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Provins Medieval Town : an easy day trip from Paris

A LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY

Provins is a smiling medieval town 70km south east of Paris, well known for its medieval fairs. Long time ago it was the capital of the powerful Counts of Champagne. Thanks to the counts’ protection and its strategic position the town became one of the main actors of the early development of international trade fairs and the wool industry in Europe, during the XIth and XIIIth centuries. While other European city-fairs were always located close to a harbor, Provins’ location was be very central, yes, but in the middle of nowhere. 

provins medieval town

Provins had a urban structure built specifically to host fairs and related activities. Merchants from all Europe and the Orient came to Provins to do business in its busy streets and squares. The town was so prosperous that it even minted its own coinage, the “denier provinois” (Provins’ penny). We especially enjoyed the medieval architecture around the town’s squares. All those years of history are still palpable in its winding streets.

via flickr CC @Guillaume Speurt

PROVINS WAS A FORTIFIED TOWN

In order to protect the town and its wealth Provins got fortified. Provins’ ramparts were built between IXth and XIIIth centuries, with different towers and fortified gates. Today we can still see 1.200 metres of the original ramparts and 22 towers.  From the Tour César (XIIth century), the most iconic tower and the town’s symbol, you can enjoy fantastic 360º views.

provins medieval town

provins medieval town

What else? Provins has 58 structures registered in the French inventory of Historical Buildings so the town can keep you busy for a while. We enjoyed especially La Grange aux Dîmes, an ancient covered market from the XIIIth century where different objects and mannequins show visitors how was life and customs during the Medieval fairs.

THE UNDERGROUND TOWN

People say that in Provins there is the Upper Town, the Lower Town . . . and the Underground Town. And it is true because under the street level there are kilometres and kilometres of subterranean galleries, vaulted halls and even crypts! How come? In old Provins all houses had an underground part consisting (most of the times) of a beautiful vaulted hall usually built 3/4 below the ground level. This part of the house had an independent access to the street and usually was rented to merchants to install their shops or warehouses during fair time.

provins medieval town

The vast network of underground passages is mainly from the XIII th century. These galleries are divided into three categories:
-civil passages used for people’s communication or shelter
-military passages used as warehouses
-private passages to store sheets and woolen clothes warehouses, when Provins was an important centre of production of these goods

Today you can visit part of these galleries (about 250 m) with a guided tour (4,5€). Groups leave from le Palais des Comtesses, on the way to the Tour César. There are different tours during the day but there is only one tour in English so try to book in advance here or at your arrival to the town. If you are traveling on a budget and don’t want to spend this money there is a nice medieval bookshop located in one of this typical underground vaulted rooms (9, rue de Jouy). It’s another way to see how houses looked like centuries ago.

MEDIEVAL FESTIVALS IN PROVINS MEDIEVAL TOWN

During spring and summer but also during Christmas Provins organises Medieval Festivals, welcoming visitors with hosts dressed in traditional costume, lively bands playing, and a range of exciting events for adults and kids.

If you are visiting the area in June, don’t miss Les Médiévales de Provins festival. This great Medieval Festival is one of the most important in Europe. Next dates are 24th and 25th June 2017.

provins medieval town via flick CC @Julien Magne

WHERE TO SLEEP

With such an interesting heritage some may think that one day is not enough to visit Provins and well, we agree! At nightfall in summer, a thousand candles light the streets and musicians are on every corner so staying overnight is more than recommended. Unfortunately Provins has a lack of budget accommodation but there are cute little hotels in the Upper Town for reasonable prices, especially if you book in advance. Here are our favorite proposals:

Provins Medieval TownDEMEURE DES VIEUX BAINS – MID RANGE STAY (100-200€ PER NIGHT)

A B&B accommodation in a historical XIIth century building surrounded by beautiful gardens. Quiet hotel with excellent location. Each of the 5 rooms available is unique and spacious and most of them have garden views.

Check the hotel’s latest offers


Provins Medieval Town

MAISON D’HÔTES STELLA CADENTE – MID RANGE STAY (100-200€ PER NIGHT)

This is a fantastic B&B accommodation located close to the César Tower. The XIXth century building has 5 uniquely decorated guest rooms inspired by classic fairy-tale themes, everything designed by the fashion designer Stella Cadente.

