I have been wanting to explore other cities in France outside of Paris and was able to do a day trip with my friends to Lille, a city just bordering Belgium. Lille is only an hour away from Paris by train (interesting fact: Paris Gare du Nord station was moved brick by brick to Lille and became the Flandres train station). The city is so easy to get around because it’s relatively small and very walkable.
Since Lille is so close to Brussels, I knew we had to eat mussels and fries for lunch. We had a delicious meal at Aux Moules where they served HEAPING bucketfuls of fresh mussels. You can choose the broth and so we chose Moules au Riesling (shallots, cream and Riesling wine) and Moules au Beurre D’Escargot (white wine, butter, garlic, parsley and shallots). Both were amazing and we couldn’t help but soak our bread in this buttery, wine goodness.
After lunch, we headed to the Palais des Beaux Arts, which is the largest French museum outside of Paris. It was a beautiful building with large windows and perfect lighting to showcase all the artwork. The basement floor reminded me of an old war building.
We also explored the “Old Town” of Lille, which was filled with cute boutique shops and bars. One of the local shopgirls recommended Le Barbue D’Anvers for dinner and my friends and I loved it. The restaurant was hidden in an alleyway with a really interesting decor, almost like a fancy rustic library with beer (lots of contradictions, I know). They have a set dinner menu for 39 euro that comes with an appetizer, main dish and dessert. I think my favorite dishes were the foie gras appetizer that came with a fig, orange chutney and the veal chops. The veal was incredibly tender and roasted with fleur de sel. I could not believe how flavorful the meat was.
Lille is great for a day trip, but I definitely think you really only need a day to explore the city (it’s only 15.25 sq. miles; Manhattan is 23 sq. miles). Also, I’d recommend that you don’t visit on a Monday because a lot of the shops are closed. Otherwise, it’s a quaint city with some incredible food. It could be a great stop if you’re already planning on visiting Brussels.