Troyes, the historic capital of the Champagne region, is one of the most captivating small cities (population 60,000) in France. Ninety minutes by car south of Reims, it can also be reached by train in an hour and a half from Paris’ Gare de l’Est. There’s so much to see and do in this well-preserved medieval city on the Seine that we recommend a visit of at least two days. Happily, Troyes has yet to attract hordes of tourists and remains a quiet and atmospheric place where it’s a pleasure just to stroll the city’s streets.
Before Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, Troyes was already an established Gallic settlement. The town began a golden age when it came under the authority of the Counts of Champagne in the ninth century. They established textile-trading markets that attracted merchants from all over Europe, and it was at this time that the “troy” weight for gold originated here. Troyes remained the capital of the Province of Champagne until the French Revolution.
The city was devastated by a massive fire in 1524 and subsequently rebuilt. Most of the half-timbered houses that line the streets in the historic heart of the city date from this time, and walking along Rue Champeaux or Rue Linard Gonthier is a form of time travel back to the mid-16th century.