The great thing about travelling is that we get to visit unfamiliar places. That’s how we happened to discover Troyes (pronounced Trwah): a medieval city in the Champagne region. We thoroughly enjoyed the highlights of Troyes. You can have a wonderful weekend in this charming city with countless coloured half-timbered houses. But Troyes is also ideal as a stopover on the way to holiday destinations in the south of France.
What to do and see in Troyes
Troyes is located in the Champagne region. The funny thing is that the map of the city centre looks like a champagne cork. The picture does well on postcards, a good marketing move by Troyes’ tourist office.
The historic centre is not big. You can easily see everything on foot. The old town is like a true open-air museum. Almost every street is filled with beautifully coloured half-timbered houses. But Troyes has much more to offer. For instance, it is also the city of nearly 10,000 stained-glass windows in the various churches. Each of Troyes’ main churches is therefore a sight to behold but not just for the windows.
The best way to get to know the city is with a city tour. And that is very easy in Troyes: from the Tourist Office, you can take a walk that is perfectly marked out. Just follow the signs on the street (see photo below) and you’ll pass all the city’s sights. Cleverly thought out! We walked that route and were able to admire all the highlights. These stood out as far as we were concerned:
We’ve said it a few times already: the city centre is a maze of small streets with lots of half-timbered houses. They are crooked and often lean heavily forward. In narrow alleys, the ridges of the houses barely touch. This is especially evident in the Ruelle des Chats. Look up here and marvel at the slope of the houses. We found Rue Larivey a beautiful and quiet street with beautiful houses. The Square des Trois Godets, behind the cathedral, is also very pretty.
The half-timbered houses date from the 16th century. Because in 1524, the entire city burned down. People then rebuilt the city identically again. In the centuries that followed, the houses were greatly neglected. People didn’t see their historical value either. Only in the last 50 years have many buildings been restored to their former glory. But even now, you still come across plenty of houses that could use a thorough renovation.
Cathedral of Troyes
The cathedral’s tower can be seen from afar. The church was intended to have several towers. Due to lack of money, this was never achieved. Inside the cathedral, you really notice how big it is. But most striking are the many stained-glass windows. There should be over 1,600 of them. Through the large rose window with a diameter of more than 10 metres, a beautiful purple-red light falls in at some parts of the day.
Church La Madeleine
Another special church, though a lot smaller than the cathedral. But that doesn’t make La Madeleine any less beautiful. It is the city’s oldest church. Construction started in the 11th century. The biggest eye-catcher in the church are the beautifully decorated choir stalls. If you look at all the details for a while, you will undoubtedly notice all sorts of things. But even here you will enjoy colourful stained-glass windows.
Next to the church is the Jardin des Innocents. This garden full of religious symbols is a nice quiet spot in the sometimes busy city. The garden used to serve as a burial place for stillborn babies. That is also where its name comes from.
Hôtel de Mauroy – Maison de l’Outil
A beautiful 16th-century mansion houses an extraordinary museum. Here are more than 10,000 implements and tools from the 17th and 18th centuries. The museum also has an extraordinary library with almost 40,000 books of working-class literature. Especially in the museum’s courtyard, it is striking how beautiful the building is. For that reason alone, it is worth walking through the gate.
Right between the Basilica Saint Urban and the cathedral is this former hospital from the 12th century. It was greatly expanded in the 18th century. About 60 years ago, the hospital moved to a modern building outside the city centre. The hospital’s old pharmacy now serves as a pharmacy museum. Here you can see how a pharmacy functioned in the 18th century. We could only admire the building from the outside. The museum’s renovation was supposed to be completed by spring 2021, but has been delayed.
Basilica Saint Urban
This church has a similar building history to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Construction began in the 13th century. It was not until the end of the 19th century that the Basilica Saint Urban was completed. It owes its name to its founder: Paul Urbain IV. He is also buried in the church. This church also has a beautiful choir. The beautiful stained-glass windows from the 13th century are also special.
Hotel de Vauluisant
This fine 16th-century mansion is now also a museum. Knitting enthusiasts are in for a treat here. For part of the building is knitting museum. Indeed, Troyes was responsible for half of France’s knitwear production in the early 19th century. The advent of the knitting machine put an end to this. The other part of the building displays Troyes’ art collection.
Church Saint Pantaléon
About opposite the Hotel de Vauluisant is this beautiful church. From the outside, it is not so striking. Inside, all the more so. Be sure to look up and enjoy the extraordinary ceiling this church has. Made entirely of wood and a feast for the eyes. Other attractions in the interior are the impressive sculptures though the unusual windows also stand out in this church.
Outlet Centre McArthurGlen
The city centre has several shopping streets. But the heart beats faster in one of Troyes’ outlet centres. The largest is McArthurGlen. You’ll find more than 160 shops from just about every famous brand here. If you love shopping, you will be able to spend hours here. We saw several men reading a book in one of the many seats. Apparently, they were less interested in shopping than their partners.
Surroundings of Troyes
But besides the beautiful city, Troyes has an extraordinary natural park nearby. The Parc Naturel Régional de la Forêt d’Orient is great to visit. You’ll find three large lakes in which to swim. It is also possible to practice water sports. It is a wooded area with many hiking possibilities. At several places you have fantastic viewpoints. The natural park also contains Brienne-le-Château. There you will find a beautiful castle that you definitely want to visit. On the way to the nature park you will see typical French landscapes with rolling meadows with the typical bales of hay. Often flanked by large fields full of blooming sunflowers. Magnificent!
Practical information for your visit to Troyes
- We had a delicious meal at La Piazza. An uncomplicated and cosy restaurant with good food and nice wines. Reservations are handy, especially if you want to sit in the street corner section.
- Another good choice is Tout Simplement & l'Annexe, near the town hall. Tastefully decorated and with simple but tasty dishes and matching wines.
- If you really want a taste experience, go to Le Valentino. Here you will be surprised and pampered in an atmospheric ambience.
On the menu in Troyes, you will often see the dish Andouillette, a local speciality. This is pork sausage made from intestines. The best kind has an AAAAA rating on the menu. You have to love it.
Around drinking time, Troyes locals like to go to one of the many terraces in the city centre. This is when you really notice that the city is in the Champagne region. No one drinks a beer or an ordinary glass of wine. Everyone is sipping a flûte filled with champagne.
- We slept at the Ibis Troyes Centre. A standard hotel without much embellishment. For us, the enclosed car park and its location near the city centre was the reason for booking the hotel. The bed, shower and extensive breakfast buffet were excellent.
- In the immediate vicinity of this hotel is Ibis Styles Troyes Centre. Slightly more luxurious and personalised and also with an enclosed car park.
- If you want a special overnight stay in Troyes, book Hôtel la Maison de Rhodes en Spa. A magnificent setting awaits you. You sleep in a medieval building with beautiful rooms. It is close to the cathedral in a quiet street. Right in the city centre, it doesn't get any better.
This is the overview of all accommodation in Troyes.