Provins: the Jewel of Medieval France

Provins Tour Cesar Autumn
Tour César gives us an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region lies one of the most significant, beautiful, and well-preserved Medieval towns in France. Stepping through the gates of Provins feels a little like stepping back in time as it’s not only the buildings that have been preserved, but the medieval traditions too.

Believed to have been medieval France’s third largest city, in its heyday Provins was a commercial hub, envied for its wealth and famed for its biannual Champagne fairs which attracted merchants from the length and breadth of Europe. These fairs doubled up as celebrations, complete with singing and dancing, and served as a cultural melting pot where ideas could be shared and connections made. Flourishing in the spotlight of European global trade, Provins even minted its own coinage, which was recognised and accepted throughout Medieval Europe.

Discover ancient architecture…

It is said that the Champagne fairs of Provins owed their success in part to protection that the Counts of Champagne offered to journeying merchants as they travelled through the region. Whilst highwaymen are certainly less of a concern on today’s roads, it’s not difficult to imagine the impression that the Provins skyline would have made upon a visiting merchant. Possibly the most striking feature of this skyline is the Tour César. Built between 1152 and 1181 as a symbol of the Count’s power, the Tour César was originally used as watch tower and prison and is an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

The Tour César also offers panoramic views of the defensive walls that surround Provins. The innovative design of these ramparts served as much to showcase the skill of Provins’ craftsmen as to protect the town. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the 1200m town walls are made up of rectangular, octagonal, and trapezoid (among other shaped) towers which were a true feat of medieval engineering.

Provins Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church Autumn
The enormous blank walls of Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church are eerily beautiful.

Whereas the Tour César evokes the wealth of the town, the church just metres aways tells a different story. Begun in the 12th century, the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church remains unfinished to this day as its constructionwas halted due to financial problems throughout the French kingdom. Now the starkness of this colossal building adds to its beauty, and it is an unmissable monument to the fascinating history of this extraordinary town.

Experience medieval customs…

The traditions of Provins are as well-preserved as its monuments and, in tribute to its medieval history, activities such as Equestrian Falconry are still practiced, and it’s not uncommon to see knights galloping within the city walls in the daily shows put on by the town throughout the spring and summer. The Champagne Fairs may have seen a decline in the 14th century, but the tradition has been upheld all the same and Provins plays host to Champagne Fairs, nocturnal celebrations and musical events which celebrate the customs of the region.

On top of the excitement and drama of the medieval shows, peace and tranquility can also be found in Provins by visiting its rose garden. Here you’ll find a quiet place to relax whilst learning about the history of the rose, its contribution to Provins’ success and, of course, its place in French cuisine!

Just 50km from our hometown of Fontainebleau, Provins is one of our favourite places to explore. We especially recommend tasting Confit de Pétales de Roses: a delicacy of the region!

How to explore Paris

We’ve talked about where to explore in Paris, but what about how? Part of the magic of exploring this city comes from traveling from one beautiful landmark to another, and how you travel makes a big difference to your experience! There are many ways to get from A to B in the city of lights, but here are a few of our favourites.
Batobus for Kinder Exchange

 

 

 

 

 

Set sail!

In the past rivers determined the locations of some of the world’s major cities as they were used to transport commerce, this includes Paris which is built around the river Seine. Traveling through Paris by river is a magical experience, giving breath-taking new perspectives of the most iconic landmarks whilst also revealing some of the city’s hidden treasures.

There are numerous companies that offer boat trips on the Seine, but one of our favourites is Batobus. Batobus drops anchor in nine locations across the city, and thanks to their hop-on hop-off policy, you are free explore to each area of the city at your leisure before setting sail to your next destination. They offer a range of day pass and annual pass offers, making them amazing value for money too!

« A Paris à vélo on dépasse les autos »

You may have heard talk of the journée sans voiture where Parisians left their car keys at home and made of the most of the chance to discover the town on their bicycles. The Car-Free day may only be an annual event, but that’s certainly not to stop you from pedalling through Paris the whole year round! The options are endless, with bike rental available in park areas such Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes providing adventure on wheels for the whole family; whereas the savvy cyclists might want to make the most of the Velib’bike hire scheme to explore Paris via its cycle paths. 

Take to the pavement

What is wonderful about Paris is that every street in this major European city has its own community feel. This is something that you can really appreciate when exploring on foot. Although it may not be feasible to reach all of your destinations this way (Paris is quite big after-all!), by hitting the pavements and seeing where your feet take you, you can quite easily find yourself off-piste of the tourist trail, immersing yourself the unique personality of each arrondissement and basking in the majesty of the architecture.

 When in Paris…

…do as the Parisians do! Somehow the Paris metro is iconic, maybe it’s the Art Nouveau signage that does it. But if there’s one way to really feel like a Parisian, it’s taking the metro. Paris has a super speedy and easy-to-use metro system: tickets are generally bought in 10 packs from the station machines and each ticket is worth one journey within Paris, no matter what the length of that journey may be. If you find the metro map to be puzzling and beyond comprehension, you can plan your metro trip in advance and then play the part of a Parisian public transport veteran on the day.

 Happy exploring!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange