Travelers looking to experience one of France’s medieval towns often head to Chartres or, even further afield, Orleans in the Loire Valley. But for those visiting Paris, there’s a more convenient option that’s just an hour away by train: Provins. Once a center of commerce, this is a prime choice if you’re looking for a picture of rural life and French history while still being able to get back to Paris for an evening out.
The town of Provins blends modern tourism developments with its historic and architectural attractions. Independent travelers will enjoy restored fortress walls and cobblestone alleys throughout the town, as well as the medieval Caesar’s Tower. There are also exhibits and tours that cover the Tithe Barn (the city’s historic central market) and the Underground Galleries (a collection of tunnels and vaults under the city), both of which played a central role in the city’s dominance as a commercial center beginning in 800 A.D. and ending 400 years later.
For those interested in spectacle or for families with children, there are also several medieval shows like the “Eagles of the Ramparts” and “Legend of the Knights” that include animal performances, and actors in period costume who vanquish evil.
Getting There and Around
At €16 ($22) for a 5-Zone Mobilis transit pass, you can get to Provins for less than half the price of a trip to Orleans. Since the Mobilis Pass is valid throughout the entire Ile-de-France region, which includes the city of Paris, this also covers your Metro fares from your hotel to the Gare de L’Est train station. From there, trains depart for Provins every one or two hours throughout the day.
There is a tourist shuttle that runs through town (€4/$5.50), but Provins is small and easily walkable. Tickets to the restored historic buildings (Tithe Barn, Tower, Underground Galleries, and Provins Museum) can be bought individually or with a combination ticket for €11.40 ($15.50). Tickets to the Medieval Shows start at €7 ($9.50).