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Visiting Lille, France and its enormous City Hall belfry: the tallest in the region

Updated on August 26, 2011
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
The belfry of Lille's City Hall
The belfry of Lille's City Hall | Source
Old postcard of Lille City Hall's belfry
Old postcard of Lille City Hall's belfry | Source
Map location of Lille, France
Map location of Lille, France | Source

A blending of Neo-Flemish and Art Deco styles

This belfry is amazingly tall. I had seen pictures of it before I actually saw it in real life, but I was still impressed at the striking combination of its height and proportions: it is 101 metres tall. Belfries are typical symbols of Flanders (in its greater sense) but this particular belfry is thus part of the tallest municipal building in France.

Executed in a combination of red brick and concrete, it is the blending of these two materials which gives the belfry and the city hall a somewhat intense colour. Its Neo-Flemish style is modified by Art Deco.

Local architect Emile Dubuisson (1873-1947) was responsible for the design. Prominent French minister Roger Salengro made the decision to add the belfry to the design of the City Hall (Hôtel de ville) to which it is attached; he was Mayor of Lille 1925-1929 and 1929-1936 and French Interior Minister in 1936 (1). The City Hall itself was commissioned by the previous mayor Gustave Delory in 1924.

Given the height of the belfry, it is perhaps not surprising that it has been used as a radio and television transmitter.

The Belfry at Lille's City Hall is not the only such structure in the city; the Chamber of Commerce (Chambre de Commerce ) has another striking belfry which is more ornate, although less tall, than its City Hall counterpart.

Note

(1) Other prominent French leaders associated with Lille City Hall have included: Pierre Mauroy, Mayor of Lille 1973-2001, Prime Minister of France 1981-1984; Martine Aubry, Mayor of Lille 2001- , French Employment Minister 1991-1993 and 1997-2000, and leader of the French Socialist Party since 2008.

Also worth seeing

Lille has many visitor attractions, including, close to the City Hall, the Paris Gate (la Porte de Paris ); a few of other attractions include: General Charles de Gaulle's birthplace museum; the Chamber of Commerce building (see above); the former Stock Exchange (la Vieille bourse ) building.

Roubaix (distance: 13 kilometres) has a fine City Hall with an impressive frontage.

Tournai, Belgium (distance: 29 kilometres) has an imposing Medieval Cathedral.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Lille (distance: 129 kilometres); Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Lille is 201 kilometres from Lille. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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