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Eurostar to Lille tips

21 replies

Poetryinaction · 15/09/2019 09:37

Hi,
I am planning to take us all (dh and I, 3 kids aged 5, 4 and 1) to the Lille Christmas markets by Eurostar.
I'm a teacher so can't take time off but am free from 21st Dec. I am thinking of one night, either a Saturday earlier in Dec, or Sun 22nd.
Before I book a bargain train and hotel, I just want to check if anything will be tricky.
We could get a train to London (from the Midlands) but that's pricey. We can stay with my sister in London (Clapham). Or we can park at St Pancras.
Any tips on parking/ times to arrive or leave/ anything else regarding a short trip to Lille?
Many thanks.

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MrsPatrickDempsey · 15/09/2019 09:48

Research the markets carefully. It was a few years ago but we did the very same trip as you and were hugely disappointed. The market consisted of a small square of about 15 very very overpriced stalls which we finished in less than an hour. There isn't much else to do in Lille - certainly not two days worth with children IMO.
It may have changed (I know there is a good modern shopping centre now by the station) but we came home early!

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Poetryinaction · 15/09/2019 09:53

Oh ok, good advice! So I wanted to get the eurostar (I teach French and love trains!). I suppose my next question would be, is there anywhere else we can go to cheaply in France? I think the littlies would enjoy the Christmas markets. Thanks.

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MinnieMountain · 15/09/2019 12:08

What train station would you be travelling from?
I think trains to London booked in advance with a family railcard (you can choose to buy tickets for the under 5s to get the discount) would be easier than driving to London.

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Poetryinaction · 15/09/2019 16:35

I believe age 5 and under are free on UK trains so no need for a family railcard yet. I think we would park at my sister's. I think we'll do Lille with kids this age. It seems so safe and easy.

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Janek · 15/09/2019 19:45

It is under 5 that is free, not 5 and under (and under 4 on the Eurostar). If you are buying full price UK train tickets it is likely to be cheaper to buy two adults + child + railcard than two adults without a railcard. We bought a family railcard for 8-week-old dd for this very reason, and have rarely been without one since.

It is sometimes possible to get tickets to 'London International CIV' for cheaper than any other kind of advance (or ordinary) ticket (and you can use your railcard for these). You need to prove that you are catching a Eurostar and you are then covered by the international conditions of carriage (so if a train is delayed which makes you miss your connection, then you are entitled to travel on the next available service).

If you would catch a Virgin train from the Midlands you can get a family single in each direction for £30 (used to be a family return for £60, but it has recently become a little less flexible). This covers up to two adults and up to four children. You do need to book on specific trains with this ticket.

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Artesia · 15/09/2019 19:52

Just a warning - a friend went to Lille recently and said it was pretty run down and a bit scary. Not a nice atmosphere at all, and lots of gangs wandering round. She is no timid flower, but said she felt quite intimidated and certainly didn’t want to be out in the evening.

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Poetryinaction · 15/09/2019 19:58

Thanks both. That's really useful information.

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Callmecordelia · 15/09/2019 19:59

Hi OP, I too would give Lille a miss. Still get the Eurostar there, but then get a connecting train to Arras and go to the Christmas Market in the Grand Place there.

www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g196631-d3928885-r445166761-Grand_Place-Arras_Pas_de_Calais_Hauts_de_France.html

I'm thinking of taking my DD there on a day trip. I love Arras, spent quite a bit of time there as a teenager, and have gone back a few times as an adult.

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Longdistance · 15/09/2019 20:00

Try Toulouse. Loved the Christmas there.

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fergusthefrog · 15/09/2019 20:03

I live in France (although I am british). Avoid Lille. It's really not great. I went for the day in April and it was beautifully sunny and still a dump. At Christmas it really would be awful.

Brussels may have better markets though can't say I've been recently. easy to get to though

Bruges is beautiful. Little bit further but really really worth it.

A lovely idea though! I love European cities at Christmas! ☺️

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madasamarchhare · 16/09/2019 08:04

We did the Christmas market a Lille last year. Only for a day we had about 5 hours there. Was ok as have never done a Christmas market before but 5 hours was plenty and that was with stopping for a long lunch and a coffee. The surrounding area wasn’t great although we didn’t feel intimidated. I certainly wouldn’t spend more than a day there. We are giving Brugge a try this year I’ve heard good things about that.

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Dontforgetyourbrolly · 16/09/2019 08:08

I know you love France....but consider York. Really beautiful, loads to with kids and magical at Xmas. You'll still get your train
fix !

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buttermilkwaffles · 16/09/2019 11:40

Didn't think the Bruges Christmas markets were anything special and they were very crowded, preferred Ghent (as a city as well).

You could consider Strasbourg and/or Colmar as well, have not been there at Christmas but very attractive old town centres and a mix of French and German food etc...

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ExpletiveDelighted · 16/09/2019 11:51

We did it a couple of years ago with pre-teen DCs and it was fine, the market was crowded but we enjoyed pottering around it and the rest of the city centre, it didn't feel intimidating or run down, even in the evenings. We stayed centrally and were able to walk from the station with wheeled cases.

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clearsommespace · 16/09/2019 12:00

Amiens Christmas market is way better than the one in Lille.
Also the Cathedral is amazing and there is a free sound and light show in December.

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buttermilkwaffles · 16/09/2019 12:06

Have not been there myself, but if you want a proper German Christmas market, then Aachen is only an hour and a half by direct train from Brussels. Might be another option to consider?

www.google.com/search?q=Aachen+Christmas+Market&client=ms-android-motorola&prmd=minv&sxsrf=ACYBGNSSwYjHhoKq974WDB0jt54-oOycrA:1568631860103&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwia6LeGmdXkAhWGo4sKHdUbDDAQ_AUoAnoECA8QAg&biw=320&bih=441

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TheCanterburyWhales · 16/09/2019 12:09

Which bit of the Midlands?
When I booked for St Pancras recently, Newark was £32 for me and DD and Nottingham £130.

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Undercoverdetective · 16/09/2019 12:27

Have you considered train and ferry or Eurostar and staying in Calais. That close to christmas there will be all sorts in Calais ( including an ice rink) and the neighbouring towns ( Gravelines, Ardres, Boulogne, St omer, Arras, etc, which are easily linked by public transport).When I went to the christmas market at Lille it was so packed it was unpleasant, and would have been difficult to get around with children.

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Poetryinaction · 16/09/2019 20:59

Thanks so much for all the brilliant tips. I am giving it serious thought as a UK stay might turn out a lot cheaper all things considered. I do want to do this, but might leave it until next year.

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profpoopsnagle · 19/09/2019 20:53

Chatsworth house has a lovely CHristmas market in the run up to Christmas (from memory, Mid November time) and with your DC the ages they are you could combine it with the farm/adventure playground visit. The house is also lovely when decorated for Christmas.

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5foot5 · 24/09/2019 13:24

@profpoopsnagle I go to the Chatsworth market every year and thoroughly enjoy it, also the decorations in the house. However, I think the problem for the OP would be that she said as a teacher she can't get time off before 21st December. The Chatsworth market is always from mid-November to early December. At weekends it always gets very crowded, so we go in the week.

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