Lille European Capital of Culture 2004
6 Dec 2003
Eurostar is the UK Official CarrierOnly 1h 40mins from LondonReturn fares from just £55
The northern French city of Lille and the surrounding Nord-Pas de Calais region is preparing itself for a massive invasion of UK tourists when it commences its reign as European Capital of Culture for 2004 on 6 December 2003. It is expected that the majority of UK visitors will travel to Lille by Eurostar, which has been awarded the status of UK Official Carrier because of its direct city-centre to city-centre service.
Eurostar is also the fastest way to travel to Lille. The opening of the Channel Tunnel Link at the end of September has meant journey times from London to Lille have been slashed to just 1h 40mins. Early next week it is expected that over one million passengers will have travelled on the new line at speeds of up to 186 mph (300 k/ph). From Ashford, in Kent, journey times to Lille are just under one hour.
Lille as a day trip or short break destination has grown in popularity and millions of people have arrived on Eurostar. Lille also forms a major rail transport hub for UK visitors, making TGV connections to cities such as Lyon, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseilles. Many Eurostar passengers take advantage of a 24-hour stop-over provision with Eurostar and TGV tickets to break one-leg of their journey in the city.
Lille and the Nord-Pas de Calais region are rolling out the red carpet for visitors to Lille 2004. After the huge "White Ball" which kicks of the celebrations on Saturday 6 December there is a stunning programme of exciting events covering everything from theatre, art and design, music, fairs, spectaculars, dance, cinema and literature which continues for the remainder of 2003 and throughout the whole of 2004. There is something for everyone, whatever their age. With the fantastic shopping for which Lille is renowned, art galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and cafes there's loads of other things to do while enjoying what Lille 2004 has to offer.
Eurostar's Communications Director, Paul Charles, commented: "For visitors arriving on Eurostar at Lille Europe station, they can start experiencing what the city has to offer immediately. It is just a couple of minutes walk to EuraLille the modern shopping complex and only five to ten minutes walk to the city square, the Place du Général de Gaulle, and the older part of the city with its picturesque narrow streets and designer shops. Lille also boasts an efficient metro system and domestic train service which provides easy access to the rest of the region."
"Eurostar has put Lille on the map as one of the most popular tourist destinations for people living in London and the South East. Lille 2004 provides a great opportunity for UK residents to really maximise on a day out or a short break. And, with Eurostar fares from just £55 return and with up to nine services a day it has never been so quick, easy or affordable to visit this wonderful city."
Maison de la France's Director, Christain Lepage, commented: The UK market is the most important to France for tourism in terms of visitor numbers. It represents a safe accessible destination which offers tourists astonishing diversity in terms of landscape, culture, gastronomy and heritage. The key objectives for the development of the French tourism market are to increase visitor spend with valued-added products and to encourage off-season stays in order to have a better distribution of visitors throughout the year.
"Lille 2004, with its year-long programme of cutting edge events and with Eurostar providing such superb access these objectives are perfectly matched and we are confident that the exciting 12 months ahead will help France to retain its position as the world's most visited country in 2004", he added.