CHAMPAGNE ARDENNE troyes half timbered houses

The Jerusalem of Stained Glass, Troyes (pop 61,500), is one of the historic cities of Champagne as well as the department capital.  It is a delightful ensemble of half-timbered medieval houses with a history that dates back to the Gallo-Roman period when it was a thriving trading crossroad leading to other main cities like Reims, Poitiers and Milan. Having held important positions like being the seat of the Bishop Lupus (4th century) and the capital of the Champagne province; Troyes is a treasure trove of history and heritage. Its beautiful old town’s architecture ranges from the medieval to Gothic periods, giving a true sense of old Europe. Bubbly lovers might be disappointed though, as the city does not house any champagne cellars. However, it makes up for it by being a great shopping destination, housing strings of outlet stores that carry quality clothing and accessories (as Troyes has long been France’s capital of knitwear).

Troyes’ bouchon-shaped (cork-shaped) old city centre is enclosed by Boulevards Gambetta, Victor-Hugo, du 14 Julliet and the Seine River. Its commercial street is located along rue Émile Zola. You can arrive at Troyes via bus or train on the western end of town, pass Boulevard Carnot.




FRANCE CHAMPAGNE AUBE Cathédrale de TroyesThe old city of Troyes is a highlight on its own right, with rows of half-timbered houses and corbel vaulting. The town centre features both aristocratic and bourgeoisie residences, made from brick, chalk and limestone. Most of the houses here date from the 16th century, as the city was rebuilt at this time after being destroyed by a massive fire in 1524. It is worthwhile to stroll around the narrow streets in the south-west corner of the old city (including rue Arnaud, place Jean Jaurés, rue Paillot de Moutabert, rue Viardin, rue Champeaux (pedestrianized), rue de Vauluisant, rue de la Pierre and rue Général Saussier) to get a feel for the medieval atmosphere of the town. In particular, head to the small, cobbled, ruelle des Chats, called Cat Alley because the street was so narrow that a cat could allegedly jump across the roofs of houses from one side to the other. The local tourist office conducts guided tours of the old city.

Troyes has been nicknamed la ville aux 10 églises (town of 10 churches), of which four stand out. On the top of this list lies the spacious Cathédrale St-Pierre-et-St-Paul [see above photo, Place Saint Pierre]. Its sensational stainded glass windows spray the sunlight into prismatic colours across the cathedral interior.  Housing a series of features from the entire Gothic school of architecture, the cathedral functioned as the seat of the Bishop of Troyes. The cathedral has been standing here since the 9th century; however the original structure was destroyed by invasions and fires over the next 2 centuries. Hence, the current cathedral edifice is a remnant of the 13th century. Its construction dragged on till the 1700s, as it was intermittently interrupted by wars and natural disasters. The entire cathedral stretches for 114m, with its choir and transepts dating back to the mid-13th century. The western façade however, is of the Flamboyant Gothic style, as it was constructed in the 16th century. The entire stained glass window collection that surrounds the cathedral are a Gothic series of art on its own, dating from the 13th to 17th centuries. The ‘youngest’ feature in the cathedral is the Baroque style organ from the 1730s. The entire cathedral is a well-preserved national monument that is still being tended to today.

FRANCE CHAMPAGNE ARDENNE Troyes La basilique Saint-UrbainGothic Basilique St Urbain
. The construction of this 13th century building was launched by the Pope Urbain IV, who was born in Troyes where he was known as Jacques Pantaleon, and was erected on the site of the Pope’s father’s cobbler store. This intriguing building houses a chapel on its south side that holds the beautiful La Virege au Raisin – a 15th century statue of the Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus.

Église St-Madeleine [rue Général de Gaulle] began humbly as a parish church in the mid-12th century, and it is now the oldest in Troyes. Major reconstruction works were carried out later, bringing the Renaissance choir and tower to place. The nave and the transept are from the original construction period (Early Gothic). The rare and famous rood screen- classified as a National Monument- is from the 15th century and is of the Flamboyant Gothic style. The church also houses beautiful stained glass windows and sculptures (e.g. the Ste Martha sculpture from the 15th century).  Check out the garden while you are there.

