Visiting Paris and looking for the perfect day trip from Paris? Look no further than Provins, a medieval town that has been recognized as a French UNESCO world heritage site. Traveling from Paris to Provins takes about an hour and a half by train, however it’s easy to spend the day exploring the city. Keep reading for what to do in Provins in one day and where to eat in Provins. There’s a downloadable map with the best things to do in Provins at the bottom.
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Why visit Provins?
Provins is a medieval town that is a UNESCO world heritage site. Around Christmas, they have a popular medieval Christmas market, but it’s a sleepy town most of the year with history that is easy to see on foot. You can easily enjoy the ramparts as well as the stunning architecture of the medieval town while wandering around on foot past the cute timber-framed houses around the “new” town of Provins. Luckily, there’s few tourists and if you don’t have time to visit another city in France outside of Paris, Provins is a great budget day trip if you just want to soak in the atmosphere without paying admission fees.
The medieval town of Provins
I found the walk along Rue du Collège to be particularly scenic as you ascend into the medieval town of Provins. You’ll see Église Catholique Collégiale St Quiriace on the left. There used to be the castle of the Count of champagne, but the chateau was disassembled in the early 1800s.
Medieval Tunnels (Les Souterrains de Provins)
I didn’t make it to the Medieval Tunnels under the city as you need to time your visit very carefully with the tour schedule for the medieval tunnels under Provins, but this is a highlight of many visitors interested in the history of Provins.
Église Catholique Collégiale St Quiriace
The Catholic Church of St Quiriace was founded in the 1000s, however the building that stands today dates back to the 1176, funded by one of the nobles in the area. Its construction has been picked up over the years, however it’s technically not finished. The church was slightly damaged in World War II following bombings, which resulted in the dome being constructed in the 1950s. The interior is fairly bare besides some stained glass windows. It is noted that Joan of Arc attended mass here (she was later burned in Rouen). The church is free to enter.
Tour Cesar (The Caesar Tower)
Walking around the Tour Cesar is one of the highlights of the things to do in Provins. This oddly shaped tower as it’s supposedly the only square based octagonal dungeon in the world. The current tower dates back to Roman times (1150) and it was named Caesar’s Tower in honor of Caesar (he never visited Provins). The tower was a symbol of power for the region and it’s still possible to climb the stairs for a view over Provins for a fee (7.50 if I recall). In the off-season, it’s only open in the afternoon.
Remparts de Provins (Ramparts of Provins)
Climbing up the the medieval ramparts of Provins was one of my favorite things to do in Provins and it’s absolutely free. Most of the original walls around the city are gone, but twenty two towers still remain although there were over 5,000 towers in the 13th century. The ramparts are well maintained given their age and the views over the rest of Provins make it a unique place to visit. I particularly enjoyed walking around the ramparts to see what the ramparts looked like from the other side to potential invaders.
The medieval town center
The medieval town center of Provins is just absolutely stunning to wander around, which is really what to do in Provins. The half-timbered houses make wandering down the various side streets a joy. I wish that the sky had been less grey while I was in Provins, but I imagine that it’s more stunning in summer. There was almost nobody there, which is why I really recommend that anyone tired of the crowds in Paris take the day trip from Paris to Provins.
Another destination worth noting within the medieval town center of Provins is the Le Roy Lire, a medieval library, an independent bookstore built into one of the medieval buildings. It is full of medieval literature as well as history books. Be sure to stop in here to step into another world. You’ll also pass Hôpital du Saint-Esprit, a former hospital in medieval times.
“New” Town of Provins
The old town of Provins is sleepy with most of what you’d expect in a fairly historic town center: bakeries, cafes, bookstores, a beautiful town hall, and a Monoprix in the middle of the town (if you’re in need of a snack). You’ll also pass a couple of cozy French cafes, including Le Cafe de Paris, which I stopped into for a brief coffee.
Of particular note is the beautiful Librairie Delvaux bookstore in the city center, in a half-timbered building. Although I didn’t end up stopping in, book lovers might want to peek instead.
Similarly, beer lovers will need to stop off at Beer Town, right next door to the bookstore. I’m a beer lover and often, beer that that you’ll find in France is good, but not experimental. This local beer shop well stocks local beers from the region that you might not find elsewhere by collaborating with local brewers. I found the shopkeeper an delight to chat with and I ended up bringing home two delicious experimental beers. Beer Town accepts credit cards.
There are some beautiful old houses in the “new” part of Provins if you look around carefully. I found the area around Rue des Capucins to be particularly picturesque. Here, you’ll find another beautiful old medieval building: Hôtel de Vauluisant.
Hidden away in the newer part of Provins, you’ll find the catholic church Kuna Andre, which is situated next to Tour Notre-Dame-du-Val. The tower is the last remaining part of the Notre-Dame-du-Val collegiate church, which was destroyed during the French revolution. It’s just nice to admire from below.
Roses in Provins
I visited Provins in winter, so I ended up skipping the Rose Garden of Provins this time. However, the Provins is famous for roses and visitors interested in horticulture will want to visit the Rose Garden of Provins, which has over 300 varieties of roses.
It’s said that the rose first came to Provins via Thibaud IV, Count of Champagne, after he visited Israel in the 1200s. Since Roman times, the wild roses from Provins were known as the “rosa gallica.” However, as people discovered their medicinal properties of roses, roses were cultivated into the “rosa gallica officinalis.” Historically, visitors to Provins were offered dried rose petals. As a result, you’ll find various rose products all over Provins, including beauty products, candied rose petals, rose-infused drinks, chocolate, and honey, and candles. I tried a rose-infused beer, which was surprisingly good.
Where to eat in Provins
At the recommendation of a friend, we stopped off at Creperie La Fleur de Sel in the middle of Provins medieval town. I got a delicious crepe and sampled beer made with a rose infusion. It was surprisingly good although gluhwein can be easily found in winter.
Getting to Provins from Paris
In order to take the train from Paris to Provins, you need to take the P line from Paris Est. The journey should cost about 12-15 euros one way and you can purchase a round-trip ticket. The train station (Gare de Provins) is a short walk from the town center although there’s a steep walk uphill to the medieval town. You can also take a tour from Paris to Provins!
Download your free map of things to do in Provins below!
Have you heard of Provins? Did I miss your favorite thing to do in Provins?
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Thank you for this post! Loved it, on my way to Provins now amd using it as a guide. Cheers!
Did you enjoy your trip to Provins?
“… it’s a sleepy town most of the year” … “Luckily, there’s few tourists” Since you visited in the winter, yes! You should go back in April-October when the town comes alive! Full blown medieval festival atmosphere with falconry shows, knights, jousting, various performances, a medieval marketplace… Provins is quite busy and happening during this time.