The first known reference to Roubaix is on 9th century maps. At that time Roubaix belongs to the Tournai diocese. Roubaix then grows from a middle-sized town to become a major city under the reign of  during the 15th century. In the 19th century Roubaix becomes one of the textile world capitals, being even for a time the siege of the wool stock exchange (now in Australia). It then undergoes intense industrialization, with numerous factories spread over the city, leading to the nickname "the city with a thousand chimneys". Nowadays few signs of this industrial activity remain, but a few of these chimneys are still standing.
The Roubaix City Hall is a witness to the city's past prosperity. Its pediment is decorated by figures representing the various trades practiced in the town in the 19th century.