A day trip to medieval Troyes, France

by Jan

Troyes is the ancient capital of the Champagne region in north-eastern France.  It is an amazing medieval city, with winding, narrow streets, elaborate churches, and charming old buildings.  Regular readers will know that I am rather partial to a medieval city, so I couldn’t pass up on an opportunity for a day trip to Troyes on our return from La Plagne.

Canal Sculpture Troyes, France

Troyes old town is small and easy to navigate on foot.  If you keep your eyes on the ground and walls you will see bronze markers at each significant landmark.  This sets out a logical historic route, which will show you the highlights of this beautiful city.

Read on to discover what we got up to on a day trip to Troyes and the best things to do for first-time visitors in this charming medieval city.

Canal du Trévois

padlocks on bridge at Canal, Troyes, France

We started our day trip to Troyes with a stroll along the Canal du Trévois.  It was built in the 17th century, to provide an alternative waterway to the River Seine.  This famous river winds through the city on its way to Paris.

However, the Canal du Trévois was never completely filled with water and eventually fell into ruin.  Luckily for us, it now provides a romantic walkway, often seen on picture-postcards.  Spanning the canal you’ll see several bridges, with padlocks from the many lovers who have travelled this route.

La Cœur de Troyes

La coeur de troyes, Troyes, France

If you are planning on spending a day in Troyes, make sure you don’t miss the area by the canal.  Art-lovers will love it here, as you’ll find several contemporary sculptures along the quays.  The children enjoyed “attendez-moi” a bronze sculpture of a dog chasing geese over the water.

However, the most iconic sculpture in Troyes is a large, stainless-steel heart, la Coeur de Troyes.

Weighing 2 tonnes, this stainless-steel treasure is one of the must-see attractions in Troyes, especially at night.  As dusk falls, la Coeur de Troyes glows red, and even beats like a heart as people approach.

La Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul

La Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul, Troyes, France

From la Cœur de Troyes we headed to the cathedral area.  La Cathédrale de Saint-Pierre et Saint-Paul is an impressive Gothic building with stunning architecture and amazing stained-glass windows.  Built in the 13th-17th centuries, it is hundreds of years old and currently undergoing restoration work.

However, this is not the only stunning religious building in Troyes, as it is home to nine more churches.  (In fact, it was originally 25, but some have disappeared).

Medieval Buildings

Medieval buildings, Troyes, France

One of the very best things to do in Troyes is wander through the streets of the old town.  Troyes is a captivating town with half-timbered medieval buildings at every turn.

Historically, it was an affluent town which attracted many international visitors to its annual fair.  Unfortunately, a great fire in 1524 destroyed much of the city and burnt over 1000 houses to the ground.  However, the townsfolk of Troyes were wealthy and soon rebuilt the lost buildings in the contemporary Renaissance styles.

Medieval building with Tower, Troyes, France

Today Troyes is a marvel to explore, as you can wind your way through the narrow alleys and cobbled streets.  The charming colourful facades add character and a reminder of how the town would have looked hundreds of years ago.

The old houses are tall, with overhanging fronts, as tax was formerly based on the footprint of the building.  Many buildings are also rather wonky, but still somehow standing the test of time.

One of my favourite old buildings in Troyes is La Tourelle de l’orfevre (the Goldsmiths Tower).  As the name suggests, a goldsmith built the tower.  However, nowadays this ancient establishment is a popular creperie.

La Ruelle des Chats

La ruelle des chats, Troyes, France

One street you mustn’t miss on a day trip to Troyes is the quirky “Ruelle des Chats.”

Cat Alley is a narrow, dark street, with overhanging houses that almost touch at the top.  This gave it the name, as cats could freely jump from one side to the other.  Cat Alley even has its own cat shop, selling everything for the cat-lovers of Troyes.

Eating in Troyes

Colourful buildings in Troyes, France

As you’d expect Troyes has a choice of pretty plazas with outside tables overlooking the squares.  You’ll never be stuck for places to eat.  One of the most popular sqaures is the Place Maréchal Foch and it is here that you’ll also find the town hall.

Obviously, we couldn’t spend a day in Troyes without a stop for food.  However, in February it wasn’t the weather for eating al fresco, so we ate at Midi O’Halles, which offered an appealing choice of focaccia and panini.

Champagne in Troyes

champagne in Troyes, France

Although Troyes is the official capital of the Champagne region, it is sometimes overlooked in favour of its neighbours Reims and Éparnay, home to the major Champagne houses of France.

Nevertheless, you can’t visit Troyes without trying some of its finest local produce!  It may not offer any grand Champagne houses, but there are still plenty of places to sample some bubbles!

Plus, from above Troyes does resemble the shape of a champagne cork.  It even acquired the name “Bouchon de Champagne.”

Halles de Troyes

Meat Market Troyes, France

After lunch we headed off to explore the market.  Built in 1874, Troyes has one of the largest covered markets of its kind.  Inside you could buy a selection of meat, cheese, and incredibly large vegetables.  We’ve never seen such huge Brussel sprouts!

In front of the market place is another steel sculpture, “la feuille” (the leaf) which matches the style of the Troyes Heart, albeit the leaf is lying down.  The same local artists designed  both sculptures.

Museums in Troyes

If you have more than a day to spend in Troyes, you could take some time to explore the museums.  You’ll find several unique museums, including France’s first museum for stained glass, a museum of tools and an apothecary.  Troyes also has a modern art museum and several galleries.

However, we had dinner plans in Reims, so will have to return another day for these.

How to get to Troyes

Troyes is to the southeast of Paris on the A5.  If you are coming by car from Paris, it is 110 miles (178 km) and takes about 2 hours.  There are regular trains from Paris, which leave from the Gare de l’Est.

Troyes also provides an ideal stopover on the route from Calais to the Alps or South of France.  By car, it is about 250 miles (400 km) and takes just under 4 hours.  Troyes is just off the A26 (junction 23), so is ideal if you need to break up your journey from the Channel Tunnel.

Parking in Troyes

Parking was easy, and we found several small car parks near to the centre.  We chose a car park in the Boulevard du 14 juillet, which was close to the historic centre and surprisingly cheap.

Parking is free 7:00pm-9:00am and 12:00pm-2:00pm and on Sundays and public holidays.

Have you been to Troyes?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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