One day in Provins (Ile-de-France)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN FRANCE
PROVINS: TOWN OF MEDIEVAL FAIRS

I've been to Paris quite a few times, both for leisure & work; solo, with family as well as with extended family. Climbed atop Eiffel Tower, walked along River Sienne, visited the Louvre museum, visited Notre Dame Cathedral & Saint Chapelle, etc etc etc. On these many trips, the farthest I went from Paris, was to visit Chateau de Versailles
This time, I planned a trip to Paris, but not for Paris itself, but with Paris as a base to go on 3 different day trips from Paris! One of the trips was to Provins, a medieval town, located within Ile-de-France, about 1:30hrs away by train. Come with me for a virtual tour of Provins. 
Read on to know more about the things to do in Provins, places to visit in Provins, why is Provins on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list, the best time to visit Provins, and Provins itineraries.

Provins Travelogue UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France
View of Saint-Quiriace collegiate church from atop Caeser Keep Tower

Rosaraie de Provins Rose Garden - Things to do in Provins
Provins Rose Garden

Provins UNESCO World Heritage site - Les Souterrains de Provins Underground Galleries
Les Souterrains de Provins - Provins Underground Galleries

Tithe Barn Provins UNESCO World Heritage site
Wool fabric maker at the Tithe Barn & Ramparts of Provins (below)

Ramparts de Provins UNESCO World Heritage Site
Pic Credit: © Provins – JF. Benard. Used here with the permission of Provins Tourisme

ULTIMATE TRAVEL GUIDE TO VISIT PROVINS

HOW TO PRONOUNCE PROVINS?
To begin with, Provins is different from Provence. Provins is close to Paris and Provence is in the South of France and well known throughout the world for its lavender fields! 
Though if you read it in English, the 2 spellings may sound similar, in French, the local language, Provins is pronounced more like Pro + vaa(ng)! The last '(ng)' is very mildly pronounced, like how you'd pronounce 'Song' if you skipped the last letter 'g'!

PROVINS HISTORY & WHY IS IT A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE.
Provins is very special in the sense that it is the only surviving example of a merchant city from the Champagne fairs of the 12-13th C CE. That's the very reason why it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. 

TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN PROVINS IN 1-2 DAYS

1. PROVINS: THE TOWN OF MEDIEVAL FAIRS - UNESCO LISTED HISTORIC MONUMENTS IN PROVINS
Today, there are 7 major historic monuments to visit in Provins - Caesar Tower, Tithe Barn, Underground Galleries, Provins Museum, Saint-Ayoul Priory, Saint-Quiriace collegiate church, and of course, the Ramparts.
Our first stop was the Caeser Tower. There are  100+ steps to reach atop Caesar Tower through the narrowest passages I've ever been in (and I've climbed quite a few towers incl. Bigben, Copenhagen Church of Our Savior, Tournai Belfry, and many more) and it is totally worth it. The view from atop of the greenery & the charm of the French countryside is mesmerizing. It was built in the 12th C CE. Since it was built it was used as a watchtower, prison, refuge & more. Today it serves as the bell tower of the church just beside.
Very close to Caeser Tower is the Saint-Quiriace collegiate church where we did a quick stop. This also belongs to 12th C CE. It's a humongous church and was an overzealous project of Henri, the then Count of Champagne which sadly couldn't be completed due to lack of funds. Certain parts of it were constructed in 17th C CE but never really completed in the true sense. 
Further ahead is the Tithe Barn. Though this underground cellar was historically used as a barn, it currently, is like a folk-life museum that talks about how life was in Provins during the medieval times and the jobs that people did then. With a very interactive audio guide and life-size statues actually doing the jobs, it is easy to understand the museum. There's a depiction of an Italian merchant who sells spices, a Flemish merchant who sells leather, a Wool fabric maker, a coin changer, a potter etc.

