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Visiting the Old Stock Exchange, Lille, France: 17th century splendour in Flemish Renaissance style

Updated on March 18, 2013
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
The Old Stock Exchange, Lille, from the south-west.
The Old Stock Exchange, Lille, from the south-west. | Source
Bookseller in at the Old Stock Exchange, Lille (Nord)
Bookseller in at the Old Stock Exchange, Lille (Nord) | Source
Map location of Lille, France
Map location of Lille, France | Source

Memorable work of Julien Destrée

This remarkable building is one the architectural treasures and defining landmarks of Lille, in France's Nord department.

Some history and features

Dating from 1652-53, the architect for the Old Stock Exchange (French: Vieille Bourse ) was Julien Destrée, who served as the city of Lille's architect and engineer. Architect Destrée executed the building in Flemish Renaissance style; one of the architect known flairs was for working in wood. The design of the building includes a prominent campanile. Both the exterior and inner courtyard walls are characterized by elaborate patterns. As a whole, it seems to exude a gracious aura from a past age.

The building saw the light of day during the reign of France's Louis XIV. Its rôle as a commercial centre soon made it a symbol of the prosperity of this major city of northern France.

With a very central location, the Old Stock Exchange is situated facing Lille's Grand'Place . This vast, central square attracts many visitors to the city, who are thus very likely to remember the pleasing lines of this conspicuous building.

The Old Stock Exchange was notably visited by Emperor Napoleon III in 1853. The building underwent two significant periods of restoration: in the 19th century and also from 1989 to 1998.

The building was classified as an ancient monument in 1921.

Interestingly, the building is divided up into 24 distinct portions, with a linking, inner arcade. This arcade, and the proximity of the many merchants based here, was intended to facilitate trade, and, in one way or another, this has continued to the present day. As seen also in one of the pictures supplied (right), a book sale was underway within the inner courtyard of the Old Stock Exchange, when I visited this striking edifice; the effect was one of cloistered studiousness. Given that a huge bookstore is located on the opposite side of the Grand'Place from the Old Stock Exchange, the regular sale of books in this arcade area only adds to this effect, I think. Visitors to Paris will doubtless recall the many second-hand booksellers who trade along the banks of the Seine River; those familiar with the frequent bookselling at Lille's Old Stock Exchange may also be reminded of these familiar Parisian scenes.

For various reasons, Lille qualifies as one of France's leading cities and the Old Stock Exchange is without doubt one of the city's principal sights.

Also worth seeing

In Lille itself, among its numerous visitor attractions are the former Chamber of Commerce building with its befry, the City Hall and belfry, and General Charles de Gaulle's birthplace museum.

Roubaix (distance: 13 kilometres) has a fine City Hall, opposite the Medieval church of St Martin.

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). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada


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