Lille or Nantes? Which city should you visit?
Considering visiting Lille or Nantes for your next French city break? It not an easy choice. But, don’t worry we’re here to help you decide. Here’s a quick rundown of both cities.
🏛 History Buffs: Lille’s unique history stems back nearly 1000 years, leaving plenty to see and do for history buffs including La Vieille Bourse, Citadelle de Lille and Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille Cathedral. But, Nantes’ maritime history shouldn’t be forgotten the Château des Ducs de Bretagne is beautiful and fascinating. The Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery and the Printing museum shouldn’t be missed either. If we had to choose, we’d probably go for Lille but it all boils down to personal preference.
🏖 Beach Lovers: Neither of these cities have a beach, but Nantes is much closer to the sea so if you’re looking for a trip to the beach go to Nantes. Or a different city that has actually a beach.
🥐 Foodies: Both of these cities has incredible food on offer. Lille has a mixture of French and Flemish culinary influences, resulting in hearty dishes like carbonnade flamande (a beef stew) and potjevleesch (literally means a pot of meat). Lille is also renowned for its chocolate and waffles for those sweet toothed travellers! Whereas Nantes has more influences from the nearby Atlantic coast meaning lots of incredible seafood dishes. The crepes here are fantastic too, savour and sweet! We can’t decide on this one, its too difficult. Sorry!
🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: Lille’s Parc de la Citadelle is a beautiful place to spend some time outdoors, but on the whole Nantes with the Loire river, Atlantic coast and nearby nature reserves wins this one.
🏢 Urban Explorers: This one is a difficult one! Both of these cities are seriously underrated. Both have great art scenes, a variety of museums and beautiful architecture to marvel at. We think Nantes might just edge this category.
🍷 Wine Lovers: Whilst Lille might have an incredible beer scene due to its close ties with Belgium (it’s only 10 miles away), it can’t beat Nantes in the wine category. Situated in the Loire Valley wine region, Nantes has world class wines and vineyards on offer making it the clear winner.
🎒 Backpackers: Lille’s buzzing atmosphere and easy access to Paris, Brussels and even Amsterdam make it an amazing destination for backpackers. Nantes has a great vibe and isn’t too expensive. But can’t beat Lille’s atmosphere and the potential city hopping you can do from there.
👵 Over 60’s: Nantes’ with its relaxed riverside vibe, compact city centre and beautiful parks make it an unbeatable destination for the over 60’s. Lille’s fast pace and large student population might get a bit annoying for those wanting a more relaxing holiday.
👨👩👦 Family-Friendly: Whilst Nante’s Les Machines de l’île is an amazing place to visit with the family. Lille probably has more to keep kids entertained for a few days. It’s zoo is always a hit with the kids, and the Parc de la Citadelle is full of kid friendly activities including playgrounds and a mini theme park.
Conclusion: If you’re up for a city that’s buzzing with a mix of different cultures, Lille is the place for you. On the flip side, if you’re more into relaxing river vibes, cool maritime history, and a place where old meets new, then Nantes is your go-to.
Still can’t decide? Stick with us, and we’ll get into what makes these two French spots worth the trip.
Nestled near the border with Belgium, Lille has a unique charm that’s all its own. This vibrant city blends French and Flemish influences, creating an ambiance that’s distinct yet welcoming. The old town, Vieux Lille, enchants visitors with its narrow cobbled streets and colourful old houses.
But it’s not just about the past here. Lille is also a young city, thanks to its large student population, and this brings a dynamic, energetic feel to the place. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, diving into the lively arts scene, or just relaxing in a cosy café, Lille has something for everyone. It’s a city that knows how to live well and invites you to share in that.
Nantes, often touted as the most liveable city in Europe, is a delightful fusion of history and innovation, seamlessly intertwining its rich heritage with a progressive mindset. This Atlantic Coast city, once the capital of Brittany, has a vibrant culture marked by the stunning Château des ducs de Bretagne, the whimsical Machines de l’Île, and the lush Jardin des Plantes. Its dynamic art scene is alive not just in the many museums, but also on the streets with an array of public art. Nantes is also a city of festivals, with music, film, and art celebrations occurring throughout the year. Add to this a blossoming food scene with a fondness for local produce and seafood, and it’s clear why Nantes is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered.
