Latest update: 31 October 2021
In Reims and Épernay, I get overwhelmed with all the champagne around me – champagne is literally EVERYWHERE. But in Troyes, I need to hunt for bubbles – even though the city IS located in the Champagne region. In this quiet city, you will find more “half-timbered houses” than champagne houses, and that is actually pretty awesome too.
You will find Troyes in the southern part of the Champagne region, in the Aube department. If you look at the map, the city is shaped like a champagne cork- if you use a little (or a lot) imagination. The people who work in the tourism sector and the souvenir sellers are happy to point it out to you. Many people visit the city because of the outlet stores (there are more than 200!!) in the area, the old city center and because it is an excellent base for day trips to, for example, Reims or Épernay or smaller villages and nature.
The city of Troyes in France
It strikes me how clean Troyes is. When I go to the bakery early in the morning, cleaners have already taken it upon themselves to rid Troyes of the remnants of the day before. The center is small and manageable by foot and has both modern pieces and places where you feel like you’re in a fairytale. I’ve seen houses like this in Strasbourg, but not nearly as many as here in Troyes.
The “half-timbered houses” have a skeleton of wooden beams, which you can see from the outside. They date from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. Fortunately, the houses are usually cherished and well maintained. Unfortunately, sometimes the advertising and signboards stand out ugly against the unique architectural style – I guess that’s the price we pay for the passing of time. Nevertheless, Troyes offers plenty to do, even if you (like me) skip the shopping.
The tourism office reveals the secrets of Troyes
I’m staying in Troyes for two nights, mainly to discover the city itself. The tourism office right in the center is the best starting point. You can book all kinds of activities here (or do so online in advance). My advice: start with the movie about Troyes and then go on a city walk with the audio tour. You’ll get a good sense of where you are and what you can do. But, first, watch the film at the tourist office. It is a beautifully made film full of digital effects that covers the history of Troyes at high speed. It only takes fifteen minutes and will only cost you a few euros.
Google Maps location tourism office
Troyes audio tour
The tourism office has developed an audio tour that is also available in English and Dutch. You can find the route online, but it is much easier to pick up an audio guide. There are no fewer than 39 sights on the route, and they all have an explanation on your audio guide. Some explanations are quite long, so decide on the spot which sights and areas you would like to know more about. Keep the map in your hand because the arrows on the ground are sometimes hard to find. With the audio tour, you see pretty much the entire city, including all the sights, cozy streets, and many churches.
Hôtel-Dieu-le-Comte: garden and museum
The Hôtel-Dieu-le-Comte is undoubtedly worth a short visit because it has a beautiful entrance gate and beautifully landscaped garden. There is a very relaxed atmosphere. Some people stroll around admiring the plants while others settle on a bench with a book. It used to be a hospital, and today you can peek inside a part of the building to see what it was like in the past and admire the old pharmacy. Unfortunately, it was closed during my visit, but you get a bit of an idea of what to expect on Tripadvisor.
The churches of Troyes
Troyes has a nice collection of churches. Each church is even more impressive than the last. Be sure to check out the St-Pierre-St-Paul cathedral and the St-Urbain basilica. If you follow the audio tour of the tourism office, you will pass all the churches of Troyes. Almost all of them are free to enter. But do pay special attention to the stained glass: very beautiful! If you are impressed by all that stained glass, check out the stained glass museum. That should reopen sometime in 2022.
Jardin des innocentes
It is only a tiny garden, but a lovely one. It is a nice, serene place in Troyes. I actually bump into it by accident because I’m always curiously looking through gates and around corners in hopes of discovering a hidden gem. The garden is beautifully green in the summer, but it looks so well maintained that I think it is worth it in the winter too.
Ruelle des Chats
This small alley is called the cat alley. Why? Because cats can quickly move from roof to roof as the houses slope towards each other at the top. I haven’t seen a single cat, by the way. It’s only a short alley, but definitely nice to walk through – it’ll only take you a minute. Here you will also find several good restaurants.
Modern art in the city
Sculptures are put in various public places in Troyes. You will come across them naturally as you wander through the streets. There are sculptures of historical figures, but also a large illuminated heart that weighs no less than two tons, a kissing girl or children and animals playing.
The Saint-Loup Museum is the museum of fine arts and archaeology. There is a little bit of everything. Downstairs is full of taxidermy animals, and upstairs you will find endless paintings —especially many from centuries ago, but also some more modern works. There is also a room with sculptures. It is because of the variety of exhibitions that this is a lovely museum to visit. Count on about an hour of visiting time.
Attractions near Troyes
A little road trip through the Champagne region can only turn out well. Alongside the roads, you will find beautiful sunflower fields and vineyards, and there are more than enough typical French villages to drive past or make a quick stop. A visit to Reims or Épernay is also within easy reach of Troyes.
