In cosmopolitan Lille, Villeneuve-d’Ascq is a new town that happens to have many hot days in the area. This place is rooted in technology, and you could almost say it’s where the citizens of Lille learn.
Museums have everything from the extraordinary LaM art museum to open-air attractions that take you back to the post-war, medieval or prehistoric times. Families with young children will make the most of Villeneuve-d’Ascq, but if you like top sports, you can get tickets to Lille OSC games during the football season. Lille’s old center is just minutes from town, so the big city’s landmarks and nightlife will always be within reach.
Let’s discover the best activities in Villeneuve-d’Ascq:
This is called the Metropolitan Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art in Lille.
This is an extraordinary museum that showcases every important art movement of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Iconic works by artists such as Picasso, Miró, Kandinsky, Modigliani, Fernand Léger and Georges Braque.
These are supported by the sculpture garden and the flanks of the Art Brut movement of the first decades of the 20th century: if you want to see something “out there”, this section has work by self-taught painters and “visionary artists” “Who believes they can communicate with other worlds.
2. Heron Park
The Parc du Héron has a large natural space of 110 hectares next to LaM, with meadows next to a large lake.
If you’re wondering about the park’s name, it’s because it’s a regional heron nature reserve, and you can spot this species by the lake without a hitch.
Herons are also one of 235 bird species in the park, including European orioles, cuckoos, pigeons and tits.
There is also an educational farm, Ferme du Héron, with donkeys, several birds of prey and several flightless birds.
3. Flair Castle
The tourist office of Villeneuve-d’Ascq is housed in this delightful Flemish mansion built in 1661. It encompasses the architecture of the area, right down to the gables of Raven’s Steps.
Check out the coffered wood ceilings on the sides and the lovely 18th century vaulted gallery leading to the garden.
All in all, this is a great way to start your visit to Villeneuve-d’Ascq.
There are regular temporary performances about the town’s past, and on Heritage Days, the entire building is open for tours.
4. Musée de Plein Air
A classic outdoor museum, this attraction features 23 traditional rural houses preserved from demolition and transferred here in the 1990s to form a small village.
The buildings come from several northern French provinces such as Artois, Picardy, Flanders and Hainaut, the oldest dating from the 1500s.
You will learn about the diverse rural heritage of the Nord Calais region in the idyllic setting of thatched cottages, vegetable fields, animal enclosures and various country handicraft workshops.
There is also a Flemish tavern on site, serving traditional stews.
5. Terroir Museum
Another museum that brings you in touch with times past is this 18th-century farmhouse, listed as a French Historic Monument.
It’s a microcosm of post-war domestic life in the region, so it’s home to laundry rooms, classrooms, a forge, a dairy, a kitchen, and workshops for making saddles and clogs.
Like all local museums, the Musée du Terroir insists on keeping kids involved: they can try ironing with cast iron, hammer tools in a forge, apprentice carpenters and make traditional Flemish waffles.
6. Moulin Rouge Museum
In the Cousinerie district, the Musée des Moulins has two 18th-century windmills.
One is oil and one is flour, both were brought to the place in the 70s and 80s and opened to tourists.
Through modern exhibits, you will learn about all technical aspects of flour processing and oil production.
You’ll also learn about the history of milling, from Neolithic millstones to modern wheels and drums.
Children will discover all the powers used to make flour, such as human and animal power in the early days, and water, wind, steam and gas later.
7. Science Ministry Forum
This cultural center, managed by the Northern Department, is unusual because it deals with scientific and technological issues rather than artistic ones.
Primarily aimed at children, the center aims to stimulate their curiosity about the world around them.
There is a huge exhibition space dedicated to temporary exhibitions that are updated every few months.
These are carefully curated to handle anything from police forensics to prehistoric mammoths and sustainability.
The gallery complements the planetarium, with three shows on Saturdays and Sundays and two on Wednesdays.
Just off the Parc du Héron is another inspiring outdoor museum.
Dedicated to archaeology, this one reconstructs historic dwellings from Paleolithic tents to medieval farmsteads.