Ceaser Keep Provins Town of Medieval Fairs UNESCO World Heritage France

Caeser Keep Provins Town of Medieval Fairs UNESCO World Heritage France

View from atop Caeser Keep Provins UNESCO Site

Saint-Quiriace collegiate church Provins

View of Saint-Quiriace collegiate church from atop Caeser Keep Provins UNESCO Site

After Atyudarini enjoyed a Carousel ride in the Place du Châtel, we walked down to the Underground Galleries (Les souterrains de Provins). This is accessible only with a guided tour. Just like all other cave tours, the temperature inside is about 12-13 deg C. Why these underground passages were dug is still a mystery, but the most commonly accepted version is that quarrying happened here to extract fuller's earth (Multani Matti) which was used to de-grease wool. After quarrying, the caves were used for various purposes incl. shelter, storerooms, etc. There are quite a few engraved graffiti in here that suggests it was used by freemasons. The distance covered by walking inside the caves is just 250m and the cave by itself isn't too impressive if you've been to other underground tours like Namur Citadel or Hal Safleni Hypogeum etc. It's the anecdotes & history that the tour guide says that make the tour fascinating.  So, here's a tip: Book your English-guided tour as early as possible. There's only 1 English tour a day only from Jun-Oct (all days during Jul-Aug and only on weekends otherwise). French tours happen all day long, throughout the year! Since the walk itself isn't too long, without many visual elements, and is more of an explanation-oriented tour, if you don't know French, it can be quite lackluster, feel long & boring! 
Very close to the Underground Galleries is the Saint-Ayoul Priory, however it was already time for the medieval show in Provins - the Legend of the Knights, so I missed it! I most definitely did not have enough time to visit the Provins Museum, so I missed that too!

Where is the Caeser Keep (on Google Maps): Tour César
Caeser Keep Tickets: €4.30
Where is the Saint-Quiriace collegiate church (on Google Maps): Collégiale Saint-Quiriace
Saint-Quiriace collegiate church Tickets: Free
Where is the Tithe Barn (on Google Maps): the Tithe Barn
Tithe Barn Tickets: €4.30
Where is the entrance of the Underground Galleries (on Google Maps): Les souterrains de Provins
Underground Galleries Tickets: €4.50 (pre-booking with time slot is necessary. Only 25 person per tour)
Where is the Provins Museum (on Google Maps): Musée de Provins et du Provinois
Provins Museum tickets: €4

Provins Pass: All these sites are included in Provins Pass (more info below)
Buy Provins Pass (or) Individual Provins Monuments tickets online: via the official website of Provins
How to reach the historic monuments of Provins: All the Provins Attractions are within a walkable distance from one another
Historic Monuments of Provins Timings:10:00AM to 6:00PM on holidays & vacations; 2:00PM to 5:00PM on weekdays

Saint-Quiriace collegiate church Provins Town of Medieval Fairs

Tithe Barn Provins Historic Monuments

Provins Historic Monuments Souterrains Underground Galleries

Provins Historic Monuments Souterrains Underground Galleries

Provins Historic Monuments Souterrains Underground Galleries

2. WALK AROUND THE HIGH TOWN & LOW TOWN
Like Thuin in Belgium, Provins too is a little town that has major altitude differences where there are staircases & hiking paths instead of streets! If you have a car, leave it somewhere and walk around Provins. It can be quite an effort! The historic monuments are in the High town or 'Haute-Ville' and the railway station, rose garden, ramparts, etc are in the valley or 'Ville-Basse' or 'le Val'.
When I went from the railway station to the Tithe Barn, it was one upward hike through the underground galleries, Caeset tower, etc. Later when I went back from the 'Haute-Ville' to Rose Garden it was through a staircase instead of a street! So, take into account the extra time & effort taken to scale these distances, though Google Maps might mention it differently.  
That said, these tiny streets that go up and down are absolutely charming and I even found a street that was hardly used, so it was filled with grass & daisies all over. Further ahead, a more frequented street, was a bit of a hike through the woods with tall trees & unpaved path. 

