Troyes is the former capital of Champagne and is a perfect short trip visit from Paris. At just an hour and a half by train it can be a day trip but a couple of days and an overnight stay would be better because there’s so much to see and do in this lovely, vibrant city.
A town that is shaped like a Champagne cork in Champagne?
Troyes is an ancient city, once a Roman town with a direct road from Milan and onwards to Boulogne-sur-Mer on the Opal Coast in the north of France – the route for the invasion of Britain. Later the rich and powerful Counts of Champagne built a palace in Troyes and it was a prosperous place that attracted merchants from all over Europe. The counts fortified their town and though at that time Champagne didn’t even exist, the walls took the form of a Champagne cork.
Following a huge fire in 1524 that destroyed many of the ancient buildings that were constructed from wood, new brick buildings were erected and many of them remain to this day. Indeed the inhabitants of Troyes lived in these buildings pretty much as they had been for hundreds of years right up until the 1950s. It was a decade when the town council went on a bit of a renovation rampage to improve conditions since many of the old buildings had no bathrooms and poor hygiene conditions.
Fortunately they didn’t destroy too much and visiting Troyes is like stepping back in time. Every street seems to have its quota of half-timbered houses and there are cobbled streets and tiny alleyways that create a mesmerising maze in the centre of the old town of Troyes. In the little ruelle des Chats (Cats Alley) you’ll see it is so narrow that the houses lean in and touch via a central gutter at the top and cats could cross from houses on both sides of the roads. At the side of the office of the Mutuelle Societe at 111 rue Emile Zola you can enter a gate and at the back you’ll discover a stunning renaissance house looking exactly as it did when it was built. At the Cour du Mortier d’or, the ancient timber frames still bear the workman’s trademarks.
Everywhere you go here you’ll discover traces of history from hundreds of years ago, quaint, quirky and irresistibly charming…