Over the centuries, the town has been besieged more than eleven times, passing from the hands of the Flemish to the French and even periods under Spanish and Austrian control. Though its original name is Flemish, the French designation comes from l'ile or 'the island', as it was originally located on an island on the river Deule. Under the rule of Louis XIV, the city came to be dominated by France and was transformed into one of the most brilliant demonstrations of glory and wealth from the golden period of French monarchy. After becoming Flemish once again, the city was finally restored to France by the Utrecht Peace Treaty of 1713.
Today, Lille is beautiful and young-hearted. It has a charming atmosphere of Flemish mixed with French flavors in the old town. The new urban area is set in modern style with vast shopping centers and business facilities. In fact, the former capital of Flanders is today the fourth-biggest city of France and the most important center of the North. In 2004, Lille was the Cultural Capital of Europe and considerable interest was renewed in giving another look at the brilliance of this fascinating city.
Lille is separated by the Boulevard of Liberty into the old and new parts of town. The old town is nestled within the ancient walls and remains of the old fortifications, which are a major tourist attraction. It is crossed by winding narrow streets and cobblestone squares, welcoming residents, cozy cafés and charming small restaurants. You will find here the impressive cathedral of Lille, the Opera House and the Musee des Beaux Arts, one of the best in France, with an amazing painting collection from the 15th to 20th Centuries. The Citadel has been transformed into a military school and still reminds one of glorious times and battles from centuries ago.
Warmly welcoming despite its British like weather, Lille's cozy ambience is best exemplified in the local estaminets (taverns or pubs), where traditional specialties can be tasted, and should not be missed. Many have fought for Lille and many have had it. Now it welcomes visitors from all over the world to freely enjoy its charms.