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Paris – Provins Medieval Town: an Easy Day Trip from Paris

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09/21/20

Visit Provins, a Beautiful Medieval Town near Paris

Paris - Provins France

Looking for pretty small towns near Paris? Then consider Provins, one of the easiest day trips from Paris by train.

Provins, in the region of Ile-de-France, is one of the most beautiful medieval towns near Paris. Provins medieval town is well known for its medieval architecture and well-preserved walls, constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries.

Medieval Provins has an interesting history and heritage and there are many things to do in Provins. In addition, la Cité Médiévale de Provins (medieval city of Provins) hosts perhaps the best medieval fair in Europe – Les Médiévales de Provins -, an event that we recommend to see by yourself if you are around.

Provins is one of the most popular day trips from Paris. Click here for the list of best day trips from Paris

The History of Medieval Provins

Medieval Provins is a town located 70km south-east of Paris, well known for its medieval fairs. 

A long time ago, Provins was the capital of the powerful Counts of Champagne. Thanks to the Counts’ protection and Provins’ 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 11th and 13th centuries. While other European towns or city-fairs were always located close to a harbor, Provins’ location was very central, but in the middle of nowhere. 

Provins Medieval City

Provins’ medieval past is still palpable in the town, with its winding streets, and half-timbered houses.

Medieval Provins had an urban layout built specifically to host fairs and related activities. Merchants from all over Europe and the Orient came to Provins to do business in its busy streets and squares. Provins Medieval Fair was so important that the town became very prosperous and it was minting its own coinage, the “denier provinois” (Provins penny).

Top Things to Do in Provins Medieval Town

Here are the best things to do in Provins to enjoy a fantastic day trip Paris – Provins.

1. Provins Medieval Ramparts and Tour César

Provins Medieval Walls

In order to protect the town and its wealth, Provins got fortified. Provins’ ramparts were built between the 9th and 13th centuries, with different towers and fortified gates. Today we can still see 1,200 meters of the original ramparts and 22 towers.

Inside the walls, the Tour César (12th century) is the most emblematic symbol of the medieval city of Provins.

Legend says the tower was built by the same Julius Cesar (hence its name) but there’s no proof that the Romans were in Provins.

The Tour César was used as a keep and during some years also as a prison.

The Tour César’s architecture is quite interesting, with a square base that changes into an octagonal body on the upper floor. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy fantastic 360º views of the surrounding plains.

Tour Cesar Provins

2. Grange aux Dîmes and other Historical Buildings

Medieval Provins, France

Provins has 58 sites registered in the French inventory of Historical Buildings so the town can keep you busy for a while.

We recommend strolling around the winding streets of medieval Provins, with their beautiful architecture of timbered houses. We especially enjoyed La Grange aux Dîmes, an ancient covered market from the 13th century where different objects and mannequins show visitors how life and customs were in Provins medieval town during the medieval fairs. 

Medieval Architecture in Provins

3. Les Souterrains de Provins (Provins Underground Tunnels)

Provins Underground Town

Locals say that in Provins there is the Upper Town, the Lower Town . . . and the Underground Town. Les Souterrains de Provins (Provins’ Underground Tunnels) is the most unique part of medieval Provins. Under the street level, there are kilometers and kilometers of underground galleries, vaulted halls, and even crypts! But why?

In medieval Provins, all the houses had an underground part consisting (most of the time) of a beautiful vaulted hall usually built 3/4 below the ground level. This part of the house had independent access from the street and usually was rented to merchants to install their shops or warehouses during the medieval fairs.

The vast network of underground tunnels and passages is mainly from the 13th 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 center of production of these goods.

Provins Tourisme organizes different tours to visit part of these galleries (4.5€ adults and 3€ children under 12) but there is only one tour in English at 2.30 pm on Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays. Because the guided tour is limited to 25 people we recommend booking in advance here or at your arrival in the town.

TIP: If you are traveling on a budget, there’s a beautiful medieval bookshop (9, rue de Jouy) located in one of these typical underground vaulted rooms that you can see for free.

Les Médiévales de Provins, the Best Medieval Fair in France

Les Medievales de Provins Medieval Fair

During spring and summer but also during Christmas Provins organizes beautiful medieval fairs, just like in old times!

If you are visiting Paris in June, don’t miss Les Médiévales de Provins, perhaps the best medieval fair in France. During a whole weekend, people in Provins welcome visitors dressed in traditional costumes.

There are medieval markets and other activities and shows related to Provins’ glorious past. Also, live bands play medieval music in the main streets and squares. Les Médievales de Provins is a fun and colorful festival great for kids and adults.

Next Médiévales de Provins: TBD

Medieval Festival Provins
via Flick CC @Julien Magne

Paris – Provins by Train 

Paris to Provins by train is a very easy day trip. SNCF trains Paris – Provins – Paris leave from Gare de l’Est train station (1,5 hrs direct train, hourly).

If you have a Navigo Pass (5 zones), the ride Paris Provins is free on weekends and holidays.

When you arrive at Provins’ train station, there is a tourist shuttle bus waiting right at the exit of the station (4€ day ticket, 2.5€ single ride). This bus goes through the main sights located in the high town. We did not use this bus because we like walking and the sights are not that far from the station.

Where to Sleep in Provins

With such an interesting heritage and things to do in Provins, you 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 in Provins 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:

DEMEURE DES VIEUX BAINS

This beautiful and quiet hotel with an excellent location is set in a historical 12th century-building. Each of the 5 rooms available is unique and spacious and most of them have garden views.

Book with Booking.com | Book with Agoda


MAISON D’HÔTES STELLA CADENTE

This is a fantastic B&B accommodation located close to the Cesar Tower, a kind of château in Provins. The 19th century-building has 5 uniquely decorated guest rooms inspired by classic fairy-tale themes, designed by the fashion designer Stella Cadente.

Book with Booking.com | Book with Agoda


LE CÉSAR HOTEL PROVINS 

With the best possible location (right in the town center), modern facilities, and contemporary design, Le César Hôtel Provins has everything you need for a unique stay in Medieval Provins.

Book with Booking.com | Book with Agoda


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Where to Eat in Provins

Le Banquet des Troubadours: 14 rue Saint Thibault for a medieval meal in a medieval atmosphere

La P’tite Savoye: 11 rue de la Friperie proposing French cuisine (vegetarian-friendly) has always great reviews

Hostellerie de la Croix d’Or: this is the oldest hostellerie (hotel trade) in France, proposing good traditional French food

Click here for more Side Trips from Paris

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Some interesting articles in the blog

  • Plan your trip to Paris here
  • Learn about the Paris Districts here
  • Read Why We love Paris so much here

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Cover picture via Flickr CC @Guillaume Speurt


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  • 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! 🙂

    • 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 🙂

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

    What a beautiful blog! Thank you for your sharing!

  • 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 🙂

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

      I am sure you would love cute Provins, Megan 🙂

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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.

    • 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 😉

  • 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.

    • 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

  • 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!

    • 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 😉

  • 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.

    • 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 🙂

  • 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!

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

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

  • 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!

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

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

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

  • 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.

    • 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)

  • 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?

    • 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

  • 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.

    • 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 . . . 🙂

  • 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!

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

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

  • 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!

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

      Staying overnight must be beautiful, especially during summer time 🙂

  • 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.

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

      Thank YOU Kerri 🙂

  • 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!

    • 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!

  • 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.

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

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

  • Elena
    02/12/2017 at 9:38 am

    Wow, it looks really medieval!

  • 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!

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

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

  • 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. 🙂

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

      Cool to explore Paris bit by bit 🙂