Two Days in Provins: A Medieval Fair Town at the Gates of Paris
Young and old, close your history books. In the ancient city of Provins, the great saga of the Middle Ages is played out before your eyes. This Unesco world heritage site – reachable from Paris in just 90 minutes from the Gare de l'Est – owes its fame to the celebrated Champagne trading fairs. In the 12th and 13th centuries, all of Europe would gather here to buy and sell fabrics, spices and other commodities.
Eight hundred years later, the town, with its remarkably preserved fortifications, has not lost any of its epic atmosphere. From April to November you can enjoy its colourful shows, including medieval pageants in June, and a Christmas market in winter. Aspiring knights can experience, over a family weekend, breathtaking jousting tournaments. Meanwhile, lovers of medieval romance will enjoy the banquets animated by troubadours, and demonstrations of the art of hunting with eagles.
In short, Provins guarantees an immersion into life of the Middle Ages, without having to leave the 21st century.
A French "Game of Thrones"
On day one, devote your morning to discovering the city's architectural gems with a Pass Provins or a Pass Famille, reservable online. Begin your saga, pass in hand, at the top of the city's impressive ramparts, constructed between the 11th and 13th centuries. From the dizzying heights of the Remparts and Lépreux alleys, the view over the ancient city and its winding streets is spectacular.
Next, make for the Grange aux Dimes, a former covered market dating to the era of the Champagne fairs. Here, you can participate in a sweeping re-enactment of the medieval markets, complete with actors in period dress. Throughout the visit, your audioguide will share all the city's secrets from this vibrant period.
Now it's time to visit the castle! Get behind the scenes of courtly life under the Counts of Champagne in the superb 12th-century César Tower, before heading to the top of the keep to explore the ramparts. Then, with your head full of chivalrous tales, you'll weigh up your lunch options: for a gourmet meal, try Aux Vieux Remparts, or for a quick bite, options include the Bistrot des Remparts or the brasserie Au Dôme.
Hunting, feasting and tradition
In the afternoon, the Eagles of the Ramparts show will give you the chance to experience hawking. For almost one hour, this king of birds – with its court of buzzards, owls and other masters of flight – will delight you with its breathtaking airborne ballet.
As night falls, the Banquet of Troubadours will initiate you into medieval culinary traditions — accompanied by jugglers, storytellers and acrobats! Costumes are available for hire for children and adults to ensure a total experience.
Legends under the paving stones
The dreamy universe of the Maison Stella Cadente guest house provides a perfect setting for a good night's sleep. The rooms are themed around famous fairytales; slumber inside the world of " Puss in Boots ", " Donkeyskin " or " Alice in Wonderland ".
The next day, the Legend of the Knights show, which take place at the foot of the ramparts, revives the tradition of equestrian jousting tournaments. The knights' impressive tumbles provide guaranteed thrills.
To recover from the excitement, the restaurant L'Appart offers a traditional French lunch menu, prepared directly in front of you by the chef. After your meal, you're only a step away from the last stop of your visit: the city's mysterious network of underground galleries and vaulted cellars. As you explore, remember to stay on your guard in case you run into ghosts of valiant knights or fair damsels!
- Copyright image: Equestrio