On a Sunday night in the summer, as you stroll across the lovely Grand Place in the old city of Lille or sit in one of the lively cafés watching the world go by over a glass of chilled wine you will hear the gentle sound of old fashioned music from close by…
The Vielle Bourse is a stunning building situated between the famous Grand Place and the beautiful old Theatre of Lille. It was built in 1652 after Philip IV of Spain, then ruler of the City of Lille, gave permission to establish an exchange for use by merchants. It consisted of 24 houses set around an inner courtyard and the architect was commissioned to build an exchange to rival that of other major cities of the 17th Century. Embellished and mellow toned stonework, beautiful columns, ancient cobbles – this place is steeped in history.
The Grand Place (Grand Square) itself goes back centuries, in fact a market was held here more than a thousand years ago. Surrounded by ornate and fabulously preserved historic buildings and in the centre stands “The Goddess”. A landmark meeting place and according to locals, the ugliest lady in Lille! The statue is in honour of the Siege of Lille in 1792 when the people of the city stood their ground against 35,000 Austrian soldiers. In one hand she holds the fuse which fired the ancient cannons of Lille, in the other she points to an inscription which recalls “the courageous refusal of Mayor André of Lille to surrender the town”.
To find the source of the music, walk towards the beautiful Vielle Bourse and enter the courtyard through any of the four arched doors that provide an entrance to the inner sanctum.
There you will find a most surprising sight, lit by the fading sun or as the night gets darker, the glowing yellow lamps on the ancient walls – tango!
From July to September, every Sunday between 19h and 23h dancers from all around Lille gather to dance the tango. Strangers, couples, dance schools, visitors, tourists – people of all ages and all abilities take to the floor of the inner courtyard. Nobody minds if you are not a great dancer, enthusiasm and willingness count for much though there is a serious side here too with some very good dancers indeed.
Around the courtyard are tables under which stocks of old books are stacked or crated – a reminder that during the day, this is the setting for a very charming second hand book dealers’ area as well as a great place to play chess. Visitors and tourists are welcome to join one of the games and take the keen locals on!
Combine the palpable sense of history in this beautiful, dynamic city with the romantic sound of old fashioned music, the sight of dancers lost in the moment, an audience with smiles on their faces and a feeling of nostalgia – tango in Lille in the Vielle Bourse is a very alluring event and not to be missed if you are in Lille on a Sunday night.
Tango in Lille video:
Lille Tourism website – lots of ideas for what to see and do in Lille