October 4, 2011

Le Beffroi

Lille’s beffroi (bell tower/belfry) is, along with 22 other bell towers in the north of France, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Le Beffroi de Lille

Often times these bell towers get confused with church bell towers, but as Anabelle from Beinvenue Chez les Ch’tis explains,

ça sert à rien de religieux. C’est notre beffroi. Au moyan age ça a servi aussi à faire la geurre où pour prevenir les invahisseur.”
(it doesn’t have anything to do with religion. It’s our bell tower. In the middle ages it was used for war and to announce when invaders were coming).

This particular beffroi, however, was not around during the Middle Ages. It was built between 1929 and 1931, becoming France’s first building to be built with reinforced concrete. At 104 meters tall, it was comparable to a New York skyscraper at its construction, and today remains the tallest belfry in the North.

While using modern building techniques, the architect also wanted to pay homage to Lille’s history and so the bell tower is composed of both concrete and the traditional red brick.

Le beffroi is open to the public, and would be worth a visit for the view alone. You can see the entire city, plus a fair amount of Belgium from up there.

La vue (the view) with some city landmarks pointed out.
Yes, my apartment counts.

La Porte de Paris as seen from le beffroi.

But what really makes the visit worth the 6 euros (4 euros for students, or go for free the 1st and 3rd Wendesday of the month), is the audio guide. The audio guide as well as jumelles (binoculars) come with the ticket price. I opted for the English speaking audio guide, and you should too.

The tour is given by a British man and his French colleague, each with very strong accents.

The introductory dialogue went something like this:

“Ouh, ‘ello. Sorreee I am laTE. ‘ave you beeeen waiting longuh?” – the Frenchie.
“Oh, it’s quite alright. I was running a bit late myself.” – the Brit.

It basically continues like this for 10 wonderfully amusing yet informative tracks.

I learned how the beffroi was built, which cities Lille is twined with, why the beffroi was home to Eurovision (plus what Eurovision is...), and much more, all with a smile on my face due to my guides.

If the 400 steps seem daunting, not to worry. There is an elevator to take you up, but be sure to walk down the steps to fully experience the audio guide (or you can be crazy like me and do it in the other order… don’t ask me why).

Check it out:
Le Beffroi de Lille
21 Place du Théatre
59000 Lille
Tuesday - Sunday (except Friday mornings)
10h - 13h, and 14h - 18h (17h from November to March)
Ticket prices:
6 euros normal
4 euros reduced
Free the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month
Ticket comes with an audio guide and bionoculars
Audio guides available in the following languages:
French, English, German, and Dutch


  1. This would be an interesting place to visit. I imagine the view would be gorgeous from up top.


  2. You just don't see stuff like this here. Color me jealous.

  3. I love your written take on the French accent!

  4. Wow! That shot of "la porte de Paris" is incredible. I haven't made my way to Lille yet, but hope to visit someday soon. : )

  5. I've not visited the Beffroi yet. I think it opened to the public very recently. Thank God there's an elevator because I have a fear of heights! I visited the Beffroi in Tournai last year (which is not as high as the one in Lille) and it was a nightmare for me when I had to go down the stairs. There's also a Beffroi in Arras (with an elevator too) and I enjoyed the view very much. I was not very comfortable being this high but Arras is a great place and, seen from above, shows all the characteristics of a typical Northern city.

  6. Kris: It is! I definitely recommend checking it out if you're ever in the ciy.

    Joshua: That's why I put up pictures :)

    chickster: I know! If you have the time you guys should visit Lille.

    Sara Louis: Thanks!

    Samantha: You should! It's a really beautiful city. It even got 3/3 stars from the Michelin green guide.

    Emilie: It's been open via reservations with the office du tourisme for a while, but just to stop by like I did it's only been since this summer. I totally recommend it! Personally I felt more scared in the elevator than taking the stairs. The stairs let you acclimate to the height. I want to check out some of the other bell towers in the region for sure.

  7. Next visit we go to the Bell Tower. Dad


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