Renaissance style Église St-Pantalion, with its high vaulted ceilings, was named after the patron saint of physicians as well as martyr of during the Diocletian persecution of 305 AD.  It features a notable collection of statuary  from the 16th century that were rescued during the Revolution, and hich are unusual because most are of a secular rather than a religious theme.  Check out the grisaille (pronounced grizz-eye) stained glass windows, based on a Renaissance technique using monochromes to create the the effect of a bas relief.

Perhaps Troys could instead have been called the City of Museums as its historical background has spawned museums focusing on subjects as diverse as art to socks. The quirky Maison de l’Outil et de la Penée [7 rue e la Trinité, +33 325732826,, ad/ch €6.50/3], housed in a 16th century Renaissance mansion is dedicated to ancient tools of craftsmen who lost their trades due to the Industrial Revolution. The museum exhibits these tools in glass casings and explains their usage with detailed signs and videos. They display normal tools like the mallets and chisels of the past, to rather unusual ones like a sculptor’s Ripe. You can think of it as a kind of ancient hardware department museum.

FRANCE CHAMPAGNE AUBE Troyes Musee Modern Art Les Pêcheurs à la ligne' par Georges SeuratThe Musée d’Art Moderne [see Seurat's Les Pêcheurs à la ligne, Place St Pierre, +33 325762680] is housed in an former episcopal palace from the sixteenth century.  This comprehensive museum features everything from ceramics, paintings, African artifacts and glass works by local artist Maurice Marinot, as well as works from the Fauvists (wild ones who created an art movement that rebelled against the Impressionists). Impressionists and post-impressionists are well represented with works by Degas, Courbet, Gauguin, Matisse (including a a tapestry), Bonnard, Braque, Modigliani and Rodin, Derain (with more than 80 canvasses), Duffy and Seurat.  Many report this museum as the highlight of their visit to Troyes.

The art and antiquity museum, Musée St-Loup [1 rue Chrestien-de-Troyes,  +33 325762168 ad/ch €4/Free] is close to the cathedral, and houses an ancient collection of sculptures and enamels. It also displays archaeological digs that uncovered interesting artefacts. Troyes's Musée des Beaux-Arts is also a part of this complex, displaying paintings of the 14th to 19th centuries (with particular strength in the 17th and 18th centuries).  The Musée d’Historie Naturelle (Natural History Museum) is also open to those who visit St-Loup.

Head further down to the creepy Renaissance mansion, Hôtel Vauluisant [4 rue de Vauluisant, +33 32542333,, ad/ch €3/Free] for another 2-in-1 museum combo. This building houses the Musée de l’Art Troyen featuring local artworks, mainly from the Troyes School which thrived during the 16th century, and the Musée de la Bonneterie, paying homage to the city’s long knitwear tradition. The Musée de l’Art Troyen displays works from the Fauvist, Cubist and post-Cubist movements; while the Musée de la Bonneterie exhibits the local 19th century socks and sock-making machinery.

The garment-making industry of Troyes is still alive today along their great shopping stretches. You can make your way to Marques City for a mind boggling shopping experience, as these complexes are home to hundreds of outlet stores. Watch out for the crowds during peak seasons though, as they usually cater to bus loads of tourists.




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TROYES1. Hôtel de Ville  2. Train station (west of map limts; scroll map to left to view)  3. Tourist main office  4. Tourist branch office   5. rue Emile Zola  6. rue de la Pierre 7. rue Général Saussier  8. ruelle des Chats  9. rue Paillot de Moutabert  10. rue Champeaux  11.  Cathédrale St-Pierre-et-St-Paul  12. Gothic Basilique St Urbain  13. Église St-Madeleine  14. Église St-Pantalion  15. Maison de l’Outil et de la Penée  16. Musée d’Art Moderne  16. Musée St-Loup 17. Hôtel Vauluisant (including Musée de l’Art Troyen & Musée de la Bonneterie)   18. Marques City (west of map limits; zoom out 2 clicks to view)