Explore Provins: The Medieval Town an Hour from Paris

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Explore Provins: The Medieval Town an Hour from Paris
What do you think it would be like to live in a town where practically every house is over 500 years old? If you lived in Provins you would know exactly what it’s like. This near-perfectly preserved medieval town sits on the eastern edge of the Île de France where it meets the Champagne region. This year it’s celebrating the 20th anniversary of its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site with a full calendar of events. Visit and for a day you can step back in time to the 1300s and imagine life in the Middle Ages. Half Timbered House in Provins. © Pat Hallam Provins is easy to reach from Paris: direct trains on the regional Line P leave Gare de l’Est regularly. It is even on the edge of Zone 5 so if you have a 5-zone Navigo pass, the fare won’t cost you anything extra. It makes a perfect day trip from the capital. Strolling into town from the train station, the streets are criss-crossed by a delightful small river, La Voulzie. Nowadays, it is literally a quiet backwater and the stream tumbles prettily over stones. It flows alongside the streets with small bridges crossing it to the houses, or else the houses are built right next to the water like a miniature Venice. But 700 years ago it provided Provins with a ready source of water for wool processing, the source of the town’s wealth. The River Voulzie. © Pat Hallam Provins was made for exploring its narrow back streets and tiny alleys. It is split between the Lower Town and the Upper Town. Both are full of characteristically half-timbered buildings in the style called colombage in French, but it is the Upper Town that attracts most visitors. The road to the top is quite steep but in high season there is the obligatory tourist train to ease the journey. Medieval houses in Provins. © Pat Hallam Once you’ve arrived, a walk along the 13th-century stone ramparts offers a stunning view of the surrounding countryside. They originally encircled the town for 5km and are in the process of being restored. Dramatic falconry shows demonstrate the skills that were essential for any young nobleman to possess at that time.

Lead photo credit : Half-timbered medieval houses in Provins. © Myrabella at Wikimedia Commons

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Pat Hallam fell in love with Paris when she was an adolescent. After many years of visiting, in 2020 she finally moved from the UK to live here and pursue her passion for the city. A freelance writer and history lover, she can spend hours walking the streets of this wonderful city finding hidden courtyards, bizarre and unusual landmarks and uncovering the centuries of history that exist on every street corner (well, almost). You can find the results of her explorations on Instagram @littleparismoments.


  • Jane O’Keefe
    2022-06-09 09:08:26
    Jane O’Keefe
    This sounds wonderful. We are always looking to find new places to explore on our annual visits to Paris from Australia. Can you suggest how best to travel there from Paris. Warm Regards Jane.


    • Pat Hallam
      2022-06-10 11:40:10
      Pat Hallam
      I'm glad you enjoyed the article. The easiest way to get there is by train: the Transilien line P from Gare de l'Est. Provins is just within Zone 5 if you have a 1-5 Zone Navigo.