France Paris & Île-de-France

Day-Trip to Medieval Provins, Île-de-France

Tour César @ Provins, Île-de-France, France
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Provins is a well-preserved medieval town in the region of Île-de-France and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001.

Provins was one of six towns forming the circuit of the annual Champagne Fairs during the 12th and 13th centuries. These fairs served as important markets for textiles, leather, fur, spices and at their height, linked the cloth-producing cities of the Low Countries to the Italian exporting centers. You can still see the warehouses used for the fairs in that period.

Nowadays, Provins makes for an easy day-trip from Paris. You can reach it comfortably and cheaply with public transport in less than 1h30. And there's more than enough to keep you busy the entire day.

PROVINS

Cheat Sheet

  • starting/end-point: Paris
  • train tickets: included in Paris Visite, Navigo Passes and Mobilis (Zones 1-5). Don't buy single tickets!

Don't miss!

  • La Tour César
  • Les Souterrains
  • La Grange aux Dîmes
  • Porte Saint-Jean & Les Remparts
  • Église Saint-Quiriace

GETTING THERE

Transilien line P, from Paris Gare de l'Est

There are frequent direct connections between Paris Gare de l'Est and Provins. Don't buy outward and return tickets, as they turn out more expensive than the other options (€11.35 each way). See Paris 101 for details on the available passes.

Since Provins is within Zone 5, if you have a Paris Visite or Navigo Passes covering Zones 1-5, you don't need to purchase anything else. If you have a Navigo Pass for fewer zones, then you only need to load the complement shortly before use.

Lastly, if you don't have any passes, your best option is to purchase the Mobilis for unlimited travel within the Île-de-France, except special-price lines. The Mobilis for zones 1-5 cost €17.80 and found in all metro, RER and tram stations. Although it's the same price as the Navigo Jour, you won't have to purchase the rechargeable cards just for this.

ARRIVING

Gare @ Provins, Île-de-France, FranceProvins is formed by the Ville Haute and Ville Basse, the Upper and Lower Town, respectively. It's perfectly possible to go around on foot only. It's particularly advisable if you are interested in the equestrian show (which takes place in the afternoon) because it's the furthest point from the station.

However, if you really don't want or can't walk and visiting on weekends or holidays from mid-April to the end of August, there's the option of a minibus shuttle. It departs according to the arrivals from Paris and connects the rail station to the points of interest across the town.

The rates for the tourist shuttle are:

  • single journey: €2.50;
  • day pass: €4;
  • 10-ticket carnet: €20.

In this case, I suggest using it to get to the Ville Haute/Office du Tourisme stop and then making your way back down on foot and skip the equestrian show. You'll save a little money, but more importantly, time.

EXPLORING THE TOWN

Provins has several points of interest packed in a small area, so you can cover most, if not all, of them in one day:

TIP: PROVINS PASS

The Provins Pass gives you access to certain monuments at a discounted rate. They come in individual and family options:

For 3 monuments: Tour César, Grange aux Dîmes and Musée de Provins et du Provinois.

  • Adult: €8.90
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €6.10
  • Familie (2 adults + up to 5 children): €30

For 4 monuments: the ones above, plus Prieuré Saint-Ayoul.

  • Adult: €12
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €8.50
  • Familie (2 adults + up to 5 children): €35.50
PRIEURÉ SAINT-AYOUL (Saint-Ayoul Priory)

The architectural complex of the Prieuré Saint-Ayoul dates back to 996, with the discovery of relics attributed to Saint Ayoul. A chapel was built to hold his remains, and since this was an immensely religious period, it soon became a point of pilgrimage.

In the middle of the 11th century, Count Thibaut I of Champagne (1019-1089) decided to reform the premises since the chapel had become too small to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. It gives way to a more extensive project: a parish church and a priory of the Benedictines. The forecourt of the church hosted the first trade fairs in Provins. The building was partially destroyed by fire in 1157 and immediately rebuilt and remodeled many times until the 16th century.

