Provins is the most well preserved medieval town in central France situated around 90km from Paris and is great option for a day trip from the capital.
How to get there?
Take the SNCF ‘P’ line which starts from Gare de L’est. The ‘P’ line has many destinations choose the one which ends in Provins, the journey takes about 1.5hrs. The trains are modern and they run in intervals of 1 hr. If you have the Île-de-France pass then it is valid for the journey or you can buy return tickets from the SNCF ticket machine in Gare de L’est for 22€.
Provins was a wealthy trading town in the middle ages and there is no better place than the Musée de Provins to learn more about the rise and fall of Provins.
One can buy a 4 monument pass for 12€ which includes the Caesar tower, Le Grange aux dimes, les sou terrains and the museum.
The Caesar Tower is the most iconic remaining buildings of Provins. You can climb to the top of the tower for photos and wind down the narrow staircases back to the exit.
Les sou terrains meaning “the underground” was my favorite of the lot. There are a few guided tours in English (included in the 12€ package).Make sure you take note of the timings (ours started at 14:30). The underground caves where the medieval merchants stored their goods is made of limestone due to which the temperatures were 10°C even though outside it was scorching at over 30°C.
These caves are brilliantly maintained and some are still owned privately although most of it is available for public display. There are quite a few secrets to be explored which I wont explain as it is best experienced in person. Lets just say that a certain cult plied their trade here.
La Grange aux dîmes is the best place to learn about the rich trading history of Provins and its links with all over Europe including some of the best trade fairs that it used to host.
There is a free audio guide in English which includes 12 stops and explains in detail with some story telling of how goods were traded in the medieval times.
Château de la Reine Blanche is a fort which hosts many different events and shows all through the year. You need to buy tickets separately for that, the shows are not included in the 4 monument pass.
The entire city is walk-able, make sure to wear walking shoes.
Unfortunately the great plague killed over half the population of Provins and it could never climb back to its glory days. At its peak, Provins had 15000 inhabitants, mostly traders which was a lot for the medieval times. Today around 3000 people call Provins their home.
There are plenty of places to eat in the town center.There is also a McDonalds at the start of the town near the railway station but I would recommend eating at one of the restaurants inside the city. A nice Bagel meal can be had for around 10€
Provins is definitely a very well maintained medieval town, easy to reach and a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of Paris.
For Advanced Bookings and various events info visit: Provins 4 monument pass