Provins is a small medieval village about 90 minutes by train from Paris.
The main attraction is the unspoilt nature of the many buildings as well as the city walls and Cesar Tower. For younger visitors, there are also shows with knights and falcons. We found this was an opportunity go see some of the French countryside, without going too far from Paris, as the train passes many small villages and farms
How to Get To Provins
The train runs from Gare de l’Est. We had a seven-day metro pass which covered this fare as well. Without the pass, the normal price of the ticket is 11.50 Euros one way. As the price of the seven-day pass was 30 Euro, we almost made our money back in one return trip. Travel time was a nice relaxed 90 minutes. The train was comfortable, clean and quiet.
At Provins railway station, there is a shuttle bus that will take you to the tourist office, or you can walk into town and explore on the way. It was a nice day, so we chose to walk. It didn’t take too long, but on a wet day, or if it’s too hot, take the bus.
What to See in Provins
The highlight of the town, is the old medieval buildings. Walk around the old streets and admire them. We spent some time doing this, before having a coffee near the old market square, where there a few places to get a drink and a meal. We found that the total walk time between all of the attractions was about 40 minutes. However, more time is needed as you back track and go to look at other interesting buildings.
La Tour Cesar
This 12th century castle overlooks the town and surrounding countryside. It is very well preserved and you can access the whole complex right up to the bell tower. The climb really is part of the adventure and is highly recommended. The stairways can be quite narrow and steep in places, giving a great feeling for the people who had to climb up and down them when the castle was inhabited.
You enter the bell tower and see the bronze bells, and the pigeons that now inhabit the roof tops. The views out over Provins and the countryside are worth the climb.
The rooms within the castle are also quite small, even the Count’s, who ran the whole town. Space was at a premium and no one seems to have had a spacious bedroom or quarters.
This is a community church in Provins that has an active congregation. When you enter remember that this is a place of worship, so be respectful. It really needs renovating inside, as the ravages of the last 850 years have not been kind. This doesn’t detract from reasons to visit however but makes it more interesting. The old interior is in such a marked contras to the large cathedrals of Paris, that it makes it more interesting and gives it a welcoming feel.
The Saint-Jean’s Gate and The Ramparts
The city gate and walls (ramparts) are what makes Provins famous. They are remarkably intact and very impressive. It is near the gate that the Legend of the Chevaliers and Eagles of the Ramparts shows are performed. We did not stay to see either, but they are aimed more at children.
Not far from the gate is the local tourist office. This is a great stop if you want to find out about any new events that are on while you visit as well as being great for souvenirs.
What Did We Think?
A really great day trip out of Paris. Provins is very well preserved and demonstrates what a medieval town was like. There is plenty to keep you occupied and enough restaurants and cafes to provide a good variety for everyone. Highly recommended.