The site was built using information found at many archaeological sites in the region, one of which is at Villeneuve d’Ascq, where a Gallo-Roman farm was unearthed.
The grandest building is the Roman Villa, but each building has something to do: kids can try on armor, taste medieval food, take part in archery competitions, and watch displays of historical crafts.
9. Ascq 1944 Memorial
This museum recalls a dark period at the end of the German occupation of France.
After the Ascq’s railway line was damaged, the SS’s revenge was brutal, and 86 people were executed.
The displays in the museum depict the journey of the village of Ascq in the 20th century: you will start with the First World War, then learn about reconstruction, the Second World War, the years of occupation and finally the climate before the April massacre 1 1944 year. There is a monument built in 1955 near the railway tracks to commemorate the site of the massacre.
10. Lille OSC
The city’s football team is based in Villeneuve-d’Ascq at the new Pierre-Mauroy stadium.
The cathedral-like stadium with a capacity of 50,186 was built in 2012 and hosted six matches during Euro 2016. Lille played in the Ligue 1, the highest level of French football, and even won the title in 2011. The team has been up and down since then, and since games are rarely sold out, you should be able to easily get tickets to watch “Les Dogues” between August and May.
Things should get even more unpredictable in 2017, as mercurial Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa takes over in June.
11. Old Lille
While you are engrossed in the museums in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, you cannot forget that there is an outdoor museum of its own near the city of Lille.
The Old Centre is a wonderland of cute shops, lively bars, tempting restaurants and bustling architecture, dating back to before the city became France.
On the cobblestone streets, you can gaze at 17th-century Baroque mansions with moldings and Flemish-style gables.
Place aux Oignons is one of many gorgeous little corners. The plaza is surrounded by noble tall houses and now has fine dining restaurants, while Art Street is lined with cultural townhouses of various styles.
12. Palace of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts in Lille is a product of the revolution, built at the beginning of the 19th century, with a main collection of paintings and sculptures from the 1790s.
The loss of the nobility is our gain, because there is a great deal of art here.
The museum excels in the Renaissance and Baroque styles, with stunning works by Donatello, Veronese, Jacob Jordans, Van Dyck and Rubens.
Later there were sculptures by Delacroix, Seurat, Goya and Courbet, as well as by Bourdelle, Claudel and Houten.
The museum also has an interesting set of “floor plans”, huge Flemish 3D military maps from the 17th and 18th centuries.
13. Grand Place
When you step onto this lively square in the heart of Lille, you will undoubtedly be in an important center.
In the center is a monument commemorating the city’s resistance to the Austrian army during the 1792 siege, surrounded by magnificent buildings from the 1600s to the 1900s.
But if there’s one to look closely, it’s Vielle Bourse, a stunning 17th-century Mannerist building with a central courtyard.
This is Lille’s stock exchange, and nearly 400 years later, merchants have been replaced by bookstands and chess players.
14. Other ideas
In Cosmopolitan Lille, you have to organize to suit every wonderful experience.
The city has a plethora of cultural venues and restaurants to choose from, but also family outings and one-off experiences in the big city.
Cycling fans will know about the fabulous Paris-Roubaix race known as the Hell of the North every mid-April.
Roubaix also owns La Piscine, a stunning museum built from a converted art deco swimming pool.
Back in Lille, there is the zoo, which is completely free, in addition to being humane and having many exotic inhabitants.
If industrial brick buildings are your thing, there are plenty of listed former factories throughout the metropolis, some of which have been turned into attractions like the Maison Folie Wazemmes and the Manufacture des Flandres.
15. Food and drink
Lille has several Michelin-starred restaurants, but you don’t need to spend too much to eat well in this part of France.
The dishes are very similar to Belgium, where the main dish is moules-frites: mussels, usually served with french fries in white wine and scallion sauce.
In this region, beer is often the drink of choice, whether dark, white, amber or gold, draught or bottled.
Beer has even found its way into food such as the delicious goulash served with French fries, or Le Welsh, the local take on rare Welsh food.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France
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