Although Lille isn’t exactly famous for its literary culture, there are a few things to visit if you find yourself in this city in the north of France.
La Vieille Bourse – Place Charles de Gaulle
Not only is this a very beautiful building, it also hosts an amazing secondhand book market. You can expect a lot of classics, books on French history and ancient cultures. There are some books available in English, but around 90% of the collection is in French. They also have quite a lot of comic books (bandes dessinée, or BD in French), probably because Lille is very close to Belgium, where comics are pretty popular.
La Librairie Internationale – Rue du Molinel 53
This international bookshop is ideal if you like to read books from different languages. This bookstore offers books in French, German, English, Russian, Italian and Spanish! Not only do they sell classics from those countries, and translated works, but you can also find books to learn another language. They have a small special collection, which is expensive but very pretty, and their bookmarks are the cutest!
Autour du monde – Rue de Paris 65
Just around the corner of the Librairie Internationale, you can find this travel bookshop. Their collection is almost completely in French, but even if you can’t read French you might want to visit it because it’s so nice and chaotic. They even have an arch of books! Cool fact: when the Maldives reinstated the death penalty for people seven years and older, they banned all their books about this country! This seems like a cool gesture, but when you see which countries they still feature you may start to wonder how many books they even had about the Maldives 😉
Statue in honour of Albert Samain – Jardin Vauban
If you like poetry, visit the statue in honor of Albert Samain near the citadel. This French symbolist writer was a known face in the Paris avant-garde literary society at the end of the 19th century. He was influenced by Baudelaire and Verlaine and performed at the famous café Le Chat Noir.The statue shows us Youth and Poetry, intimately standing together: a great vision to represent the Symbolist school!
What to read
I had a hard time coming up with recommendations for Lille but I eventually thought of three things. First, you can read some poetry of Albert Samain, for example Le Jardin de l’infante. Secondly, Lille is the birth town of the French general Charles de Gaulle. If you can get your hands on a good biography of him, that would be a really nice preparation for your visit! Last but not least, Lille was once sieged by Charles de Batz de Castelmore, better known as the Comte d’Artagnan. Yes, the one from The Three Musketeers by Dumas. Little known fact is that The Three Musketeers is only part one of a trilogy. If you liked the first one, keep your eyes open for Vingt Ans après and Le vicomte de Bragelonne.