Audio-guided visit:

  • Apr – Aug: daily, from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 6pm;
  • Aug – Nov: weekends, public holidays and bridges, from 10am to 6pm; weekdays from 2pm to 6pm;
  • Nov – Mar: weekends, public holidays, school holidays, from 2pm to 5pm;
  • Closed: Jan 1 and Dec25.

Prices:

  • Adult: €4.30
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €2.80
  • Included in the Provins Pass and Pass Familie
LES SOUTERRAINS DE PROVINS (The Undergrounds of Provins)

Many questions about the Souterrains de Provins still remain unanswered today. But thanks to historical cross-checks and various observations, certain hypotheses can be raised...

It's very likely that these underground passages were first exploited as a quarry to extract "fuller's earth". In the Middle Ages, Provins' specialty was woolen cloth, of very high quality and famed beyond the French borders. So this very special soil was used for the pressing of the sheets (cleaning and degreasing the wool.

Then, these spaces were exploited as refuges, warehouses during the Champagne Fairs or places of worship meetings, and undoubtedly by Freemasons, as attested by many old writings on the walls.

Tip: The temperature is constantly at 13°C, so it's a good idea to bring a scarf to cover yourself.

Guided visit only. See the schedule here.

Prices:

  • Adult: €4.50
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €3
  • Included in the Provins Pass and Pass Familie
LA COLLÉGIALE SAINT-QUIRIACE (Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church)

La Collégiale Saint-Quiriace @ Provins, Île-de-France, France, by TravelAfter5

The first reference made to the collegiate church is the text the privilege of Richer written in 1062. Between 1135 and 1157, a college of regular canons shared the building in disharmony with a college of secular canons. Henry the Liberal, Count of Champagne, decided to keep the secular canons on and undertook to build them a collegiate church of impressive proportions and architectural style. On August 3, 1429, King Charles VII, recently crowned, in the presence of Joan of Arc, attended mass in the middle of its courtyard and.

The decline of the Champagne Fairs put a stop to its constructions as early as the 14th century. The unadorned facades, the bays and rosettes, walled after a fire in the 17th century, strengthen the impression of solidity of the collegiate church. It remains unfinished to this day.

MUSÉE DE PROVINS ET DU PROVINOIS (Museum of Provins and of the Provinois)

The Musée de Provins et du Provinois is installed in one of the oldest civil buildings in Provins, called Maison Romane. Before entering the museum, notice the 12th-century façade.

Inside you will find collections from archaeological excavations carried out in Provins and its surroundings, ranging from pre-history to the 19th century, including the Renaissance period. It hosts vestiges of the treasure of Saint-Quiriace, sculptures and paintings, and even rare objects like a baby hatch, used to drop the orphans recovered from church doors.

Visiting Hours (last access 30min before closing):

  • Jan 11 – Feb 7: weekends, holidays, and school holidays, from 12 noon to 5.30pm;
  • Feb 8 – Jun 12: daily, from 12 noon to 5.30pm;
  • Jun 13 – Sep 13: daily, from 11am to 6.30pm;
  • Sep 14 – Nov 1: every day, from 12 noon to 5.30pm;
  • Nov 2 – Dec 20: weekends, holidays, and during school holidays, from 12 noon to 5.30pm;
  • Closed: Aug 23, and Dec 21 – Jan 8, 2021, inclusive.
  • Participant in the European Night of Museums (variable dates)

Prices:

  • Adult: €4
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €2
  • Included in the Provins Pass and Pass Familie
TOUR CÉSAR (César Tower)

The Tour César dates from the 12th century and is the symbol of medieval Provins. It served as a watchtower, but also as a refuge and prison. Prisoners were locked in the turrets and the dungeons, narrow and sometimes plunged in total darkness... Now it houses the bells of the Saint-Quiriace Collegiate Church and always rings twice: 5 minutes before and at the hour.

Before reaching the sumptuous 17th-century structure, you will pass through the guards' room, the so-called "Governor's Room", very luxurious with its fireplace and private latrines! After climbing all floors, you can enjoy the views of the whole Provins and its surroundings.

