Located on the Seine River about 150 km (93 miles) southeast of Paris, Troyes is a commune and the capital of the Aube department in north-central France. It lies in the Champagne region of Northern France and has existed since the Roman era as the hub of numerous highways, including the Via Agrippa.
There are train connections from Paris, Dijon, Mulhouse and several regional destinations to Gare de Troyes train station. There is also a small regional airport Troyes – Barberey, where it has regional flights to Troyes. With its Gothic churches, half-timbered houses and architecture from the 16th-century, Troyes is a short weekend getaway for those who want to be in touch with the culture of the France countryside.
1. Musée de Vauluisant
Musée de Vauluisant is formerly the fabulous renaissance Hôtel de Vauluisant. The building, with its charming twin turreted towers built in the 16th – 17th centuries, contains two museums, Musée d’Art Champenois (Regional Art Museum) and Musée de la Bonneterie (Textile-Hosiery Museum). You will start your exploration through the marvelous religious paintings, sculptures, and stained glasses collections from churches and monasteries around Troyes. Get close to the stained glasses and be astounded by the craftsmanship of those eras.
On the 2nd floor, you will explore the Textile-Hosiery Museum, where you can get to know the history of Troyes as the hosiery capital of France from 1700s up to the 1960s. There are both primitive wooden looms and sophisticated machines from the industry’s golden age in the 1800s. You will gain a whole new perspective about Troyes and its region from your exploration at Musée de Vauluisant.
2. Eglise de la Madeleine
Eglise de la Madeleine is the oldest church in Troyes, dating back to 1120 and was rebuilt in 1200 as a supreme example of Gothic architecture. The highlight of the church is the impressive choir’s renaissance stone rood screen, which was sculpted between 1508 and 1517. Few of these survive in French churches, so it’s a great experience to see a few of these renaissance legacies.
With incredibly stained glass windows, Eglise de la Madeleine is a beautiful church. Check out some particular windows depicting the Passion and the Tree of Jesse. When you get out of the church, turn left and left again and you will arrive at a small, peaceful garden behind the church, planted with green shrubs and white flowers. It’s the perfect place to rest before you head out to your next destination.
3. Troyes Cathedral
Sitting at the heart of Troyes, the Troyes Cathedral, famously known also as Cathédrale St-Pierre St-Paul, is a prime example of the Flamboyant Gothic style. Started in the 13th-century and completed more than 400 years later, Troyes Cathedral is entirely gothic and is popular as one of the most beautiful churches, not just in France, but all of Europe.
Check out the three huge roses that were designed by the Renaissance architect Martin Chambiges. The stained-glass windows share Bible stories and are wonderfully depicted in deep rich colors. This was the way for illiterate medieval peasants to learn about the Bible stories. The incomplete single-tower on the West front, the small Renaissance campaniles on top of the tower, the whole cathedral architecture and interior will give you an unforgettable experience.
4. Old Troyes
Within a second, Troyes can transport you to a different era by exploring the road to the Old Troyes. The Old Troyes has a multitude of Troyan timber-framed houses from the 16th-century that evoke the medieval and renaissance period. All houses are four stories high and these lovably rickety buildings are topped with triangular gables and all have different shades of daub. Stop by at one of the terrace cafés and enjoy the medieval and renaissance atmosphere of Old Troyes.
5. Ruelle des Chats
Aren’t you wondering why it’s called the Ruelle de Chats, or in English: the cat’s alleys? This medieval alley is so narrow so the tops of the buildings on either side of the alley are so close, that cats on the top floor or attic can leap across from one side to the other.
The overhanging corbeled houses converge in a sort of urban ravine, blocking out all daylight, which it wouldn’t be difficult as the opposing facades actually touch each other at the top. It’s a must-visit when you are in Troyes. Spend some time to wander and there are lots of good restaurants nearby.
(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)