Check the hotel’s latest offers


Provins Medieval Town

LE CÉSAR HOTEL – LUXURY STAY (200€+ PER NIGHT) 

With the best possible location (right of the town’s centre), modern facilities and a contemporary design, Le César Hôtel has everything you need for a unique stay in Provins. The beautiful rooms have views to the church or the town.

Check the hotel’s latest offers


HOW TO REACH PROVINS FROM PARIS

Provins is in Seine et Marne Department. SNCF trains to Provins leave from Gare de l’Est train station (1,5 hrs direct train). If you have a Navigo Pass 5 zones the ride is free on weekends and holidays. When you arrive to Provins’ train station there is a “tourist line” shuttle waiting right at the exit of the station. This bus goes through the main sights located in the high town (4€ daily ticket, 2.5€ single ticket). These sights are not that far from the station so you don’t really need this service if you like walking.

 

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43 Comments

  • Reply
    Eastern Promise - The Barts Go Adventuring!
    07/31/2017 at 9:43 am

    […] and one found us in the town of Quedlinburg which apparently was a UNESCO town.  There are so many medieval towns in Europe that it’s probably really hard to miss them!   Anyway, I do like to tick off nice UNESCO […]

  • Reply
    Lolo
    04/23/2017 at 8:32 pm

    oooh what a cute town! Thanks for pinning it to my half-timbered pinterest board! LOVE LOVE LOVE half-timbered towns! 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      04/25/2017 at 8:48 pm

      Ok, if I find other half timbered towns I will make sure to drop a nice pin on your collection 🙂

  • Reply
    Alejandro
    03/16/2017 at 11:29 am

    What a beautiful blog! Thank you for your sharing!

  • Reply
    Megan Jerrard
    03/01/2017 at 8:19 am

    Provins Medieval town sounds fantastic! I hadn’t heard of it before, though I would love to organize a day trip the next time we’re in Paris. And hopefully plan the trip to coincide with a festival, because that looks so much fun! I love that there’s so much history and culture in such a small town 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/01/2017 at 8:29 pm

      I am sure you would love cute Provins, Megan 🙂

  • Reply
    Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie
    02/28/2017 at 5:25 am

    I can perfectly picture the fair and market in the main square with all the merchants trying to sell their goods. Provins is straight from medieval times! The tower and the ramparts look to be in great shape for their age. I’d love to make a day for Provins next time I’m in Paris.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/01/2017 at 8:32 pm

      Now you know how to reach Provins and how to get the most out of this beautiful town. Hope you will make to visit it, one day

  • Reply
    Eric || The Bucket List Project
    02/27/2017 at 8:38 pm

    what a cool city. When I saw the ramparts (giant wall) I was kind of amazed until I saw you can spend the day discovering the underground! Amazing! To walk around those crypts would be creepy but the history of them is interesting I am sure. I was going to say that a day trip may not be enough! I would want to spend a long weekend there or something.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/27/2017 at 10:28 pm

      Indeed! That’s why I added a couple of hotel suggestions at the end of the post 😉

  • Reply
    Jo
    02/27/2017 at 6:28 am

    Oh wow i really wish i had read this before my trip to Paris. I love the pictures of the underground town..so cool. Its an easy trip as well to DIY. Saved for future.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/01/2017 at 8:39 pm

      well, Paris is always a good idea so I am sure there will be other opportunities for you to visit Paris

  • Reply
    Drew
    02/26/2017 at 8:58 pm

    How I have never heard of Provins! Looks really fun and interesting, especially since it is so close to Paris and easy to do in a day trip. Love diving deep into European history, so this is right up my alley!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/26/2017 at 11:11 pm

      Now that you know, let an empty space in your plan when you come again to Paris 😉

  • Reply
    Indrani
    02/26/2017 at 11:50 am

    Provins is a wonderful day tour from Paris. I did it and have some good pics from the place. Never got around to blogging on it. The walls there, so might and strong, very impressive.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/26/2017 at 3:29 pm

      Oh cool that you had the chance to visit (and enjoy) Provins! Not many people know about it 🙂

  • Reply
    Travelling Tom
    02/25/2017 at 11:28 pm

    This looks like my kinda place! I love the buildings and the architecture, plus the Underground Town would be amazing to explore! I’d never heard of this place before I read this, thanks for bringing it o my attention!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/01/2017 at 8:40 pm

      You are welcome, Tom. Yes the underground part is very exiting to explore 🙂

  • Reply
    Hugo Cura
    02/25/2017 at 11:06 pm

    Provins is a gem of a town. I visited a couple of years back and really enjoyed spending a few hours exploring the historical medieval center.

