One of France’s largest and most underrated cities
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Lille, located in northern France near the border with Belgium, is the capital of the Hauts-de-France Region and of French Flanders. The city has long been known as a major center of coal and textiles, but over the past half-century it has transformed itself into one better known for education, transportation and technology. A hub for both high-speed rail and France’s highway network, Lille lies at the center of a triangle formed by the cities of Paris, London and Brussels and is easy to reach from all three capitals.
Culture, History, and Business
According to legend, Lille was founded in 640, although archaeological evidence shows the area was inhabited by humans since about 2000 BC. During the Middle Ages, the city gained a reputation for the quality of its cloth, a reputation that holds even to this day. Throughout its history, Lille has been the site of many battles, with Vikings, Normans, English, Dutch, Austrians, and Germans all laying claim to the city at one point. Despite this, it grew into a major urban center during the Industrial Revolution, thanks to the large coal deposits nearby. However, it suffered heavily during both World War I and II when it was besieged and occupied by German troops.
The loss of Lille’s traditional industries, including coal and textiles, in the latter half of the 20th century left the city with a struggling economy. However, it has since bounced back. The construction of both the Eurostar and France’s high-speed TGV railway have made Lille one of the most important centers for trade and transportation in Europe. Additionally, its strong education sector has resulted in many technology firms—especially in the biosciences—relocating to the city.
Real Estate Appeal
Lille is still highly underrated by many investors and real estate prices are well below what one would find in other French cities. However, things are beginning to change with investors from both nearby Paris and abroad realizing the city holds considerable potential at only a fraction of the price one would spend elsewhere.
Rental demand in Lille is especially strong. This is due to the city having one of the largest student populations in France at 110,000. Furthermore, because it is a major transportation hub and has a well-preserved historic center, Lille is an important tourist destination. That makes it attractive to short-term rental investors who cater to tourists.
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