This Vibrant French City With Cobblestone Streets Is A Budget Alternative To Paris

There's no doubt that Paris, France is a bucket list destination. With iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, the City of Light inspires creativity and wanderlust. Nevertheless, there is a downside: A trip to Paris will hurt your wallet. In 2024, Paris considerably hiked up its tourist tax on the city's lodging options. Moreover, visiting Paris' famed attractions can be costly. At the time of this writing, admission to the Louvre is more than $23, while a trip to Versailles will set you back more than $34, not including the train ride there and back.


If you want to save money and avoid possibly suffering from Paris Syndrome, there is another option: Lille. Located in Northern France, only an hour away from Paris via train, the city borders Belgium and was once part of Flanders. Similarly to Paris, Lille is a cultural hub with picturesque vistas. In Vieux-Lille, also known as Old Town, visitors will find cobblestone streets and Grand Place. This square (pictured) is home to architectural marvels like the Old Stock Exchange, which dates back to the 1600s.

Lille also has its share of noteworthy attractions. But unlike the City of Love, Lille won't break the bank. For instance, the Palais des Beaux-Arts houses works by Monet, Francisco Goya, and many more. The best part? Admission is under $10. However, this is only the beginning of the affordability Lille has to offer.


Purchase the City-Pass to get access to Lille's best attractions

If you want to get ​​more bang for your buck during your visit to Lille, consider a City Pass. To sum it up, it provides visitors with free admission to Lille's various attractions, like Palais des Beaux-Arts (pictured), for one low price. Transportation is also included. That said, visitors have a choice between a 24-hour, 48-hour, and 72-hour pass, all of which are under $50 at the time of this writing. Note that Paris offers a similar pass for a significantly higher price.


So, where else can you use your City Pass? Tourists can visit La Piscine, a stunning art museum known for its opulent Art Deco-era pool. It's located outside of Lille, less than 20 minutes away, in the city of Roubaix. La Piscine is open Tuesday through Sunday but hours vary. There's also the Lille Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, or LaM. Works by Pablo Picasso and other significant artists are on display. LaM is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Musée de l'Hospice Comtesse is a centuries-old former hospital with art and artifacts related to Lille's history. It's open Wednesday through Monday. Hours vary. Furthermore, the City Pass includes a sightseeing bus tour of Lille. The City Pass can be purchased online. It can be mailed for an extra fee or can be picked up at the Lille Tourist Office, located near Grand Place.


Economical accommodations in Lille

Although lodging in Paris is pricey, Lille has affordable options for travelers. If you are on a tight budget, opt for The People (seen in the TikTok above), a sleek hostel in Vieux-Lille. It offers private rooms, a villa, and shared dorms. There is also an onsite eatery, Le Gastama, which serves brunch, burgers, and more. Depending on your stay, you can find prices for a shared dorm for under $40 a night. Likewise, there are several Airbnbs available for under $100 a night.


If you're looking to have an inexpensive meal, check out Il Piccolino. The Italian eatery serves pasta and pizza. Top-rated on Tripadvisor, every item on the menu is under $30. Ready to pack your bags? You can fly to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and take the train to Lille. Tickets can be purchased on Rail Europe. If you're looking for something else to do during your time in Lille, you can take a border-busting day trip to London on the Eurostar. London is less than an hour and a half away from the city. If you enjoyed this story, check out myths about visiting France that are not rooted in reality.