Provins Medieval Town Haute Ville Basse

Provins Medieval Town Haute Ville Basse

Provins Medieval Town Haute Ville Basse

Provins Medieval Town Haute Ville Basse

Top Provins Attractions - Roseraie de Provins Rose Gardens

3. VISIT ROSERAIE - THE ROSE GARDEN OF PROVINS (& EAT ROSE ICECREAM)
If you visit Provins in June (or late May or early July), head directly to the Rose Garden. It is a 3.5acre private garden with 450+ varieties of roses. If you're in Provins for 2 days, dedicate half a day to this garden. 
There is a shop and a cafe, and the garden is behind those. As you enter the garden, the first few things that you might notice some interesting art installations like roses on a cart, roses over a wall, etc. Further ahead are the areas of various roses. There were some unusual colors including a very deep violet (almost black!) which totally surprised Atyudarini! It was quite a mix of extremely aromatic roses and very mild ones. There were quite a few double-triple-colored roses as well. As we went further ahead, it got more foresty, wooded area feels than a garden. 
It is such a relaxing atmosphere, perfected with benches, lawn chairs, and even tents to let you completely unwind! Our favorite was the hanging cocoon tent which Atyudarini refused to leave!!!
Btw, when you're here don't forget to taste some unique Rose flavored snacks or drinks! It was so sunny and hot, the day I went. So I had both Rose ice cream and Rose lemonade - both were absolutely divine! If it is colder the day you go, try the Rose Tea! To bring back home, get some Rose macaroons or Rose jam or even Rose skincare!

Where is the Rose Gardens of Provins (on Google Maps): Roseraie de Provins
How to reach the Rose Gardens of Provins (Roseraie de Provins): 700m (8 mins walk) from Caeser Tower
Rose Gardens of Provins (Roseraie de Provins) Tickets: €7
Rose Gardens of Provins (Roseraie de Provins) Timings: May-Nov - Everyday 10:00AM to 7:30PM; Dec-Apr - Fri 2:00PM to 6:00PM; Sat-Mon 10:00AM to 6:00PM

Top Provins Attractions - Roseraie de Provins Rose Gardens

Top Provins Attractions - Roseraie de Provins Rose Gardens

Top Provins Attractions - Roseraie de Provins Rose Gardens

Top Provins Attractions - Roseraie de Provins Rose Gardens

Top Provins Attractions - Roseraie de Provins Rose Gardens

4. ATTEND A MEDIEVAL SHOW
When a town is on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its medieval fairs, I did expect some medieval-themed show to happen in Provins. But what I did not expect for this level of awesomeness and multiple options to choose from!!! There are 5 different medieval shows in Provins to choose from - The Legend of the Knights, The Eagles of the Ramparts, Banquet of Troubadours, Swords & Dungoen, and Fire Hoses. 
The Fire Hoses show happens at night as a part of the Provins by Candlelight event that happens just twice a year. The Banquet of Troubadours is a 3-hr long show that happens along with a banquet of an extensive 5-course meal in a vaulted cellar of 12th C CE!!! If only we had been there on a 2-day trip to Provins we could have dedicated 3 hours for it, but since we were there on a day trip to Provins, we didn't have time for it! And yeah, it is very much possible to request Vegetarian food. The Swords & Dungeons show is a bit similar to the Legends of the Knights but doesn't happen on weekends.
Between The Eagles of the Ramparts & The Legends of the Knights, we chose the latter because Atyudarini had never witnessed one like this but had seen a Falconry show at Muiderslot in the Netherlands. 
The Legends of the Knights begins with 'Knights' helping us to find our seats! Soon, the show begins in a very calm and peaceful depiction of medieval times with markets that sell meat & vegetables, to trading of horses & camels, to women tending to goats & geese, etc. Soon, the princess makes an entry, galloping on her horse! Atyudarini, who is already a horse enthusiast, just got so spellbound & enchanted! Soon, a couple of knights & Earl Thibaud IV of Champagne come in to show off their horse-riding skills & sword skills. Then, the bad guys enter the scene (with a dragon!) and create havoc in the peaceful Provins. Now, the ultimate fight between bad guys the Knights happens...
I loved the show all the more, because of the presence of women horse-riders & warriors! Being a mother of a very active young girl, for me, representation matters!!!
P.S: The shows are in French, but the language really doesn't matter!

