Get away from Paris’ orchestra of car horns, sirens and everyday stresses with a weekend trip outside the city to the charming town of Troyes, located in the Champagne-Ardenne region.
If you take the train, a visit to Troyes will only take your an hour and a half, and is direct. Buy your tickets online via the SNCF website, or directly at a ticket office at the Gare de l’Est. Depending on the time and day, tickets are around 30 euro each way. Alternatively, you could rent a car and drive for two hours.
The History of Troyes
While it might not be the Troy from Greek mythology, the French town of Troyes (pronounced like the number three – “trois”) has its own rich history. Troyes has existed since the Roman empire, and still contains many houses that date back to the 16th century, despite the great fire of 1524 which destroyed much of the medieval architecture.
Troyes used to be called Tricassae, from the Tricasses Gallic tribe. According to legend, when Attila the Hun was approaching Troyes to sack to city in 451, the Bishop Lupus (Saint Loup) offered himself as a sacrifice which so impressed the invaders that they left Troyes in peace.
The town would become an important center of trade during medieval times thanks to its waterways and proximity to other large French towns, including Paris. It even gave its name to the “troy weight” – the unit by which gold, silver and gemstones are traditionally measured.
What to see and do in Troyes today
It’s impossible to spend a weekend in Troyes without seeing the stunning half-timbered houses that give Troyes its moniker as “The City of a Thousand Colors”. Wander through the charming narrow streets in the old town and relax with a coffee on the central square.
The Troyes Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Troyes) is an absolute must-see. The building contains parts which date back to the 13th century, notably the choir, but the exterior Gothic architecture is from the early 16th century.
Troyes contains numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art which is located in a former episcopalian palace. The Saint Loup Museum holds fine arts, natural history and archaelogical collections. See the tourist office website for tarifs and opening times:
Aside from its historical importance, Troyes is also known as a clothes shoppers paradise. On its outskirts you will find numerous retail outlets, such as the MacArthur Glen shopping village, with considerably reduced prices. Be prepared for crowds if you go during the bi-annual ‘Soldes’ (Sales) periods, when the town swells with shoppers looking for bargains.
Countryside around Troyes
The area around Troyes is particularly beautiful, with national forests and lakes, making it popular among campers, cyclists and walkers. It also attracts visitors on their way to/from Switzerland and the South of France.
If you prefer the French countryside to busy, bustling urban areas, we recommend a visit to the famous Loire Valley.