Everybody knows the shopping in Paris is fantastique but for us Londoners, there is no need to travel so far. Just 1 hour and 20 minutes from London on the Eurostar are the cities of Lille and Roubaix, where grand buildings hide book markets and young fashion designers are being fostered by pop-up markets. Lille is also home to an annual second-hand shopping event, the Braderie, Europe’s largest and most famous flea market. Read on to discover more of Lille and Roubaix’s shopping secrets.
Printemps Personal Shopping Service
Famed French department store, Printemps, has a branch in Lille situated just behind the tourist office. The store sells all the French and international brands you can find in their Parisian outlet but has a couple of secret weapons. One is an outlet of Meert, the patisserie that has been delighting Lille locals with vanilla-filled waffles since the 1800s. The other secret ingredient is Virginie, Printemps's personal stylist who offers her expert services to customers for free. On our visit we got to see inside Virginie’s office, the VIP shopping area, which features a large changing area, sofas, and refreshments and can cater to groups of up to 15. Virginie, who has been working as a personal shopper at Printemps for 4 years, took us through 3 of the key looks for the season (Minimal Chic, Print and Colour, and Travel Diary) and demonstrated how she would style them for her customers. Her customers range from young women who need a confidence boost to a 90-year-old couple who wanted a special outfit to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. As the service is completely private and free of charge it would suit people who are not comfortable browsing the shop floor on their own as well as those who are wanting a new look. You can book the personal shopping service online or by phone and there is no obligation to buy. Visit printemps.com to find out more and make the most of it!
– Printemps Lille, 39-45 Rue Nationale, Lille
Lille’s old town is dotted with vintage shops selling retro French looks at a fraction of the Parisian prices. One of the best selections can be found at Funny Vintage, which sells antique furniture, old records, and vintage clothing and has a cafe on site where you can sit and watch the world go by whilst pondering your next purchase.
– Funny Vintage, 21-23 Rue de la Barre, Lille
Books at La Vieille Bourse
La Vieille Bourse was the original stock exchange built by Julien Destrez in the 17th Century and is one of the most impressive buildings on Lille’s Grand Place. It’s what’s inside the building that will delight book lovers though as a second-hand book market has taken up residence in the courtyard. Rows of antique books line the inner four walls and chess players can be found concentrating on their game in the middle. During the summer months, tango demonstrations are held every Sunday from 7 to 11 pm, such a wonderful use for a beautiful building. Book lovers will also enjoy the nearby Le Cafe-Livres, a book store, and cafe combined, which also hosts regular book readings and author talks.
– La Vieille Bourse, Place Charles-de-Gaulle or Grand Place, Lille
Maisons de Mode at Le Vestiaire Roubaix
Maisons de Mode was created to offer support to new fashion designers who in turn will contribute to the resurgence of northern France’s textile industry (Lille and Roubaix were once industrial cities centered on the textile trade.) At Le Vestiaire in Roubaix shoppers can browse and purchase items directly from the young independent designers the project has helped support. In a converted warehouse situated next to Roubaix’s famous La Piscine museum our eye was attracted to the ball gown lamps by Atirdailes.com, the colorful beaded jewelry of All We Need Is Sun (great name!), and the bucket leather bags of Aurelie Chadaine.
Twice a year (in May and November) Maisons de Mode hosts a pop-up fashion market named Marche des Modes. Stalls fill up any empty space in Le Vestiaire and the textile college across the road. During our visit, we couldn’t help but admire the headbands and body jewelry of Le Fleur de Peau – definitely a name to watch.
– Le Vestiaire, 27 rue de l’Esperance, Roubaix
Whether you are looking for fresh fruit, Arabic spices, or flowers a visit to the Sunday Market in Wazemmes is a must. The main square of Wazemmes is transformed into a bustling medina full of busy shoppers and squawking vendors but it is the alleyways coming off it that piqued our interest. If you wander off the main square you might be able to spot second-hand furniture (selling for just 20 Euros a chair), 1 Euro books, and even vintage globes and handbags. Stalls lining the market’s outer edge offer all sorts of international cuisine – think giant pots of paella and roasting chickens – and fans of north African food will be spoilt for choice. There are also some famous cake shops in the area including an outlet of Aux Merveilleux de Fred and Patrick Herman. The best thing is just to browse the area and see what bargains you can uncover.
– Wazemmes Market, Place de la Nouvelle Aventure, Lille
If that hasn’t already convinced you of the shopping appeal of Lille and Roubaix then the Braderie surely will. Held every first weekend of September, the Braderie sees the streets of Lille converted into a vast flea market (Europe’s largest). People from all over the region and beyond gather to buy and sell all sorts of second-hand bric and brac. It sounds like a veritable dream for bargain hunters and we will definitely be planning a trip back for it.
– For more information visit braderie-de-lille.fr.