A longtime international hub with a rich Flemish ancestry and exuberant nightlife, Lille (pop. 175,000) exudes big-city charm without the hassle. The impressive Musee des Beaux-Arts, on pl. de la Republique, boasts a wide display of 15th- to 20th-century French and Flemish masters. (M: Republique. Open M 2-6pm, W-Th and Sa-Su 10am-6pm, F 10am-7pm. ‚4.60, students ‚3.) Housed in a renovated interior pool, aptly named La Piscine, 23 r. de L’Esperance (M: Gare Jean Lebas), has a collection that includes paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries, vases and stained glass. (Open Tu-Th llam-6pm, F llam-8pm, Sa-Su l-8pm.) The Vielle Bourse (Old Stock Exchange), on pl. General de Gaulle, epitomizing the Flemish Renaissance, houses flower and book markets. (Markets Su and Tu-Sa 9:30am-7:30pm.) At night, students flock to the pubs along rue Solferino and rue Massena, while the vielle ville has a more sophisticated scene.
Trains leave from Gare Lille Flandres, on pl. de la Gare (M: Gare Lille Flan-dres), for Brussels, Belgium (l!4hr. 20 per day, ‚22) and Paris (lhr. 21 per day, ‚34-45). Gare Lille Europe, on r. Le Corbusier (M: Gare Lille Europe; 08 36 35 35 35), sends Eurostar trains to London, Brussels, and Paris and all TGVs to the south of France and Paris. From Gare Lille Flandres, walk straight down r. Faidherbe and turn left through pl. du Theatre and pl. de Gaulle; behind the huge war monument is the tourist office, pl. Rihour (M: Rihour), which offers free maps and currency exchange. ( 03 20 21 94 21; fax 03 20 21 94 20. Open M-Sa 9:30am-6:30pm, Su lOam-noon and 2-5pm.) To reach the friendly and spacious Auberge de Jeunesse (HI) O, 12 r. Malpart, from Gare Lille Flandres, circle left around the station, turn right onto r. du Molinel, take the second left on r. de Paris, and take the 3rd right onto r. Malpart. ( 03 20 57 08 94; fax 03 20 63 98 93. M: Mairie de Lille. Sheets ‚2.75. Key deposit ‚10. Reception 7-llam and 3pm-lam. Check-out 10am. Curfew lam. Open Feb. to mid-Dec. Dorms ‚13.) The spotless Hotel Faidherbe , 42 pl. de la Gare (M: Gare Lille Flandres), is noise-proof, ( 03 20 06 27 93; fax 03 20 55 95 38. Singles and doubles ‚28-42; triples ‚50. 10% Let’s Go discount. AmExMCV.) Restaurants and markets line rue de Bethune, rue Leon Gambetta and place du Theatre. A huge Carrefour supermarket is next to the Gare Lille Europe train station in the EuraLille shopping center. (Open M-Sa 9am-10pm.) Postal Code: 59000.
DAYTRIPS FROM LILLE: ARRAS AND VIMY. The town hall of Arras (pop. 80,000), in the gorgeous Hotel de Ville, is built over the eerie Les Boves tunnels, which have sheltered both medieval chalk miners and WWI soldiers (Contact tourist office for tours. ‚3.80, students ‚2.30.) Trains leave pl. Marechal Foch for Lille (45min. 20 per day, ‚8.80). From the train station, walk across pl. Foch to r. Gambetta, turn left on r. Desire Delansome, turn left, and walk two blocks to reach the tourist office, on pl. des Heros, in the Hotel de Ville. ( 03 21 51 26 95. Open May-Sept. M-Sa 9am-6:30pm, Su lOam-lpm and 2:30-6:30pm; Oct.-Apr. reduced hours.) The countryside surrounding Arras is dotted with war cemeteries and unmarked graves. The vast limestone Vimy Memorial, 12km from Arras, honors the more than 66,000 Canadians killed in WWI. The morbid yet beautiful park, whose soil came from Canada, is dedicated to the crucial victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Stay on the marked paths, as there are still undetonated mines in the area. The kiosk by the trenches is the starting point for an underground tour of the crumbling tunnels dug by British and Canadian