In the heart of the old town of Lille, the capital of Nord-Pas de Calais, on the edge of the beautiful Grand Place, stands an ancient building known as the Vielle Bourse.
Built in 1623 it was once a bustling and noisy place where prosperous merchants would meet to do business – it was in fact the stock exchange and the architecture reflects the fact that it was a wealthy and important place. In the centre is a courtyard entered by four age old arched doorways set in the middle of each wall that surrounds it.
The walls around this inner sanctum are lined with fabulous carved friezes and sculptures. The building itself houses shops and offices and a few lucky residents who have a view to die for over the gorgeous old city and the courtyard.
During the week, the courtyard is home to second hand book sellers. Their stalls fill every inch of the vaulted covered walk way around the courtyard. You will also see locals playing chess, setting up tables and chairs and happy to play with visitors, their hands moving pieces quickly around the board.
Laid out on tables are books of all ages and genres just ripe for browsing and possibly finding the book you thought you’d never see. Although mostly French, you will find some books in other languages too.
The book market takes place daily (except Sunday).
From July to September the courtyard of the Vielle Bourse undergoes a transformation every Sunday evening when it transforms into an open air tango dancing arena. Dancers arrive from around the city to take part in the free sessions, dancing under the stars to music on a CD player. Strangers and friends, those who know tango and those who don’t, it is a spontaneous affair and an absolute joy to behold.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 13.00 – 19.00 – this is a must-see destination for any visitor to Lille…
Lille Tourist Office for more details on what to see and do in this lovely, dynamic city.