If you’re visiting Paris and find yourself in need of a respite from the bustling capital, if you’re passionate about medieval history, or if you get a kick out of travelling off the beaten path, Provins, France is the destination for you. Located just an hour outside of Paris, this easily-accessible town is a hidden gem. With a watchtower to climb, underground passages to explore, and a rose garden to meander through, you’ll certainly have plenty to keep you busy during this outing.
Scale La Tour Cesar (Cesar’s Tower)
This tower was constructed by the counts of the Champagne region and dates to the 12th century. During this period, Provins was a trading hub and thus was vulnerable to attack by marauders. It was used as a lookout as well as a prison. Another unique feature of this structure is that it has a square base and an octagonal tower. This is the only example in the world with such a combination. The tower houses several rooms, such as the Governor’s Office, which was recreated in a medieval style. After climbing three stories, visitors reach the bell tower. From here, visitors have a beautiful view of the town and the surrounding countryside.
Plunge into the underground passages
The souterrains (underground passages) are one of Provins’ most fascinating features. It is unclear exactly when and why these tunnels were constructed. One hypothesis states that the ground was hollowed out in the Middle Ages to provide building materials for various buildings in town, as well as to provide a space for food and textile storage. During World War II, these underground hallways and rooms provided shelter. This visit is very dark, chilly, and a bit slippery, so appropriate clothing is recommended.
Stroll around the rose garden
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Not only does Provins have a rich medieval history, but it is also renowned throughout France for its roses. The town even boasts its own variety of this classic flower. With expansive green fields and roses of every color blooming, this spot is truly a must-see in Provins. A tea room and a boutique can also be found on the grounds for those who need a break from their walk. What’s more, the flowers aren’t just for looking at, they can be consumed in a variety of forms, from ice cream to cider to jam. These unique products definitely deserve to be tasted.
Take in the atmosphere of the old town
The center of Provins was designed to give a medieval feel. A wide variety of shops and restaurants border the town square. Visitors will have no issues finding a place to eat. From traditional crepes at La Fleur de Sel (The Salt Flower) to fine French gastronomy at La Croix d’Or (The Golden Cross) to a medieval meal complete with costumes at Banquet des Troubadours (Banquet of the Troubadours), every visitor will sure to be satisfied after eating in Provins.
After lunch, be sure to explore the various shops in the old town. There are art galleries and a wide range of shops featuring artisanal products like jewelry and soap.
Make the trip to this incredible small town
While not the biggest, or most visited town in France, Provins offers visitors a truly unique and genuine experience. With monuments to explore, gardens to visit, and plenty of shops and restaurants, Provins is ideal for a day trip for those staying in Paris. To access Provins, simply take Transilien Line P from Gare de l’Est in Paris. It is the last station on this line. Tickets cost 22 EUR (25 USD) round trip.
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