In the north eastern corner of France stands Lille. Behind Paris, Lyon and Marseille it is the fourth largest city in the country and is home to around a million people.

Lille is a historical city with roots that stretch back well into the Dark Ages. It grew steadily in significance throughout the Middle Ages but it was not until the nineteenth century that it experienced an explosion of population with the arrival of industrialism and its subsequent effect on its already thriving textile industry.

The first half of the twentieth century was difficult for the city. It was captured twice by the invading German forces, and in the First World War it was the home of notorious flying ace Max Immelmann, who was christened with the grisly nickname ‘The Eagle of Lille.’

Today the city is smart and modern, filled with tall continental town houses and wide public squares. It has one of France’s oldest universities, three botanical gardens and it sits squarely on the cross-channel rail link, defining it as one of the major transport hubs of northern Europe.

As the base for a trip around northern France and Belgium or as a destination in its own right, Lille is a fine choice. It is easily reached, just a short distance from the port of Calais.