October 18, 2011

La Vieille Bourse

One of the most beautiful buildings in Lille can be found in the Grand Place. It’s intricately sculpted façade stands out in bright red and yellow. The coherency of the Vielle Bourse gives it the appearance of a single structure, yet it is actually 24 separate, identical houses.

La Vieille Bourse.

The houses form a square around an open-air courtyard. They were built to give protection from the elements to merchants, who up till then had to work outside. There are arcades, which provided protection from rain, and the houses themselves blocked the wind.

The courtyard.

It was built during the Spanish rule and with King Philippe IV’s consent, in 1651.

Today the building is still used for commercial purposes. Different stores, cafés, chocolate shops, and ice cream parlors are found on the ground floor facing the outside.

Pick any one of the four arches, one on each side of the building, leading into the courtyard to discover a used book market. While there are plenty of old books worth perusing, don’t miss the old postcards and old franc coins.

One of the four arches.

I spent a good two hours there once enjoying looking at old photographs of Lille and the other cities in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

People checking out cool, old books, postcards, and coins.

If you’re lucky, you may even witness some chess games, as there are a game boards available. Or perhaps you can even play, but I’m not good enough.

Check it out:
La Vieille Bourse
Place du Général de Gaulle
Open afternoons on Tuesday – Sunday


  1. So I guess "Grand Place" in French is "Plaza Mayor" in Spanish. The life of the city, am I right? Does every French town have one? Every town/village/city has one in Spain, no matter how small.

  2. Kaley: The Grand Place is actually just a Northern thing! They also have them in Belgium. So basically what I'm thinking is that this must come from when Lille was part of the Spanish Netherlands, and that's why we have them. I hadn't thought of that before! Thanks for the question :)

  3. Love the idea of spending an afternoon looking for old books and postcards. This is a gorgeous building.


  4. I remember that building. Does anyone still live in it?

  5. Kris: it's an afternoon wellspent!

    Mike: I don't know for certain, but from what you can see in the windows it looks like offices.

  6. And another reason to come to Lille!


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