Situated in Seine-et-Marne around 80km south-east of Paris, the fortified medieval town of Provins boasts an extraordinary architectural heritage.
In the Middle Ages it served as the economic capital of the Counts of Champagne and was one of the most famous towns in France, where major annual trade fairs were held that brought northern Europe into contact with the Mediterranean.
A total of 58 important monuments, buildings and residences earned Provins the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Justly proud of its history, today the town invites visitors for a stimulating exploration of its ancient underground tunnels and spectacular open-air shows.
Easily accessible for a day trip from Paris, Provins takes you right back to the era of lords and knights.
Must-sees in Provins
- The ramparts and fortified gates. The 1,200m-long upper walls of the town are its best preserved part, built between 1226 and 1314 with 22 towers of varying shapes
- The Caesar Tower, 12th-century dungeon and the town’s main icon. It offers an impressive panoramic view of the town and the surrounding Briard countryside, plus some engaging audiovisuals
- La Grange aux Dîmes, a former covered market offering a realistic reconstruction of the scenes that took place during the trade fairs
- The underground tunnels, a 10km network of passageways with 150 rooms from the Romanesque and Gothic periods, with graffiti giving clues as to their original uses
- Place du Châtel, a large rectangular square bordered by charming old mansions dating from the 13th and 15th centuries
- The Maison Romane, the town’s oldest civil building which houses its museum
- The collegiate church of Saint-Quiriace, built in the 12th century
- The Rose Garden, where the Provins rose is honoured (flowering in June) and more than 300 other varieties of ancient and modern roses are arranged thematically in a 3.5-hectare garden. There is also a shop and tearoom serving rose-flavoured specialities
The tourist office offers pass visites (valid for the Caesar Tower, La Grange aux Dimes, the underground galleries and the museum), guided tours, a tourist train and various historical shows on a medieval theme, namely:
- Les Aigles des Remparts (horses and falconry)
- La Légende des Chevaliers (‘The Legend of the Knights’, taking place on the ramparts)
- Au Temps des Remparts (an educational show on wartime artillery, at which visitors can learn all about the knights and their weapons)•Le Banquet des Troubadours (a medieval feast with acrobatics performed in a 20th-century vaulted room)
In addition to these seasonal shows, several annual events are also held in Provins:
- Son et Lumière, early June: a night-time show focused on the Middle Ages, put on by 300 local residents in costume
- Les Médiévales de Provins, mid-June: a medieval festival with street entertainment and a costume parade
- La Fête de la Moisson (Harvest Festival), last weekend of August: the only one of its kind that takes place in the village rather than in the fields, featuring a vast parade of wheat-decorated floats, folk dances, old-fashioned threshing, tractors and other old equipment
- Brie de Provins (cheese)
- Niflettes, little puff pastry cakes with crème pâtissière
- Provins is the capital of rose-flavoured confectionery – it produces rose-petal jam, rose-flavoured honey, rose candies and rose syrup
Getting to Provins
- By train: from Paris Gare de l'Est to Provins; Line P; one train every hour (free weekend and holiday travel with a Navigo pass)
- By car: Provins is 80km south-east of Paris
- By coach: regular return shuttles from Paris to Provins with ParisCityVision (excursions include town tours)