Should Lille Be Your Choice for International Exchange?


Updated on Jan 15 • 4 minute read

When thinking about where to go for your international exchange, your possibilities probably seem almost endless. You may want to select a city that is large and bustling with student activities and things to do in your free time. Or, perhaps you are searching for a more compact, manageable locale, with a strong calendar of events and cozy restaurants and pubs. And of course, the universities will play one of the largest parts in making this difficult decision.

Now, there are numerous countries to consider, each with its own slew of reasons why it’s perfect for a student who is planning to study abroad. There are vibrant options like the Netherlands, the green landscapes of Italy and the forward-thinking Belgium.

However, one of the most popular countries among students is France, with a steady increase in incoming international students. With an alluring culture for young people, there’s no wonder that many are choosing to relocate to France for a semester or two.

Of course, deciding on France is only half the battle, as you must now ponder cities from Paris to Bordeaux. However, be sure to consider Lille, the largest city in Northern France, as a viable option. With its well-known universities, delicious food and fun local events, you should definitely learn more about Lille and what it has to offer.

Student Culture

Well, it’s obvious that Lille is one of the most popular student destinations, with approximately 100,000 students living in the city. With respected institutions like Université Lille 1, Université Lille 2 Droit et Santé and Université Charles-de-Gaulle Lille 3, there are plenty of reasons why students flock to this colorful place.

Lille is also a true international city, especially due to its location close to the border of Belgium. Plus, the high-speed train will take you to either Paris or Brussels much faster than you might think! And if you’re keen on visiting a few more European capitals, London and Berlin are also relatively close. Therefore, Lille gets this wonderfully diverse mix of international inhabitants and visitors, creating a real melting pot for your experience abroad.

Things to See

Lille is such a feast for the eyes, boasting stunning architecture and lovely, welcoming open spaces in which to study or socialize. Take the city’s main square, Place du Général-de-Gaulle, for instance, which isn’t called the “Grand Place” simply for its size. It also has a sparkling fountain, lots of seating, historical houses and trendy cafes.

You’ll also want to spend a day at Le Palais des Beaux Arts, nestled in the center of the city, housing unique art exhibitions, as well as cultural events throughout the year.

Good Eats

Lille has many culinary specialties, including four traditional dishes that can introduce you to all that is special about Lille’s cuisine. Carbonnade flamande consists of small chunks of beef, which is stewed in beer, making it very popular amongst the student population. You should also try waterzoï, which is poultry or fish in a creamy sauce, served with baby vegetables. And don’t leave Lille without indulging in potjevleesch, quite literally a “small potted meat”, such as a white meat terrine in aspic. Additionally, try the “Welsh,” which is a specialty from the chti culture. This meal includes cheddar, beer, an egg, french fries and bread.

Delicious stuffed waffles are the specialty of a tasty eatery called Meert, located on the Rue Esquermoise, right next to Place du Général de Gaulle. You can also find quite a few kebab stands on Rue Masséna and Solferino, which are open quite late.

Or, if you’d like to have a warm cup of coffee and a flaky pastry or two, then head to the old-town area of Le Vieux Lille. You can not only dine at a welcoming restaurant, but you can browse the eclectic shops to your heart’s content.

Bars and Nightclubs

Lille will never disappoint you when it comes to its nightlife, especially with its infamous Rue de la soif, which literally means the “Street of the thirst”. This district is comprised of bars with all sorts of varied atmospheres, which are open every day and night, including Sunday. Many types of beer are offered throughout the bars, giving you the opportunity to drink your way through the region’s best.

Later in the evening, the dance clubs open, which are typically free, except for special events. You can expect to hear disco or electro music pumping out into the streets, with students in line to get into the wildly popular Cafe Oz.

Instead, if you want to explore the nightlife in some of the nearby cities, Brussels is only an hour’s drive, or you can even take the bus.

Unique to Lille

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings, the open-air market of Marché de Wazemmes offers shoppers inexpensive fruits, vegetables and foods, as well as household items, furniture and books.

Additionally, be sure to mark your September calendar for La Braderie, which is an annual street fair attracting millions of people to Lille. It turns into a very festive atmosphere, with revelers drinking beer, eating mussels and french fries, and shopping through the nearly endless stalls. In fact, it is the largest flea market in all of Europe, and definitely not an event that you should miss, especially if you’re looking for some inexpensive decor for your new room.

Finding Housing

Speaking of rooms, now that you have seen a brief overview of what this phenomenal city has to offer, it may be time to look for housing in Lille. You can opt to find a private room, or perhaps you’d like to be a little more social and share an apartment with a few of your new classmates, which might also save you money.

Additionally, you should definitely start your search early, which should be at least three to four months before your intended relocation. With Lille being such a popular student city, there are many other students vying for the same spaces, so be sure to use a trusted rental platform for your search. Above all else, enjoy your time in Lille, and make the most of this amazing opportunity!

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