When I first typed ‘what to do in ‘Meaux‘ into my search engine, the results weren’t overwhelmingly promising. However, after a little more digging through pictures on Instagram and Facebook alike, I was convinced that it would make for the perfect half day trip from Paris. After all, it’s close to the city of love, has plenty of things to do, and is the perfect place to visit if you love eating brie and mustard (though not necessarily together!)
Around 45 minutes from the centre of the city of lights by train, Meaux (pronounced ‘mo’) lies to the east of Paris. The town traces its’ roots back to Roman times when it was known as ‘Latinum’. The other antiquity nickname for the city was ‘Meldi’, which gave rise to the fact that inhabitants of the quaint city today are called Meldois.
Many of the most interesting things to do here are concentrated in the old city part of town, which still remains encased in a defensive wall dating back over two thousand years. In the very heart of old-town Meaux, you’ll find a set of ecclesiastical buildings that together outline the shape of a bishop’s mitre.
The city is best visited in the late spring or early autumn when the flowers are still in bloom and a summer vibe permeates the air. Once there, you can wander along the various tributaries that divide the town into small segments, take an easy day trip to Disneyland, or simply soak up some history. Here’s a quick guide to the very best things to do in Meaux:
In the very heart of the city, much of the action is centred around a historic cathedral dating back centuries. Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Meaux is Roman Catholic and dates all the way back to the 12th-century, though it wasn’t officially completed until well into the 17th-century.
The reasons for why the cathedral took so long to build are varied; but insufficient funds, occupation by the English, and the hundred year war all hindered the build. Like other European religious buildings that took literal centuries to complete (Italian Monastery, Certosa di Pavia springs to mind), the resulting church is a beautiful blend of architectural styles. Romanesque and Gothic features can be found side by side if you examine the structure carefully enough.
Meaux ramparts: Gallo-Roman and Medieval Fortified Walls
Surrounding what was once the old city of Meaux, but has since just become the centre of an ever-growing town, you’ll find the well-preserved remnants of the Meaux Ramparts. One of the best examples can be found right next to the tourist office, while another piece of wall has been incorporated into the public gardens beside the cathedral.
There are two different lots of ramparts; each dating from different eras. The original walls were built during the Gallo-Roman period, while these first ramparts were expanded and fortified during medieval times. Head to Jardin Bousset and walk to the top of the 17th-century ramparts to find one of the best views of Meaux.
Le Jardin Bossuet
A fairytale garden in the heart of a busy town, le Jardin Bossuet was first installed in the 17th century under the direction of bishopric at the time, Dominique Séguier. It was created in line with other French gardens of the era and comprises of flowing flower borders, green spaces, and peaceful contemplative spaces.
The garden is named for Meaux inhabitant, Jacques-Bénigne Lignel Bossuet, a theologian and French bishop who is best known for his sermons and was a well respected French orator. He lived and worked in Meaux between the 17th and 18th Centuries and has been celebrated in the town and beyond ever since.
Musée Bossuet (Museum of Bossuet of Meaux)
Located right by the cathedral and with views onto the Bossuet garden, the museum is right in the heart of the former episcopal complex and includes a whole variety of collections. Art, architecture, and the history of the town are all explored within the permanent collections, as well as in the temporary exhibitions that are on show throughout the year.
Museum highlights include The lamentation of Christ, a 16th-century painting by Frans Floris, and an entire shrine entitled The Chassa of Nantouillet. This dedication is formed of skylights, gables, adorned with enamelled copper plates, and dates back to the 12th or 13th century.
Try the local produce; ALL the cheese & mustard
Meaux is home to its own variety of brie and a type of mustard. Brie de Meaux has a unique, creamy flavour and is a designated AOC, meaning that it can be only produced under specific circumstances. In a somewhat surprising twist, however, much of the Brie de Meaux is actually produced in the Lorraine region thanks to the demand for the cheese well outstripping the production rates that the small city can fill.
If you’re looking to further delve into the story of cheese in this quaint city, then you should head to the Maison du Brie de Meaux, a unique attraction where you can learn about production techniques and the history of this local delicacy.
Meaux Old Town
One of the biggest draws of Meaux is its old town. I know that I probably say this too often about the many pretty towns that litter the French countryside, but walking the streets, lanes, and small parks around Meaux are quite literally like stepping back in time.
And especially so if you head away from the main shopping street, and towards the river or in the little residential alleyways that dot the city. If you’re looking for an authentic French experience without leaving the Île de France region, then you’ll find it here in Meaux. Sip on an espresso in a roadside café or grab a baguette from the boulangerie and head to a park.
Stroll along the river or wander the streets that form the centre of town; either way, you’ll likely spot plenty of beautiful architecture that predates the Haussmannian style, as well as was built after. Former Châteaux litter the town, as do pretty little streets, and quaint façades that wouldn’t look out of place in Provence. Head to Meaux with your camera in one hand and curiosity in the other to get the most out of your experience (and maybe even stumble on a real-life Narnia).
Parc Naturel du Patis
If you love your French towns to come with a side of nature, then head to the Parc Naturel du Patis, opened to the public since 2006. Filled with plenty of green space, wooded areas and a haven for birdwatchers, the park offers many walking trails just steps from the heart of Meaux. Rare plants and over seventy bird species can be spotted here if you have a keen eye and stay long enough.
Musée de la Grande Guerre (World War I Museum)
Meaux is a historic military site in itself as it was the site of the First Battle of the Marne, in September 1914. During this battle, German troops were stopped at the Gates of Meaux and the brave residents of Meaux altered the course of the war.
Since 2011, Meaux has been home to the largest Museum in Europe, a place dedicated to remembering and educating visitors about WWI. More information on the museum, as well as opening times and ticket prices, can be found on the Musée de la Grande Guerre’s website.