Provins is like a medieval town stuck in a timewarp. With its winding streets, its ancient buildings and its formidable fortress walls, it
Just like it always was,
While it can be a little tacky in places, as the city trades on its medieval heritage. Thus, parades of people dressed in period costumes is not uncommon, and in some places there is an overemphasis on mannequins. However, the town is a UNESCO world heritage site for a reason. There are some amazing buildings and sites to see.
What to see
The main tower which rises over the town of Provins is Caesar's Tower. Constructed in the 12th Century by the counts of Champagne, the tower is an outstanding example of the history of medieval architecture. The tower is imposing, although the inside is a little sparse but gives a good view over the city.
Underneath the town is a series of underground passages. While the specific history of the underground passages is unknown, graffiti from the 1800's shows that they were in use at this time. Guided tours can take you through the tunnels which were tunnels out to provide grease for local woolworks and also as storage for champagne fairs.
The Tithe barn, known to have been in use in the 1200's, is a large storage barn used as a market in the Fairs of Champange in the 13th Century. Examples of fair set-up using mannequins are a little kitschy but provide some sense of how the Tithe barn would have been used.
The Museum of Provins, housed in one of the oldest buildings in the town (which is saying something in Provins), houses a reasonable collection of medieval artifacts from Provins and the surrounding countryside. Spread across three levels, there is everything from stonework to religious vestments, from keys to cookware. Not a huge museum, but something for everyone inside.
Also worth a look is the Saint-Quiriace collegiate church, which was started in the 12th century, but never finished, the Franciscan Abbey, just outside the city walls and, of course, the no visit to the town of Provins would be completed without a walk around the 13th century ramparts which surround much of the city.
The tourist office has a great map for walking around Provins. It is located on Rue Saint-Jean just outside of the city at the Saint Jean gate. It is reasonably inconvenient if you are arriving by train. If you are arriving by train it is easier to access the old town by navigating your way to Place du General Leclerc, in the middle of the new city and following the pedestrian only street (Rue Saint Thibault) up into the old city
Provins also has a number of events and medivel shows on throughout the year. See the tourist office wesbite for more information.
There is some good eating to be had in Provins, however much of the food in the old part of the city is aimed at tourists. Try some of the nice spots in the new city on your way back to the train station.
Things to do
How to get there
The Transilien train leaves Paris from Gare d'Est. Because this is a regional/Transilien train, you cannot book on the SNCF website. You need to buy tickets at the station, using the GREEN machines.
The train takes 1 hour 30 minutes. It is a direct line from Paris.
Approximate Distance from Paris: 80km/49mi
Time to get there: 1 hour 30 minutes
Transport Method: Translien Train from Gare d'Est
Approximate Price: Train price is around 11.05 Euro
Worth: A full day
Website: http://www.provins.net/ (available in English).
Here is our trip report on our day trip to Provins.