The town of Brienne-le-Château is about a 45-minute drive away. And there is… a chateau, yes. But, unfortunately, during my visit, it was not equipped for visitors and looked more like the office of a government agency? So admire it from a distance (that way, you can’t see that it is not so well maintained either).
But, the village also houses the Musée Napoléon, and that is for sure worth a visit. The museum building used to be a military school. When Napoléon was ten, he went to school here. In the museum, you mainly see pictures of Napoléon, and you get an idea of his career. He came from humble origins and stood out as a military leader because of his strategic insight: he regularly defeated larger armies with fewer men. Because of the highly exaggerated and romanticized stories, he became world-famous among the French, so he became ruler of France. But how reliable exactly are all those stories? Well… at least they feed the legend.
Champagne village Montgueux
The village of Montgueux is also close to Troyes. It is the champagne village of this part of the Champagne region. Here you will find many champagne houses to visit. In theory, you can go on spec, but I advise you to contact the champagne house of your choice beforehand to see if they can accommodate you. The champagne houses in Montgueux are, as far as I can judge, a little less ready for tourists than in Reims or Épernay, where you can simply book tours online.
Restaurant tips in Troyes
The area around the tourism office and the town hall is the heart of the center. If you want good food, I advise you to walk a little further. The square feels a bit like a tourist square, the Leidseplein (Amsterdam tourist hotspot) of Troyes, so to speak. Keep in mind that many restaurants close after lunch, around 2 pm, and then open again in the evening. And, if you want to eat somewhere specific, do make a reservation.
Restaurant Chez Felix
Chez Felix is a lovely modern restaurant with retro decoration: spacious, lots of color, beautiful furniture. On summer days, you can lunch or dine in the courtyard. The menu is not too extensive, and the dishes are simple but tasty. Think of a huge tomato salad with burrata, a sirloin steak, foie gras, or an andouillette. Oh, and the name Chez Felix? I’m guessing it’s from the cat food because the restaurant is on Ruelle des Chats. But who knows, maybe the owner or chef is also called Felix?
Tip! Fancy a local delicacy? Try the andouillette: a sausage made from entrails. I’ll admit it right away: I was afraid to try it.
B.A.M. (Bar à Manger)
B.A.M. has only been around since 2020 but is already a culinary highlight of Troyes. If you only eat out once in Troyes, go here. They have few tables, and it is pretty popular, so if they don’t have a place for dinner, go for lunch. The chefs make such beautiful, tasty dishes. Every day there is a new but limited menu. That makes decision-making a lot less stressful! B.A.M. is located in a beautiful old building, so you can also see the typical wooden beams inside. The furnishings are chic, but the atmosphere is relaxed. Highly recommended!
If I had had more time in Troyes, I would certainly have liked to check out these restaurants; maybe you can try them out:
Drinks in Troyes
Troyes is full of outdoor cafes, and strangely enough, those are not full of champagne. That is a bit different than in Reims or Épernay! In those cities, I had the idea that everyone was constantly drinking champagne. Here I mainly see soft drinks, beer, and wine. But luckily you can order it almost everywhere.
Wine Bar Le Millésimé
A good place to have a drink at the end of the afternoon is the wine bar Le Millésimé, especially if you can sit outside. The bar is at a square where many people pass (great people-watching!), and you have a stunning view of the church.
In the evening, it gets fun and cozy in the Rue Champeaux. It’s a narrow alley with many outdoor seats. At Tante Reine, you can enjoy a good glass of wine or champagne, and at Chez Philippe, you can do some proper people-watching too – while enjoying a glass of wine and cheese, of course.
Rue Champeaux onGoogle Maps
Barci-Barla is a bit more student-like. The beer flows freely towards the outdoor seats under the trees. The audience is a bit younger and more exuberant, and there seems to be a band playing regularly. You can also eat tapas at Barci-Barla. I haven’t tried that, so that’s why I listed the place at the bar options instead of at the restaurants.
Sleeping tip in Troyes
I spend the night in Troyes right in the center. It’s a quiet city, so I don’t notice any noise. But perhaps very light sleepers should divert a little further. My Airbnb is on the first floor of such a beautiful Medieval/Renaissance house. In the hallway, it smells like the Utrecht wharf cellars, if you know what I mean. Being so old, the layout of the apartment is anything but logical. For example, the bathroom is narrow and elongated with a toilet in the back. Very weird, but that’s precisely the charm. I think it’s a lovely apartment in the middle of the center, although I’m not that enthusiastic about the mattress. But hey, it’s okay for a few nights. You can book Chez Isaac on Airbnb.
More France inspiration?
Would you like to take a travel guide with you on a trip? I love Lonely Planet’s practical guides, available at Amazon.com and Book Depository among others. The latter is usually the cheapest, but shipping takes a bit longer.
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