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Beer Tour of Lille

Arras is less than an hour’s train ride to Lille. The walk from Lille Flandres to my hotel Mercure Lille Centre Grand Place took me along the magnificent Rue Faidherbe.

Lille is known as the Capital of Beer in France. At least it is according to Aurélie, my guide at L’échapée bière, who took me on a tour of the city and its best craft beer. In the middle ages there were five breweries in the city, she informs me.

I had visited Lille once before on return from a visit to Kortrijk, so I was already familiar with the beauty of the city. However, Aurélie was able to fill in some of the gaps for me.

One of the interesting aspects to Lille is the mix of architectural styles. For instance the Stock Exchange (Bourse) is traditional Flemish, built in the 17th century, with a second-hand book market inside it. There is also a statue to Louis Pasteur, who was at Lille when he discovered the role of yeast in making beer.

The Bourse is regarded by many as the most beautiful building in Lille. This contrasts with the Brutalist exterior to the Cathedral, and the French Flemish architectural style of buildings such as the Moulin D’Or, a restaurant opposite the Opera House.

The impressive Opera House was designed by architect Louis Marie Cordonnier in the Belle Époque style, and completed in 1914 as the Germans invaded, after the original 1785 opera house was destroyed by a fire in 1903. The same architect designed the adjoining Chamber of Commerce although it was designed in the neo-Flemish style and completed in 1921. Looking at the pair of architectural gems it is hard to imagine the same architect was responsible for both.

Aurélie’s tour continued past the theatre which dates back to 1770, and La Voix Du Nord, a beautiful 1930s Art Deco with a Flemish façade – perhaps my favourite building in Lille – and on to the site of the Burgundy Palace built in the 15th century. All that remains is the old guard room which now houses the tourist office.

After so much walking I was pleased to settle down to some beers, first at Celestin brewery, which had an intimate tasting room in the heart of Lille along with some excellent beers and then to La Capsule, an excellent craft beer place where between the two of us, Aurélie and I seemed to polish off the impressive range of beers, including a sour beer that I actually found palatable.

The rest of the evening went by in a very mellow haze, but I do recall visiting Le Vieux de la Vieille for some Le Welsh, a Lille take on a Welsh rarebit, which would definitely go down well on a cold winter’s night, but was perhaps a bit heavy for a warm summer’s day.


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