Visiting Hours (last access 15min before closing):

  • Jan – Mar: weekends, from 11am to 5pm; weekdays, from 2pm to 5pm;
  • Apr – Oct: daily, from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm;
  • Nov – Dec: weekends and holidays, from 11am to 5pm; weekdays from 2pm to 5pm;
  • Dec 12 and 13: Christmas in Provins, from 11am to 6pm;
  • Closed: Jan 1 and Dec 25.

Prices:

  • Adult: €4.30
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €2.80
  • Included in the Provins Pass and Pass Familie
LA GRANGE AUX DÎMES DE PROVINS (Tithe Barn)

La Grange aux Dîmes houses a scene representing the merchants and traders of the Middle Ages: merchants, the money changer, the public notary, the potter, the stonemason, and more.

This stone house is typical of Provins architecture from the 12th and 13th centuries. The lower room served as a warehouse, the first floor as a shop, and the upper floor as a dwelling. Much later in the 17th century, it has been used as a warehouse for tithing — taxes on crops — hence its current name.

Audio-guided visit (last access 15min before closing):

  • Jan – Mar: weekends, holidays and school holidays, from 2pm to 5pm;
  • Abr – Aug: daily, from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 6pm;
  • Set – Oct: weekends and holidays, from 10am to 6pm; weekdays from 2pm to 6pm;
  • Nov – Dec: weekends, holidays and school holidays, from 2pm to 5pm;
  • Dec 12 and 13: Christmas in Provins, from 11am to 5pm;
  • Closed: Jan 1 and Dec 25.

Prices:

  • Adult: €4.30
  • Child (4–12 y.o.): €2.80
  • Included in the Provins Pass and Pass Familie
PORTE SAINT-JEAN & LES REMPARTS (Saint John's Gate & The Ramparts)

Once you pass the Tourist Office, the road leads you straight to Porte Saint-Jean & Les Remparts de Provins, one of the 2 remaining fortified gates, with Porte de Jouy. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the ramparts are 25m high, and back then, stretched over 5km, one of the most imposing fortified enclosures in France.

Today, there are still 1.2km around the Ville Haute. As in most cities, the missing part was used to build or rebuild houses. We can, however, still imagine the complete route thanks to Allées d'Aligre, a popular promenade boulevard in Provins.

MAISON DU BOURREAU (The Executioner's House)

Coming from a long dynasty of executioners, Charles-Henri Sanson, known as Sanson the Great, was a royal executor under Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI. When the monarchy fell, he led Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette to the scaffold.

The Sanson family settled in the region in 1754, in a house built on the base of the manor of the fief of Thumery (Seine-et-Marne), still called today "the house of the executioner", at the entrance to the town.

LA ROSERAIE (Rose Garden of Provins)

This one is self-explanatory 😉 This rose garden features more than 450 varieties and the most famous is the Rosa Gallica Officinalis, also called Rose de Provins, brought back to Provins by Thibaud IV of Champagne returning from crusade.

Visiting hours (may vary according to season and events):

  • Working days: from 10am to 7.30pm;
  • Weekends, from 10am to 6pm.

Prices:

  • Spring/Summer: €7
  • Fall/Winter: €4.50
  • Child (0–12 y.o.): free
  • Discounted for holders of Provins Pass and Pass Familie: €6.50

EATING

It's been many years since my visit and I don't even remember what I did for food... That said, if I have a chance to return, I will give the thematical Banquet des Troubadours a try, just for the novelty, not for good cuisine necessarily ????

Closing up...

As you can see from this huge post, there's more than enough to fill up your entire day.

If you've never been, I hope this post has inspired you to plan a day-trip to medieval Provins. If you've already been, how did you find it? What was your favorite part? Any other tips?

Comment below and let me know!

 

See also:

Paris 101: Arriving & Getting Around

Trains in Europe: Get The Best Deals

 

Pin this post and happy travels!

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