Where does the Legend of the Knights show take place (on Google Maps): La Légende des Chevaliers spectacle Equestrio
The Legend of the Knights show Tickets: €11.50 (pre-booking via the official website of Provins recommended)
The Legend of the Knights show Timings: 2:30pm (or) 3:00pm on weekdays; 3:45pm on weekends,  holidays & vacations

Where does the Eagles of the Ramparts show take place (on Google Maps): Les Aigles des Remparts - Vol Libre Production
The Legend of the Knights show Tickets: €12.50
The Legend of the Knights show Timings: 2:30pm on weekdays; 2:30pm & 5:00pm on weekends,  holidays & vacations

Where does the Banquet of Troubadours take place (on Google Maps): Banquet des Troubadours
The Banquet of Troubadours show Tickets: €40 for adults; €20 for children. Necessary to reserve your table via the official website of the Banquet of Troubadours
The Banquet of Troubadours show Timings: Lunch 12:00Noon to 3:00PM; Dinner 8:00PM to 11:00PM

How to reach the Legend of the Knights / Eagles of the Ramparts / Banquet of Troubadours show: All are at a walkable distance from the major historic monuments of Provins

Provins Medieval Show - The Legends of the Knight

Provins Medieval Show - The Legends of the Knights

Provins Top Things to do - The Legends of the Knights Medieval Show

Provins Top Things to do - The Legends of the Knights Medieval Show

Things to do in Provins - the Eagles of the Ramparts
Pic Credit: ©-Vol-Libre-S-Danis. Used here with the permission of Provins Tourisme

5. RELAX ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVERS & STREAMS
Provins is surrounded by many many rivers & streams which reminded me much of Utrecht! The major river that flows through Provins is La Voulzie. La Voulzie's several tributaries & channels incl. La Durteint and Ruisseau des Auges flow all over the town. Streams are everywhere like little streets. 
In fact just behind the Rose Gardens of Provins, a channel of La Durteint flows and it was at its banks, that we sat and had our picnic lunch, and on the grass here, Atyudarini also had her little afternoon nap. 

IS IT WORTH BUYING PROVINS PASS? BEST WAY TO VISIT PROVINS ATTRACTIONS
Provins Pass is a combi-ticket for 4 ticketed medieval monuments of Provins plus the Provins museum. The Provins Pass is valid for 1 year from the day of its purchase. It is currently priced at €15. If you're visiting at least 3-4 monuments, it is value for money. But the more important factor is, if it gets too crowded, Provins Pass holders are given priority entrance to the monuments. When I was at the Tour Cesar, there was a long queue, and Provins Pass holders were given immediate passage!

PROVINS ITINERARY
WHAT TO DO IN PROVINS ON A DAY TRIP FROM PARIS OR A WEEKEND TRIP FROM PARIS?

1-day itinerary in Provins
Visit Caeser Keep, Saint-Quiriace collegiate church, Tithe Barn, Underground Galleries, attend a medieval show (The Legend of the Knights or The Eagles of the Ramparts), and for the evening, visit the Rose Garden of Provins and relax.

2-days itinerary in Provins
Day 1 - Visit Tithe Barn, Caeser Keep, Saint-Quiriace collegiate church and then attend the Banquet of Troubadours. Then walk around the Ramparts of Provins & in the evening relax on the river banks.
Day 2 - Visit the Underground Galleries, the Saint-Ayoul Priory, and the Provins museum. Visit the Rose Gardens of Provins and finally wrap up the day with a medieval show (The Legend of the Knights or The Eagles of the Ramparts)!

One day in Provins Itinerary. La Voulzie river.

Provins Day Trip from Paris. La Voulzie river.

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES IN FRANCE PROVINS: TOWN OF MEDIEVAL FAIRS
Pic Credit: ©JF. BénardUsed here with the permission of Provins Tourisme

BEST TIME TO VISIT PROVINS
Since most of the Provins attractions, are historical sites, Provins is good to visit throughout the year. However one of the important Provins attractions is of course the Rose Gardens of Provins, which is in bloom only from June-September, so you may want to plan your Provins Trip during June-September (keep in mind that July & August is school vacation time here and can get a bit crowded). 

