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I had no idea before I arrived in Provins France, a medieval town and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just how outstanding it would be!
Nestled in the picturesque countryside of France, the ancient town of Provins is like a living postcard, a place where history and beauty intersect. From the towering walls of its fortifications to the crooked half-timbered houses, Provins exudes a palpable sense of history and tradition.
Wander through its winding streets and marvel at its stunning architecture. Provins truly is a gem of a town.
How Far Is Provins From Paris?
Provins is located approximately 56 miles (90 kilometres) southeast of Paris, in the Île-de-France region of France.
How To Get To Provins France From Paris
Paris To Provins By Train:
Take the SNCF Transilien Line P from Gare de L’Est to Provins. The journey is about one hour and 25 minutes. The return trip from Paris to Provins will cost about 22€. If you have the Navigo Pass which covers 5 zones, this will work for Paris to Provins train tickets.
From the train station in Provins, a minibus will take you to the medieval town. Alternately, it is about a ten-minute walk, mostly uphill, following the pedestrian signs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Paris To Provins France By Car:
The route by car from Paris to Provins France takes the same time as the train (one hour and 25 minutes). Take the N4 highway and then follow D231 to Provins. Driving in and around Paris, be sure to know your route and/or have a good navigator!
The Provins Tourist Office has a large car park with paid parking. Or, park outside the fortified wall and walked into the medieval centre of Provins.
Provins France Travel Tip:
It is simpler to take the train than rent a car to get from Paris to Provins. If, you are planning a road trip around France and including Provins on the itinerary, click here to rent your car.
Hotels in Provins France
It is true that Provins makes a perfect day trip from France but staying overnight would allow for a more relaxed pace of visit. Here is where to stay in Provins. This hotel has excellent ratings as does this hotel situated in a half-timbered house.
History of Provins France
I am discovering during my years of living in France that there is a story behind absolutely EVERYTHING. So what indeed is the story behind Provins France?
Provins France is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in France with its ramparts and city walls, built between the 11th century and the 13th century. Its rich past dates back to the Middle Ages when the town was a vital centre for trade and commerce. Have you heard of the Counts of Champagne?
Provins France was the economic capital of the Counts of Champagne. Its strategic position made it a centre for trading fairs drawing merchants from all over Europe in the XI and XII centuries. Provins became a wealthy centre with its speciality in trading wool and was one of the most well-known towns in France.
17 Best Reasons To Visit Provins France
1. Wander The Upper Town And The Lower Town In Provins France
Enter Provins France through one of the towering gates and meander down the cobblestone streets past the ancient half-timbered buildings. For me, there is a calmness and innate curiosity that comes from wandering along the same streets as the wool merchants from centuries ago.
2. Delight In The Rose Garden
Roses abound in Provins France. All colours. Hundreds of types. The scent carries you along, inviting you to discover The Rose Garden (La Roseraie de Provins). Here you can relax in the tea room and wander the glorious gardens.
3. Stop By The Saint-Ayoul Priory In Provins
The Saint-Ayoul Priory in Provins France is a stunning example of Romanesque architecture and a key historical site in the town. Founded in the 11th century, the priory was built as a monastic complex for Benedictine monks and served as an important centre of religious and cultural life in the region.
Finally acquired by the town of Provins in 2003, it took over 15 years to renovate. Today, the priory’s impressive stone walls, and elegant arches, are captivating. There are frescoes, a medieval garden, the “Chapel of the Benedictines,” and stunning stained glass windows to observe. The Saint-Ayoul Priory is an essential stop on a visit to Provins.
4. Sit In Place du Châtel In Provins France
The old well, the simple cross, and the charming ancient buildings that surround this main square of Provins France make it the perfect place to sit awhile. Better yet, grab a galette from Brittany (there are two such restaurants) and a glass of champagne (you are close to Champagne country, after all) and picnic in Place du Châtel imagining the trading that would have occurred here years ago.
5. Walk The Ramparts In Provins France
Be sure to climb the stairs by the fortified gate of Porte Saint-Jean and walk the parts of the ramparts that still exist and are accessible. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the ramparts were five kilometres long and 25 metres high. The views are wonderful and once again it doesn’t take much to spark your imagination around how they were once used.
Be sure to wander down into the moat area which gives a different perspective of the ramparts.
6. Visit Tour César (Caesar’s Tower)
Le Tour César a fortified tower from the 12th century, looms over Provins France with its unmistakable square base, octagonal tower and a pyramid-shaped roof. Over the centuries, Le Tour César has been used as a prison and a lookout tower.
Since 1693, Le Tour César has served as the bell tower for Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church.
Climb the tower for sweeping views over Provins and the countryside.
7. Explore Collégiale Saint-Quiriace
Saint-Quiriace collegiate church from the 12th century is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Classic styles. The nave of the church was to extend all the way to the cross that is shown in the photograph. But with the decline of the Champagne trading fairs, the construction of the church was stopped. Both the exterior and the interior of the church are unfinished. There is a bricked-up rose window and the façades are unadorned.
