Discover the medieval town of Provins

  • History & culture
  • France
  • 5 min read
Discover the medieval town of Provins

For lovers of architectural heritage, Provins is a medieval jewel you must see to believe.

Around 80km south-east of Paris, the fortified medieval town of Provins is a treasure trove of history, especially when it comes to the architecture. Easily accessible for a day trip from the capital, you can step back in time to the era of lords and knights, but with all the modern comforts a French town can offer.

Driving to Provins from our Calais terminal

A drive to Provins will take around 3 hours and 39 minutes (covering 356.4 km) from Calais, via the A26 and A1. It’s 80km south-east of Paris, which means you could plan a stop in the capital if you have time.

Other stops you can make include Arras and Compiegne via the A1 and Boulogne-sur-Mer and Abbeville via the A16. You’re also only an hour and a half from Versailles for another historical trip.

Provins is within the Île-de-France region in north-central France which surrounds Paris. This means you can also easily travel to Forêt domaniale de Montmorency for some fresh air and nature, or Fountainbleau for an active break.

large wood timbered houses on a small cobbled street with a shop and market stall in the foreground

The history of Provins

In the Middle Ages Provins served as the economic capital of the Counts of Champagne and was one of the most famous towns in France. Annual trade fairs were held that brought northern Europe into contact with the Mediterranean and helped share Provins own export of rose-infused confectionary with the world. It was also a prosperous wool centre.

In the early 14th century, plague, war, and the rise in sea trade meant the town’s prosperity declined, but instead of being rebuilt and modernised, Provins many medieval buildings were allowed to remain. Today you can visit 58 important monuments, buildings and, residences that earned Provins the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

Large stone gateway with an arched entrance part of a medieval stone wall

Top attractions in Provins

As with any visit to a new place, plan to see the top sites to make the most of the scenery and culture.

The ramparts and fortified gates

The 1,200m-long upper walls of the town are excellently preserved, built between 1226 and 1314 with 22 towers of varying shapes. The two gates loom skywards and really set the tone for the rest of the town’s features.

Large stone tower rising high into the blue sky with stone walls and greenery surrounding it

The Caesar Tower

The Caesar Tower is a 12th-century dungeon, offering an impressive panoramic view of the town and the surrounding Briard countryside. If you prefer to avoid heights, you can visit the underground galleries where inscriptions on their walls tell the evolving story of the town above.

La Grange aux Dîmes

This former covered market offers a realistic reconstruction of the scenes that took place during the trade fairs that made the town famous. Stroll the stalls and explore the barn to soak up the history.

The underground tunnels

An exciting place to visit this is a 10km network of passageways with 150 rooms from the Romanesque and Gothic periods. There are two sets of tunnels, the first set was most likely used to store food. The second set are much older, possibly as far back as the Bronze and Iron ages. No one is truly sure what they might have been used for although you can see graffiti on the walls giving clues as to their original uses.

Place du Châtel

This town square is bordered by charming old mansions dating from the 13th and 15th centuries. It’s a lovely place to sit with a hot drink and marvel at the pretty surroundings, or you can shop for a selection of local cheeses and ciders as well as handmade crafts typical of the Middle Ages in the stores around the square.

The Maison Romane

This is the town’s oldest civil building which also houses the museum of Provins and Provinois. Stop by to see exhibits about the town’s history and see the roof which was declared an historical monument in 1941.

Inside a large ornate church with Gothic and medieval influences in the archways and stained-glass windows

The collegiate church of Saint-Quiriace

One of numerous religious monuments, this is possibly one of the more unusual and symbolises the town’s changing economic status. Started in the 12th century, it was added to in the 17th but never quite completed. 

The Rose Garden

The famous ‘Rosa Gallica Officinalis’, known as the ‘Rose of Provins’, was brought back to the town by Thibaud IV of Champagne upon his return from the Crusades. This beautiful garden celebrates this and 300 other varieties of ancient and modern roses, arranged thematically in a 3.5-hectare garden. There is also a shop and tearoom serving rose-flavoured specialities. The best time to visit is in June when the roses are in full bloom.

a festival with many tents and exhibits set up around a large stone wall with ramparts and towers

Popular events in Provins

Check before you travel as Provins hosts some wonderful festivals and events throughout the year that are well worth seeing.

Son et Lumière

This spectacular night-time light and sound show celebrates the culture of the Middle Ages and is put on by around 300 residents in costume. It takes place in the gardens of the Cordelières convent, showing scenes of everyday life among peasants and bourgeois.

Les Médiévales de Provins

Held early each summer, the town’s biggest attraction is its weekend-long medieval fair. This is a medieval festival with street entertainment and a costume parade. Dancing, battle re-enactments, feasts, music, and so much more is brought together to entertain. You can even try your hand at medieval crafts. 

La Fête de la Moisson (Harvest Festival)

Taking place on the last weekend in August, La Fête de la Moisson celebrates the agricultural side of Provins. It features a vast parade of wheat-decorated floats, folk dances, old-fashioned threshing, tractors, and other equipment.

Discover this medieval jewel with LeShuttle

Now you know all about the attractions, you’re ready to start your adventure to Provins. Travel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes with LeShuttle to start the journey.

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