PROVINS MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL: The Medieval Festival in Provins (Les Médiévales de Provins) happens for one weekend in June. The date changes every year, so check the official website of Les Médiévales de Provins to keep track of it. This is most definitely the best weekend to visit Provins, to feel its absolute medieval vibe and authenticity. There are parades of people dressed in medieval costumes; there are musical shows with medieval instruments; there are demonstrations & workshops, and more! Since it happens in June, the roses are also in full bloom making it the best time to visit Provins. 
However, keep in mind that it would be a bit crowded and if you're traveling with very young children, you may want to specifically avoid this weekend! 
This year, Les Medievals de Provins is happening on June 25 & 26, 2022

HOW TO REACH PROVINS FROM PARIS 
Provins is an easy weekend trip / day trip from Paris. Provins comes under Ile-de-France province which means the public transport here is served by Transilien. There's a direct train from Paris-Est. You need to get the ticket at the ticket counters or kiosks in the railway station. However, it is possible to just buy a ticket earlier (even a month earlier!), because the validity of the ticket begins when you validate it and not when you buy it. Within the province, the ticket prices are not dynamic and the price is always €4. 
There's no way to book an online ticket and get on the train (which is a bit unfortunate!). If you have / are getting a Navigo pass, you can load the ticket in it at the kiosk. Unfortunately, it cannot be loaded in your Navigo app on your phone.

Provins Medieval Festival Spectacle Pinterest UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments in Provins France Pinterest

Roses de Provins Rose Garden Pinterest One day Itinerary in Provins France

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 85 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of June 2022. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

9 comments:

  1. What a fascinating place, I've never been to Provins and it looks like a wonderful day trip to do from Paris. I enjoyed the tour and would probably visit all those monuments in the area along with enjoying some of the gardens and roses you passed through. That medieval festival looks like the perfect time to visit and worth the effort to time the visit when it is happening.

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  2. On the travel wish list! Would love to visit Provins one time when I am using Paris as a base for day trips. We would certainly want to visit the historic monuments. And fun to include a cave tour. But this big kid might not want to pass on a carousel ride. And get some rose flavoured ice cream! Booking a visit when a major festival is on sounds perfect. But probably needs more advance planning that we often do. Will definitely check out the Provins Pass. Thanks for the tip.

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  3. Provins is brimming with wonderful historical structures. What a beautiful spot to visit, and I could nearly smell the roses. I'd love to take a stroll through the cobblestone streets and peer inside the town's walls. Thank you for taking me on a virtual tour of Provins!

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  4. Provins looks like a fairy-tale straight from the book. I am planning for my Paris Trip , I would definitely include Barn and Provins in that trip. Your two days itinerary suits my plan. Thanks for the informative post.

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  5. I hadn't heard of Provins before. Love that it is a preserved merchant city; must have been very interesting to learn about the merchants of medieval times. The Medieval Festival sounds amazing too! I'd love exploring the cobblestone streets and gardens as well!

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  6. I wish I had read this article while in Paris. Knowing that this extremely picturesque, medieval town is only a 1.5-hour drive by train from the capital, I would love to go there. Especially knowing that Provins is on the UNESCO list. I'd like to see Provins Underground Galleries and get to know the history of this place. The more than 100 steps to the Caesar Tower are definitely worth climbing. It's good that you write about how narrow it is because I usually have a large backpack with me. After sightseeing and many attractions, I would like to rest in Rose Garden. Great that you provide opening hours and entrance prices.

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  7. Although when we were in Paris we never actually planned for some day trips from there. How nice it would have been if we had planned for Provins seeing what to expect there. UNESCO sites are always appealing because of the history attached with them and my wife would love to be there someday. The Caesar Tower sounds interesting despite the steps to climb but certainly worth it. We would love to experience The Medieval Festival would be great to attend and good to see it takes place in June as we normally travel in May-June for sure every year except the last 2 years.

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  8. I was totally unaware about this beautiful place until I bumped onto your blog. Provins got me at its cobbled streets, floral gardens, and so many things to do. I would love to get to the Caesar Tower. The cave tour is so cool as well. Exploring high town and low town and finally relaxing at the Rose Garden would make my visit to Provins super!

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  9. I just love visiting places that have an old-world charm to them and Provins ticked all the boxes. There's a lot to do too! Would love to explore High Town & Low Town by walk. You got lucky with the show. I would definitely not miss the medieval show. Rose ice cream surely sounds tempting to try. That is one cool tent there!

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