Sens, or Agedincum, as it was once known
You may not be aware but the most ancient constructions in the town date way back to the Gallo-Roman era! On the threshold of the “amande” (almond in English – other name given to the historical centre of Sens), we can see proof of this: there are still some remains of the wall that surrounded the heart of the city. It was built in approximately 275-276 and was dotted with around thirty towers. It was built in haste to protect the city from Germanic invasions, using Gallo-Roman gravestones and other materials from public or private buildings! These gravestones were rediscovered in the 17th century when the wall was knocked down. Today, they are on display in the underground exhibition rooms of the Museums of Sens.
Another impressive ruin from this area of Ancient Times is the “Poterne”, located in the southern section of the “amande”, this construction allows us to imagine the sheer size of the whole wall! Today, it houses administrative offices and we can still cross through the building through the small door which leads to a pretty paved courtyard.
Each district has its own unique identity
Just like many visitors before you, you’ll be taken aback by the mosaic of districts that make up the historical centre of Sens, each with its own identity, atmosphere and activities.
The cafés in the shopping district
If you walk down the Grande Rue, the pedestrian street which stretches from the Yonne to the Rue de la République, you will find yourself at the heart of the shopping district. There are still a number of shops today in the narrow half-timbered houses and it is a very pleasant place to wander around and do a bit of shopping! The main attraction in this district is of course the indoor market and the architecture and activity within really is a treat for all the senses…
A district brimming with arts and crafts
The next district is that of the craftspeople with a particularly beautiful building, the house of Abraham. This extraordinary building was built in 1540 by a tanner, and a particularly remarkable characteristic is the Tree of Jesse sculpted into a corner pillar.
Today, there are many craftspeople and artists who have chosen to set up shop in Sens and the Sénonais region: makers of string instruments, painting restoration and framing, jewellery creation, women’s clothes, hats or leather goods… The list of craftspeople is endless, and they are all extremely talented!
Manor houses for the wealthiest of residents
Once you enter the next district, you’ll be surrounded by a completely different atmosphere with manor houses and very beautiful private mansions. Next to the cathedral, you are now in the former district of the canons and clergymen. It is hard to imagine that a monastery once stood where we can see the town hall today!
Together, Rue du Général Allix, Rue Abélard and Rue de l’Epée form the ancient district of the community leaders and magistrates. It’s pretty logical, with the Palais Royal located just at the end of the street at that time! Louis VII stayed here when he visited Sens. It is even believed that Louis IX and Margaret of Provence spent their wedding night here (in prayer!), their wedding having been celebrated at the cathedral in 1234. Today, it is home to the Regional High Court.
They are really worth a visit
While you’re passing through Sens, don’t forget to stop by these monuments and remarkable viewpoints:
- Ile d’Yonne and Saint Maurice Church. At the bottom of the Grande Rue, your attention will be drawn to a beautiful building before you… Saint-Maurice Church, built in the 12th century for fishermen and sailors. It looks like the side of the building is plunged straight into the Yonne river! It is found on “Ile d’Yonne”, a small district that can be explored on foot, by following the river or even from the river itself in a canoe or on a paddle board !
- The Municipal Theatre, on the Promenades de Sens. It was officially opened in 1882, not long after the indoor market. Behind its stone sculpted walls, there is an Italian-style theatre, with boxes, frescoes and balconies. From September to April, the programme is extremely diverse, with concerts, theatre productions, entertainment for children, dance and much more.
- Take a break in one of the many parks and gardens dotted all over the city !
How should I visit the historical centre of Sens?
- In a hurry? Get yourself one of our discovery maps (available from our welcome desk or to download). In one hour, you can see the main monuments and get a brief explanation of the story behind them. If you would like more information, feel free to read the details on the heritage site information terminals.
- Feeling more curious? In that case, we suggest you follow the “Circuit de Brennus” with the guidebook, to visit the city in 56 steps (it will take around 2 hours), with historical facts, anecdotes and remarkable places to explore. You will be guided by the arrows on the ground, showing the effigy of Brennus! The guidebook is on sale at our welcome desk.
- With your children? To discover the history of Sens and have some fun at the same time, why not try out one of our treasure hunts! Either on paper or using a tablet, our treasure hunts are available all year round, suitable for children from the age of 6.
- Would you like to hear the story of the history of Sens? All year round, we offer self-guided audio tours of the city centre or interactive tours on a tablet (around 1hr15) and the cathedral (just under an hour). There’s no need to book in advance, just come by at our welcome desk!
- Would you prefer to be able to ask questions, listen to stories and anecdotes? In the summer, we offer several different guided tours, with different themes: “traditional”, night time, dramatized, on a specific theme… And even ones especially for children! The choice is yours!
An arrow of the "Circuit de Brennus"
Guided tour for groups
Interactive treasure hunts
Visit with a tablet