Recently Megan and I returned from a Paris to Provins day trip. As you will see in the pictures, Provins is a small town just outside of Paris caught in a time warp of the medieval era. The city is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site which helps protect the town’s long line of trade fairs dating back to 800ac.
We caught the metro to the station Gare de l’est and changed to an SNCF Train at 9:46am. There is a direct train between Paris and Provins in both directions every hour until about 10pm. A one way ticket costs 11.50euro and the duration of the trip is approximately 1hour and 30minutes.
The train ride from Paris to Provins was one of the more enjoyable and comfortable trips we have experienced. Prior to departing we bought some pastries and hot drinks which helped us pass the time eating our breakfast while admiring the country side. The train ride was very smooth, quiet and each chair had loads of leg room with a fold up table.
Check train times from Paris to Provins – www.transilien.com
Things to do in Provins
When we arrived in Provins we used our phones GPS and walked to the tourist information centre located at Chemin de Villecran, 77160 Provins. It was a 25minute casual walk stopping for snap shots and admiring the scenery. When we arrived at the tourist information centre we were very pleased to discover that the staff were friendly, helpful and all spoke English. We purchased our tour tickets, found where a good place for lunch was, planned our trip and started following the map we were given.
Ramparts and Fortified Gates
Our first stop was the Ramparts and the fortified gates which is viewable from the tourist information centre. This medieval fortification surrounds half of the town and is still standing after almost 800 years. It probably only took us 20 minutes to walk around the wall taking pictures and eventually entering the town through the Saint Jean’s Gate. We also climbed to the top of the wall at Saint Jean’s Gate which was only two flights of stair and admired the view.
The Main Street of Town
Walking through the town was quietly pleasant and very empty probably due to the time of year we visited. Apparently if we were to visit in summer the town would be buzzing with tourists, so we were kind of happy to have it all to ourselves. The only downfall is that we were not able to experience the falconry and medieval shows as well as a medieval dinner banquet which are seasonal attractions and would have been a good to experience.
Restaurants in Provins
After walking the main street of town we came to the area where there were a number of restaurants and bars. We kicked up our feet and took our time eating lunch at a fairly trendy local pub. We enjoyed a simple chicken and chips, croquet madam and desert. It was nothing fancy but the food was cooked well. There are also a few upmarket restaurants in the area where you would pay upwards of 30euro per dish if it better suits your liking.
The Underground Galleries
While at the tourist information centre we purchased some tickets to participate in the tour of the “Underground Galleries”. Unfortunately the only way to see the “Underground Galleries” is with a tour guide. The only tour available is in French so it was a little hard to connect with the story of the attraction as we only understood bits and pieces. The structure itself however was very fascinating and we were glad to be able to view it. The tour lasted 45minutes and consisted of about 20 people in some tight dark spaces, so if you are claustrophobic it’s probably not a good choice.
Some attractions such as the Underground Galleries only operate during specific times so I recommend you check out the details at this website (Provins Tourism) and plan you day accordingly.
After the tour we head back up the hill to Caesar’s Tower. Built in the 9th century the tower was used as a look out and a prison. It features some really nice views of the city and country side however by the time we climbed it the visibility was not as good as it could have been due to a light sprinkling of rain. The climb to the top involved archways which required me to walk sideway in order to fit, many of the stairs were very slippery and quite steep. So for a very larger a person with poor balance I would not recommend climbing the tower. The attraction lasts about 30 to 40minutes.
After visiting Caesars Tower we began our slow walk back to the station to catch the 4:46pm train back to Paris. We really enjoyed Provins and it ranks high on the list of our top ten day trips from Paris. The whole day felt very relaxed with no rush to be anywhere and nothing to do but to enjoy the sights. As we visited in February there were a few seasonal attractions which we missed out on, so we only spent about 7hours in Provins.
For more information head to the Provins Tourism Website or alternatively here is a list of thing to see:
Walk or climb the Ramparts and Fortified Gates
Lunch in the main street
Tour of the Underground Galleries
Climb Caesar’s Tower
Stroll the medieval streets taking photos
Visit the Tithe Barn
Visit the museum of Provins and surroundings
Visit one of the many historical churches
Watch one of 4 medieval shows (seasonal availabilities)
Have dinner at a medieval banquet (seasonal availabilities)
Visit during a scheduled medieval festival