While we’re comparing Lille and Nantes in this post, we’ve also looked at how Lille stacks up against other cities like Cannes and Strasbourg. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Lille and Nantes
- 🎨 Cultural Diversity: Rich in museums, art galleries, and a vibrant theater scene.
- 🚆 Transport Hub: Excellent rail connections, including direct links to major European cities.
- 🛍 Shopping Paradise: A delightful mix of traditional French boutiques and modern malls.
- 🏰 Architectural Beauty: Renowned for its charming old town and Flemish influences.
- 🍽 Culinary Delights: A blend of French and Flemish cuisines, ideal for food enthusiasts.
- 🎓 University Town: Energetic atmosphere thanks to its large student population.
- 🎉 Vibrant Festivals: Hosts numerous cultural and music festivals annually.
- 🌧 Climate: Tends to have a rainy and overcast climate, typical of northern France.
- 🌃 Nightlife: More limited compared to larger French cities.
- 🏞 Scenic Variety: Lacks the geographical diversity of other regions in France.
- 🌍 Global Recognition: Less internationally known compared to other French cities.
- 🏭 Industrial Background: Some areas still reflect its industrial roots.
- 🌿 Green City: Known for its dedication to green spaces and environmental sustainability.
- 🎭 Cultural Scene: Rich in arts, with numerous theaters, galleries, and the famous “Machines of the Isle of Nantes.”
- 🏰 Historical Heritage: Boasts a stunning chateau, cathedrals, and medieval quarters.
- 🚢 Riverside Charm: Beautiful riverfront setting along the Loire River.
- 🎓 Dynamic Student Life: Home to several universities, offering a youthful and vibrant atmosphere.
- 🍴 Diverse Cuisine: Offers a variety of dining options, from traditional French to international cuisines.
- 🚊 Efficient Public Transport: Well-developed tram and bus network for easy city navigation.
- 🌦 Weather Variability: Often experiences variable weather, with a fair amount of rain.
- 🌆 Economic Focus: Has a strong business and industrial sector, which might overshadow its cultural aspects.
- 🎉 Lower-Key Nightlife: Nightlife is more subdued compared to major French cities like Paris or Marseille.
- 🌐 Less Touristy: Not as popular with international tourists as other French cities.
- 🏙 Modernisation: Some parts of the city are highly modernised, which might contrast with its historical charm.
How long to stay in Lille
For a short trip, 2-3 days in Lille should give you enough time to see the main sights. You can explore the charming old town, visit a museum or two, and enjoy some local food. This is a good option if you’re on a tight schedule or if you’re visiting Lille as part of a larger trip.
If you have a bit more time, a week in Lille allows you to experience the city more fully. You can take your time exploring the city’s different neighbourhoods, visit more museums, and even take day trips to nearby cities like Bruges or Ghent.
So, whether you’re planning a quick visit or a longer stay, Lille has plenty to offer. But remember, the best trip length for you will depend on your personal interests and how much time you have available.
How long to stay in Nantes
Deciding how long to stay in Nantes can be a tough call, given the city’s rich history, captivating art scene, and vibrant culture. The duration of your stay primarily depends on your personal interests and how leisurely you wish to explore.
If your goal is to soak up the city’s lively vibe, stroll through the historic city center, and sample some local gastronomy, a stay of 2 to 3 days should be enough. This gives you sufficient time to wander through the cobbled streets of the Bouffay district, take a relaxing walk along the Erdre River, and indulge in regional cuisine at a traditional French restaurant.
However, if you wish to delve deeper into Nantes’ cultural heritage and history, consider extending your visit to 4 to 5 days. This will allow ample time to discover historical sites like the Château des ducs de Bretagne, appreciate modern art installations of the Voyage à Nantes, and visit the Machines of the Isle of Nantes without feeling pressed for time.
For those seeking a more immersive experience, spending a week in Nantes can be an excellent choice. This period will not only provide time to thoroughly explore the city’s attractions but also leave room for relaxing moments in the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, embarking on day trips to nearby gems like the charming vineyards of the Loire Valley, and truly immersing yourself in the vibrant lifestyle of Nantes.
