Provins sits near the border of Ile-de-France and Champagne. It is one of the traditional Champagne Fair towns that became important trade centers in the middle ages. Much of its medieval heyday is still readily apparent. We came on a day trip from Paris for the Medievales festival. It's about a one hour ride from the Gare de l'est in Paris to Provins. The walk into town from the train station is short and scenic along very old streets like this one.
The Cesar Tower is the major landmark of Provins and normally a focal point of visiting the city. During Les Medievales it's difficult to tour this and the other attraction of Provins, including the bronze age caves under the town. Les Medievales is really attraction enough for one day though.
Most of the city is involved in this enormous recreation of the Champagne Fairs. There are ticket booths located around the perimeter and the streets are clogged with visitors, many of them in period costume. It's also full of stalls selling food, beverages and crafts as well as dancers and entertainers, roaming lepers (yes really), monks and so on.
As settings go for a medieval fair, it's hard to beat Provins. The buildings look like they were specifically made for the two days of this festival each year. We've been to a lot of medieval and renaissance fairs around North America and Europe and nothing approaches the size of this one.
Here's a view of one street from the walls of Provins. The walls are an extremely notable feature of Provins and the fair runs along both the inside and outside of them. There are also falconry shows from the walls both during the festival (get tickets way in advance) and throughout the rest of the year (probably easier to attend).
Along with all the shopping stalls and stages, there is a petting zoo and a recreated medieval craft village inside the walls. The kids play and games area is also rather amusing. Outside the walls in what was once the moat there are all sorts of activities that require a bit more space like demonstrations of weapons, archery, a trebuchet practice zone (you need this, right?) and a jousting field.
Here at the outside corner of the wall it's apparent just how massive the fortifications really are. Visitors are allowed to walk along short sections of the wall near two of the gates but large portions are closed to the public and some sections are being restored. We spent four or five hours at this festival and could easily have extended it to a whole day.