy is situated very close to the Golf de Lille Metropole course. Green fees can cost as much as €55 at weekends but drop to €16.80 if you're under 26 and fancy nine holes on a midweek evening. There's a driving range too – just don't forget to bring your clubs.
How to speak local football
Launch into a chant of ‘Mexico, Mexico, sous ton soleil qui chante’. It makes no sense whatsoever, but Lille fan Jean-Pax became a cult figure among fellow supporters after grabbing hold of a microphone during matches at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy and singing weird songs that have no connection to the football whatsoever. This high-pitched Luis Mariano ditty was followed by some excellent crowd surfing. YouTube it. Truly bizarre.
Sons and daughters of the city
Raphael Varane: The Real Madrid defender hails from Lille and played for local junior side Hellemmes before snubbing LOSC Lille to sign for northern rivals Lens.
Charles de Gaulle: There may be an airport named after him in Paris, but one of the most influential French politicians of the 20th century actually hailed from Lille. He served as the country's president from 1959 to 1969.
Louis Pasteur: The chemist and microbiologist made many of his great discoveries while working at the Lille University of Science and Technology. There is no a Pasteur Institute of Lille in the city.
Pierre Mauroy: A socialist politician who served as France’s prime minister under president Francois Mitterrand. Was city mayor for 28 years and Lille's new stadium was named in his honour after he died in 2013.
Mat Bastard: Vocalist from the popular French band Skip The Use, who hail from Ronchin on the outskirts of Lille.
Fan park info
The tournament fanzone will be situated in the Place Francois Mitterrand, near Lille’s city centre and adjacent to the Gare du Lille-Europe, which is served by Eurostar trains from London. It has a capacity of 30,000 and will show all the matches on video screens.