How much is food and drink in Lille and Nantes?
|€5 – €7
|€5 – €8
|🍷 Glass of Wine
|€3 – €10
|€4 – €10
|€1.50 – €3
|€2 – €4
|🍽️ Meal at Midrange Restaurant
|€20 – €40 per person
|€20 – €40 per person
How much is it to stay in Lille or Nantes?
When is the best time to visit Lille?
🌼 Spring (March to May) is a time when the city begins to revive after winter. The temperatures are mild, and the city’s parks and gardens are blossoming. This is a great time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer crowds.
☀️ Summers (June to August) in Lille are warm and lively, perfect for exploring the city’s charming old town and its vibrant markets. The city is bustling with festivals like the Lille Braderie, a huge flea market event and a unique cultural experience.
🍁 Autumn (September to November) in Lille brings mild weather and changing colours, turning the city into a vibrant palette. The falling leaves in the city parks create a beautiful spectacle, making it an ideal time for photographers.
❄️ Winter (December to February) in Lille is fairly chilly, but it’s also when the city turns into a festive wonderland. The Christmas market lights up the city, and while it might be cold, the magical atmosphere more than makes up for it.
When is the best time to visit Nantes?
🌼 Spring: In Nantes, the months of April to June bring mild and comfortable weather, with temperatures ranging from 12-20°C (54-68°F). The city starts to burst into color with blossoming flowers, making it a lovely time to explore parks like the Jardin des Plantes. Various outdoor events and festivals start taking place, adding a vibrant touch to your visit.
☀️ Summer: From July to August, temperatures can reach up to 25°C (77°F), offering perfect weather for enjoying the city’s outdoor attractions like the Île de Versailles. Do note, however, that these are the peak tourist months, so expect a bit more crowd and possibly higher prices.
🍁 Autumn: The months of September and October see temperatures around 15-20°C (59-68°F). The city is less crowded during this period, and the fall foliage in parks and along the riverbanks provides a beautiful backdrop for leisurely walks and bike rides.
❄️ Winter: From November to March, temperatures in Nantes can drop to around 5-10°C (41-50°F). While it’s not the ideal time for outdoor activities, it’s a good opportunity to explore Nantes’ museums, like the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, and enjoy indoor events and concerts.
Average Monthly Temperatures
Getting around Lille is a breeze thanks to its efficient public transport system, which includes buses, trams, and a metro. The Lille Metro is particularly notable as it was the world’s first fully automated light rail network.
For shorter distances, walking or cycling is quite feasible as Lille is a compact city with many pedestrianized areas. There’s also a bike-sharing program known as V’Lille. If you plan on exploring the wider region, trains from Lille’s stations offer quick connections to other major cities in France and Belgium.
Lille is easy to get around due to its buses, trams and metro system. City passes are a good way to save money if you plan on making the most of public transport. Lille’s city centre is quite compact so it’s very walkable. You could hire a bike too if you wanted.
Getting around Nantes:
Nantes boasts an efficient and user-friendly public transportation system, which includes trams, buses, and a bike-sharing scheme called Bicloo. The tram network in Nantes is one of the most extensive in France, with three lines covering many key attractions in the city. Your tram ticket will also allow you to hop on and off buses within a set period, typically an hour, which makes getting around the city a breeze.
For those who prefer a more active mode of transport, the Bicloo bike-sharing scheme offers an excellent option. Nantes is known for being a bicycle-friendly city with numerous dedicated cycle lanes and routes, making it easy and safe to navigate.
Walking is another great way to explore Nantes, especially in the compact city center where many of the key sites are located. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the city’s beautiful architecture and vibrant street life up close.
Taxis and Ubers are readily available in Nantes. However, be aware that in the pedestrianized zones of the city center, you may need to walk a short distance to catch a ride.
Top things to do in Lille
- Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: As the second-largest general interest museum in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the likes of Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delacroix.
- Stroll around the Vieux Lille: The old town of Lille, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful old houses, and chic boutiques, is perfect for leisurely walks. Take time to enjoy the area’s charm, and don’t forget to try a Merveilleux, a local pastry.
