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Gems of Paris by French Moments

I have two favourite sites when it comes to Christmas in the Seine-et-Marne département. These are the château of Vaux-le-Vicomte and the Provins medieval Christmas market. The latter is a major event in the region and takes place during one Advent weekend. Situated one hour from Paris, the medieval town of Provins is worth a visit… even in the cold month of December!

Why you should visit Provins

Provins in the snow © French Moments
Provins in the snow © French Moments

Provins is a medieval town built atop a promontory above the Voulzie and Durteint valleys. Former capital of the Counts of Champagne in the Middle Ages, the town once held prestigious trading fairs. Known as “Foires de Champagne“, they used to occur twice a year. The Provins fair was hugely popular at the crossroads of routes to northern and southern Europe. Today the historic heritage of Provins is still exceptional with 58 historic monuments listed and protected by the French State. Provins is listed as a World Heritage site by Unesco since 2001.

Discover the Provins Medieval Christmas Market

Provins Medieval Christmas Market © Damien Gilbon
At the Provins Medieval Market © Damien Gilbon

Since its beginning in 2009, the Provins medieval Christmas market is organised by the association of les Gardes-Foires de Champagne.

The market gathers around 40 craftsmen. People love coming to the Provins market for its playful and authentic atmosphere. It gives an idea of how the people of Provins used to live in the Middle Ages. You will encounter real minstrels, jugglers and fire-eaters.

The market is located on place du Châtel and place Saint-Quiriace (Upper Town). 

The gourmet Christmas market in the Lower Town

In the Lower Town a gourmet market is set up around a merry-go-round on the place du Maréchal Leclerc and on the neighbouring shopping streets. You’ll find champagne, confectionary, crêpes, oysters, foie gras. Animations are planned all weekend (jugglers, poney rides, Santa’s chalet…)

Animations around Provins medieval Christmas market

Provins Medieval Christmas Market © Damien Gilbon
At the Provins Medieval Market © Damien Gilbon

On the Christmas market weekend, the medieval town organise a wide range of exciting events themed on the Middle Ages.

  • Medieval items auction. Cour de l’Hôtel de Savigny (Upper Town). You may not be interested in offering a sword to grandpa this Christmas… nevertheless this event is quite unique in this corner of France! People sell there old medieval stuff such as swords, armours, jewels, camping equipment.
  • Medieval ball. Learn a few medieval dances (in the school’s courtyard, rue du Palais 4pm on Sat and Sun).
  • breathtaking fire juggling shows.
  • Guided tours in the historic town based on the theme of « La fête au moyen âge ».
  • The outdoor ice-skating rink set up on the forecourt of the centre culturel et sportif Saint Ayoul (15/12/2017-07/01/2018).
  • The living Nativity scene of St. Francis. One of the highlights of the weekend. The re-enactement is played by 50 actors and animals (ox, donkey, sheep, shepherd dogs, falcon, wolves and the Magi’s camels). A not-to-be-missed show that is held on the place Saint-Quiriace (Upper Town).
  • An exhibition of the Nativities across the world at the Hôtel de Savigny from 1 to 23 December 2017.

Practical info about the Provins Medieval Christmas Market

A few practical advice to come to the Provins medieval Christmas market.

How to get to Provins

  • By car : Provins is situated some 80 kms South-East of Paris. From Paris, follow the A4 motorway and exit at sortie n°13 Serris – Provins. Continue along the D231 road. More info.
  • By train : regular services connect Provins to Gare de l’Est in Paris. The P line of transition terminates at Provins. The shortest ride lasts 1.25 hrs. From the station you’ll need to climb (a bit) to reach the Upper Town (25 minutes walk approx.) More info about the train times.
  • By air: The closest international airports are Paris-Charles de Gaulle (100km) and Paris-Orly (90km).
  • To park your car in Provins is not too complicated outside of popular events (such as the Christmas market!). The easiest (provided there are slots available) is to park your car next to the Tourist Office at the entrance to the fortified town (see map). More info about the carparks locations of Provins. Free shuttles operate between the Upper Town and the Lower Town from 11am to 7pm on the Christmas market weekend (departure and arrival at the Tourist Office). 

English-French Vocabulary 

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs

  • Advent = Avent (m)
  • auction = vente aux enchères (f)
  • Christmas = Noël
  • Christmas Eve = veille de Noël (f) / réveillon (m)
  • Christmas lighting = illuminations de Noël (f,p)
  • Christmas market = marché de Noël (m)
  • Christmas Tree = sapin de Noël (m), arbre de Noël (m)
  • church = église (f)
  • fair = foire (f)
  • gingerbread = pains d’épices (m,p)
  • half-timbered house = maison à colombages (f)
  • holiday season = période de Noël (f), temps des fêtes (m)
  • juggler = jongleur (m) / jongleuse (f)
  • knight = chevalier (m)
  • Middle-Ages = moyen âge (m)
  • Nativity scene = crèche de Noël (f)
  • nightfall = tombée de la nuit (f)
  • square = place (f)
  • street = rue (f)

French Moments would like to thank the association Les Gardes Foires de Champagne for giving us the opportunity to share the beautiful photos by Damien Gilbon.

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Gems of Paris by French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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