    Great day trip from Paris!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      03/01/2017 at 8:41 pm

      So happy that you made it to Provins! As you can read, most of our readers are just discovering it . . . Glad to know that you liked it 🙂

  • Reply
    Anne
    02/25/2017 at 1:00 pm

    Omg how cute. Who would have thought something so cute could be so near Paris. It reminds me of Alsace. Definitely now want to head back to Paris.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/25/2017 at 7:55 pm

      Anne I think this is a place you definitely want to explore 😉

  • Reply
    melody pittman
    02/14/2017 at 2:33 pm

    I love medieval towns so I know I would enjoy Provins a lot. How far is it from Brittany region? I love the architecture and the history here. Thanks for sharing such a unique place.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/14/2017 at 11:15 pm

      Provins is 70km East from Paris, so Brittany gets further. Provins- Brest is 650km by car (according to M. Google)

  • Reply
    Eemma
    02/14/2017 at 6:24 am

    What a unique little town with lots of history. The underground town is so cool! Do they still use it today or just give tours of it?

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/14/2017 at 11:18 pm

      I think that apart from those that you visit during the guide, owners still use the underground vaults (some with beautiful shops). I don’t think they can use the galleries though

  • Reply
    Marge
    02/14/2017 at 12:08 am

    It’s so nice to know a little bit of history behind a beautiful place as Provins. This is the first time I have heard of this place and already I am in love with it. I love the history that you shared, I love the vintage feel of it, and I am very impressed with the tall gates of Tour Cesar. I would also love to check out the Underground Town. It’s so mysterious and beautiful.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/15/2017 at 10:26 pm

      Thanks for your comment Marge. I am sure that you would enjoy this little gem a lot. Maybe someday . . . 🙂

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    02/13/2017 at 10:44 pm

    Wow, what stunning medieval architecture – the buildings, walls and underground passages! Would love to see those – I’ll bear it in mind next time I’m in Paris!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/15/2017 at 10:27 pm

      I am sure you will enjoy it! Thanks for dropping by . . 🙂

  • Reply
    Lara Dunning
    02/13/2017 at 7:48 am

    I’ve never heard of this town and it sounds really charming with all the things I like to experience. I’d want to stay overnight so I appreciate the lodging tips! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/13/2017 at 10:35 pm

      Staying overnight must be beautiful, especially during summer time 🙂

  • Reply
    Kerri
    02/13/2017 at 12:29 am

    You’ve highlighted a great town here Elisa. How could I have missed this one. I’ve probably driven past it a number of towns. I love the half timbered houses and anything with ramparts is always great….but the underground town – wow ! Definitely putting this one on my list for the next time we are back over there. Just gorgeous.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/13/2017 at 10:36 pm

      Thank YOU Kerri 🙂

  • Reply
    Brianna
    02/12/2017 at 7:28 pm

    This is straight out of a fairytale! I love this town and the underground bits look like so much fun to explore!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/12/2017 at 11:21 pm

      Yes, the town is beautiful but the underground galleries and vaulted halls is my favourite part. So unique!

  • Reply
    Nic
    02/12/2017 at 11:14 am

    This is just perfect, what a beautiful place. I have only been to Paris but it is this region, with the wonderful Medieval buildings that I would love to visit next time. Lovely photos.

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/12/2017 at 11:25 pm

      Thanks for your comment Nic! Yes, Ile de France province deserves a little detour 😉

  • Reply
    Elena
    02/12/2017 at 9:38 am

    Wow, it looks really medieval!

  • Reply
    Revati Victor
    02/11/2017 at 1:44 pm

    This is so fascinating! Having discovered a few Medieval towns in Italy recently, I’m definitely intrigued by Provins! Wish I’d known about it when I was in Paris over the summer. PS: I’ve also just discovered your blog, and I’m absolutely in LOVE with it!

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/14/2017 at 11:21 pm

      So cuuute! Thanks for the blog-love, cheers from Paris 🙂

  • Reply
    Mihaela Lica Butler
    02/11/2017 at 12:22 pm

    A gorgeous town, Elisa. Maybe one day we’ll visit. We travel to Paris quite often on business. If we can get a weekend off this summer, we’ll try to see your home. 🙂

    • Reply
      WorldInParis
      02/14/2017 at 9:02 pm

      Cool to explore Paris bit by bit 🙂

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