- Explore the LaM: Standing for Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, the LaM holds over 4,000 works including pieces by Picasso, Modigliani, and Miro. Its beautiful park is also a must-see.
- Take a walk through the Citadel: Designed by Louis XIV’s engineer Vauban, the Citadel is a star-shaped fortress. The surrounding park, Bois de Boulogne, is a great place for a picnic or a jog.
- Visit the Wazemmes Market: This is one of the largest markets in France and a must-visit spot in Lille. From fresh produce to clothing, you’ll find almost everything here. Try to catch it on Sunday when it’s at its liveliest.
Top things to do in Nantes
- Château des Ducs de Bretagne: A must-visit landmark in Nantes, this impressive castle is home to the Nantes History Museum. With its beautiful architecture and fascinating exhibits, it offers an insightful look into the city’s past.
- Les Machines de l’île: This unique artistic project is one of the city’s major attractions. Here, you can see gigantic mechanical animals, including the famous Grand Elephant. It’s an unforgettable experience for both kids and adults.
- Passage Pommeraye: An architectural masterpiece, this three-level shopping arcade dating from the 19th century is a great place to shop or simply admire its artistic beauty.
- Jardin des Plantes: This stunning botanical garden is the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing stroll. It’s home to a variety of exotic plants, beautiful greenhouses, and even a few art installations.
- The Island of Nantes: This creative district located on a former shipyard site is a hub of culture and innovation. It’s home to various creative projects and installations, making it a must-visit for any art and culture lover.
How to spend three days in Lille
Day 1: Get Acquainted with Lille and Its Historic Heart
Begin your Lille adventure by meandering through the streets of Vieux Lille, the city’s old quarter. Marvel at the charming Flemish architecture, visit the imposing Lille Cathedral, and indulge in some retail therapy at upscale boutiques. After lunch, head over to the Grand Place, the city’s main square, where you can admire historic buildings like the Vieille Bourse. Cap off your day with a delicious meal at one of the local French or Flemish restaurants in the area.
Day 2: Dive into Lille’s Cultural Treasures and Parks
Start your second day by visiting some of Lille’s renowned museums. Explore the Palais des Beaux-Arts to see masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, and other great artists. Post-lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at the Citadel Park, home to the impressive 17th-century Citadel. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lille for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro for its delightful atmosphere.
Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal
On your final day, immerse yourself in the local vibe at Wazemmes Market in the morning. Here you can sample local delicacies and pick up fresh produce. Consider a picnic lunch at the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, one of the city’s lovely green spaces. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, the birthplace of the former French president. To wrap up your Lille trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Northern French cuisine.
How to spend three days in Nantes
Day 1: Exploring the Heart of Nantes
Begin your Nantes adventure in the city center. Visit the Château des Ducs de Bretagne, home to the Nantes History Museum. Enjoy exploring the medieval fortress and its surrounding gardens. Afterward, head to the Gothic-style Nantes Cathedral nearby. For lunch, find a local restaurant to sample some regional cuisine.
In the afternoon, enjoy a leisurely stroll along the scenic Loire River. Then, head to the Passage Pommeraye, an elegant shopping arcade from the 19th century. Round off your day with a delicious dinner at one of the city’s gourmet restaurants.
Day 2: Delving into Art and Innovation
Start your second day at Les Machines de l’île, a unique attraction inspired by the works of Jules Verne. Here, you can ride the gigantic Grand Elephant or the Marine Worlds Carousel. Post lunch, explore the creative district on the Island of Nantes, which is home to various artistic projects and installations.
In the evening, take a walk around the Trentemoult district, a former fishing village known for its colorful houses. Enjoy dinner at a riverside restaurant with views of the Loire River.
Day 3: Enjoying Nature and Leisure
Dedicate your last day to Nantes’ beautiful green spaces. Begin with a visit to the Jardin des Plantes, a stunning botanical garden. After a picnic lunch in the park, take a short boat ride to the quaint village of Trentemoult.
In the afternoon, explore the unique vineyards of the Nantes Wine Region or consider a short trip to the Atlantic coast, just a stone’s throw away from the city. End your trip with a farewell dinner in Nantes, reminiscing over your favorite moments from the trip.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at email@example.com