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Built under Napoleon I in the beginning of the 19th Century, the Palais des Beaux Arts de Lille is both, one of the oldest art museums in France, as well as one of its largest. Works seized from churches and territories in Revolutionary France were sent to this museum to promote the popularization of art. The museum was renovated in the early 1990s and expanded to cover over 22,000 square meters (236,806.03 square feet). The museum's fine art collection is one of the best in the country, featuring such masters as Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin and Delacroix, delighting art-lovers from all over the world. The museum building itself, is an arresting sight and a fitting home to the cultural treasure it houses. The museum also hosts a variety of events that can generally be attended by the public.
If you think museums are boring, think again! The Musée d'Histoire Naturelle et de Géologie in Lille is carefully crafted to create a Jurassic Park-like ambiance that transports its visitors to the prehistoric age of rainforests and dinosaurs. Fossils from the legendary sperm whale hang overhead as you browse the ground level's rare specimens of fish, reptiles, birds other extinct beings. A visit here is sure to fascinate, engage, and educate.
The Vieille Bourse (Old Stock Exchange), built in 1653, has been fully renovated and is one of the most beautiful buildings in Lille. Originally built in Flemish baroque architecture to serve as a symbol of the market town of Lille, it now encompasses a secondhand bookstore and flower shops. As you wander through this enchanting building, you'll find many old books of all genres: novels, scientific books, textbooks, graphic novels, post cards, etc. This place is unique, thanks to both its site and to its incredible variety of ancient works on sale, and so it provides the perfect backdrop for a trip into the past. A real gem!
One of the most recognizable buildings in Lille, located near the Place du Théatre, the Chambre de Commerce is a must-see sight while in this vibrant city. The Flemish-style structure has a clock placed in the center of its 76-meter (249.34-feet) high spire and is one of the largest buildings in Lille. The impressive building is worth a look and makes a great photo opportunity!
Lille's first Opera House, built in 1875 by Michel Lequeux, a native of Lille, was destroyed by fire in 1903. To replace the neoclassicism of the destroyed edifice, Cordonnier suggested a style that was decidedly Louis XVI, with an interior decoration as sumptuous as its outward appearance. The building was inaugurated in 1923, with Massenet, Lalo and Bizet on the program. Notice the high contours at the summit of the building depicting Apollo and his Muses, by Hippolyte Lefébvre, an allegory of Music, one of Alphonse Cordonnier's works on the left. On the other side, enjoy tragedy by the sculptor Lemaire.
Surrounding the historic Citadel, the Parc de la Citadelle is a sprawling spread of lush greenery that is visited by locals as well as tourists. It consists of the zoo as well as the Bois de Boulogne Woods. The Deûle canal lies at the perimeter of the park. On exploring the natural beauty, one is sure to find trees like the Montepellier Maple and the Giant Sequoia.
A national monument of France, the Lille Cathedral was built in 19th Century with eight chapels showcasing Neo-Gothic style. The church is dedicated to the statue of Virgin Mary, which until 1959 was housed in the church. After being stolen, it was replaced by a replica, which still stands today. The Roman Catholic cathedral has impressive interiors with stained glass windows and a majestic organ, worth a visit. The cathedral holds regular religious services and is open to tourists throughout the year.
Currently housed within the crypt of the Lille Cathedral, the Centre d'Art Sacré de Lille is an underground and sacred art gallery. The place is very popular among artists and religious folks because the theme of the gallery is “Passion of Christ” and each painting, sculpture and statue revolves around it. You will find some great pieces from the Delaine collection, who ordered all his famous friends to create art forms focusing on this theme. During the time of death, he donated all the artwork to the diocese of Lille.
The city zoo known as the Zoo de Lille is a popular attraction for children. It lies in lush greenery and houses around 70 animals. The main highlights include the white rhino, various snakes, parrots, monkeys and other creatures. The animals are housed together according to themes like American, African, Valley of the Monkeys and the Isle of Madagascar. Educational tours are also provided to guests. Entry is free.
The Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse used to serve as a hospital, set up by Jeanne de Flandre in 1237. The city took over the restoration of the old confines and now a museum sustains its history and manages to successfully recreate life as it used to be back in the day. The chapel and its religious artifacts reveal the religious fervor which prevailed during the time. A pristine dormitory filled with personal vanities, papers, paintings, carvings and jewelry, effortlessly propels visitors back in time to 13th-century France.
The Musée des Canonniers Sédentaires de Lille is located right in the heart of the city center. This museum features a collection of arms and ammunition preserved from centuries past. It includes documents, rifles, cannons and other ammunition used during the civil and previous wars. The major attraction at Musée des Canonniers Sédentaires de Lille is the set of cannons that Napoleon Bonaparte offered to his cannon-ears while biding them fair-well. Guided tours are available for a nominal price, but be warned- only cash is accepted. Check the website for details.
The Citadelle of Lille was designed by famed architect Vauban and is shaped like a pentagon. Hailed as the Queen of the Citadels, the structure was constructed between 1667 and 1670 to defend the city of Lille from Spanish troops. The pentagonal shape of the structure was approved by Louis XIV as a genius military design as it offered no blind spots for the enemy troops. The citadel today still has a military function as the headquarters for the Corps de réaction rapide France. Despite its active military status, visitors can still tour the remarkably well-preserved site.