Joan of Arc attended mass here in 1429, a momentous event in the town’s history and the wider story of the Hundred Years’ War. In 1429. Joan of Arc visited Provins during her campaign to drive the English from France. Today, visitors to Provins can visit the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church and imagine the awe-inspiring sight of Joan of Arc attending Mass and inspiring her followers to continue the fight for French independence.
8. Tour The Underground Tunnels In Provins France
Hidden under the houses and winding medieval streets of Provins are kilometres of vaulted tunnels and passageways. The tours of the underground tunnels (Les Souterrains de Provins) are very popular. Be sure to book in advance and look specifically for the tours in English.
9. Visit The Tithe Barn Of Provins
A visit to the Tithe Barn is a must for anyone interested in medieval history and architecture. The displays recount the different merchants and activities that took place in the medieval town of Provins. With the audio guide, you will gain an understanding of the Fairs of Champagne.
10. Provins France | See Maison Romane
The Maison Romane, or Romanesque House, is one of the oldest buildings in Provins, hailing from the 11th century. Housed in this ancient building is the Museum of Provins, full of interesting artefacts that recount the history of Provins and the area.
11. Visit The Tithe Barn Of Provins
A visit to the Tithe Barn is a must for anyone interested in medieval history, and architecture. The displays recount the different merchants and activities that took place in the medieval town of Provins. With the audio guide, you will gain an understanding of the Fairs of Champagne.
12. Walk Under Tour Notre Dame du Val
The Tower of Notre Dame du Val is a 16th-century bell tower and all that remains of the church and cloister of Notre Dame du Val. The church and cloister were destroyed during the French Revolution. You can’t miss this impressive, soaring tower in the lower town of Provins France.
13. Find The Medieval Bookstore In Provins France
Le Roi Lire is a bookstore specializing in the Middle Ages. If this is an area of interest for you, you will be in paradise browsing the 5000 titles available. The bonus? The bookstore is set in one of the underground vaulted rooms!
14. Attend The Annual Provins Medieval Festival
The annual Medieval Festival in Provins, France is a lively celebration of the town’s rich medieval heritage. Held every year in June, the festival takes place throughout the town, with costumed performers, musicians, and street vendors bringing the medieval era to life. Visitors can watch jousting tournaments, marvel at the skills of falconers and archers, and enjoy traditional music and dance performances.
The Medieval Festival in Provins is a highlight of the town’s cultural calendar and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the Middle Ages.
The 38th Annual Medieval Festival (Les Médiéveles de Provins) takes place on June 10 and 11, 2023.
15. See Provins Illuminated By Candlelight
On the evenings of July 1 and August 5, 2023 Provins France will be illuminated by candlelight. Some of the highlights include the César Tower aglow with more than 700 candles, music in the streets, and an equestrian show in the moat. Definitely, an event not to be missed.
16. Savour The Specialty Of Provins France
Niflettes. Have you heard of niflettes? These small tarts are unique to Provins France and the surrounding area of Seine-et-Marne. This deluxe Provins France speciality is a puff pastry tart filled with pastry cream, sometimes flavoured with orange blossom. Mmmm!
These little tarts have been around in Provins since the Middle Ages and are part of the city’s culinary heritage. Each year, thousands of niflettes are sold in the pâtisseries in this medieval city. What an enduring tradition!
Head to Provins France to enjoy a niflette. How about you get a dozen with a 13th to top up the order?!
When To Eat Niflettes In Provins France:
The time to dive into this deluxe tart is the two weeks preceding All Saints’ Day on November 1 and the two weeks after. This year, on November 11, 2023, there is a Niflette Celebration – a Féte! Head to Provins to see contests, workshops on how to make them and of course… sample, sample, sample.
17. Plan A Visit To The Christmas Market In Provins
There are many fabulous Christmas markets in France. Paris, itself, has many Christmas markets. The Provins Christmas Market takes visitors back in time with its charming atmosphere and festive decorations. The Provins Christmas Market is the perfect way to see how the villagers lived in the Middle Ages. You will find jugglers, minstrels, and vendors selling handmade crafts, gifts, and delicious treats. Don’t miss the Medieval Ball which adds to the festive ambience.
The Christmas Market In Provins happens only for one weekend a year. Find the Christmas Market on December 9 and 10, 2023.
Provins France: Travel Tips
The Provins Pass, valid for one year, is a pass that includes entrance into 5 paying monuments – the Tour César, the Tithe Barn, the Underground Galleries, the Saint Ayoul Prioiry, and the Museum. Cost: 15€
It is easy to see why Provins France was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. There is an antique treasure at every turn pulling you into the life and times of centuries past.
There are many outstanding reasons to visit Provins France on a day trip from Paris. Or, for longer. Wouldn’t you agree?
Until next time,
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