A lovely, historic city on the furthest navigable stretch of the Seine south-east of Paris, Troyes has been home to a top-flight club for sporadic seasons since 1954. This includes 2015-16 but Troyes AC have been out of their depth all campaign and are looking at Division 2 football in 2016-17.
Twice in the past, the city’s flagship club has been relegated from the top flight only to disappear entirely within a short period of time.
First came Association Sportive Troyenne, formed in 1900, who merged with Savinienne in 1931 and turned professional when joining Ligue 2 four years later. This same club, ASTS, enjoyed a purple patch in the mid 1950s, when they attracted France international strikers Pierre Flamion and Abdelaziz Ben Tifour to play under pre-war forward Roger Courtois to gain a first promotion to Ligue 1 in 1954 and make the French Cup final two years later.
After relegation in 1961, the club dissolved in 1967.
Flamion returned in 1971 to manage Troyes Aube Football, who had been created from the amateur Troyes Omnisports, themselves created in the aftermath of the demise of ASTS. TAF – ‘Aube’ referring to the stadium that has served the local game since opening in 1925 – made Ligue 1 in 1973.
After five years in the bottom five, TAF were relegated in 1978 and disappeared a year later.
A third attempt to launch a professional club came in 1986. Association Troyes Aube Champagne, ATAC, the C referring to the city’s location in the select champagne-producing zones east of Paris, climbed up the league ladder to reach Division 2 within ten years.
After ATAC made Ligue 1 in 1999, their rise to national prominence led a French supermarket chain to force the club to change acronyms to ESTAC: Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne, Troyes AC in short.
It was just as well. Within a short time, the club had also gained international prominence, drawing 4-4 at Newcastle to win the Intertoto Cup in 2001 and beating Leeds and Villarreal in sundry games soon afterwards.
Again, the club nearly disappeared after relegation but survived, despite a dive to the third-flight National in 2009. Promoted straight back to Ligue 2, then Ligue 1 in 2012 and 2015, Troyes benefitted from the return of Jean-Marc Furlan as coach.
After two initial draws, Furlan’s Troyes were stomped 6-0 in Marseille and spent the autumn and winter of 2015-16 rooted to the bottom of Ligue 1. With Furlan’s departure, Troyes are now looking at dealing with staying afloat in the lower flight.
The nearest major airports to Troyes are Paris-Orly 174km (108 miles) away and Paris-Charles de Gaulle 196km (122 miles) away. Neither have direct transport links to Troyes – you need to get to Paris-Est station first. From Orly, take the Orlyval shuttle to Antony (every 5-7min, 7min journey time, €9.30/€12.05 inc 1 onward journey), then the RER B to Gare du Nord, change onto lines 4 or 5 and one stop down to Gare de l’Est.
From Charles-de-Gaulle, take the RER B direct to Gare du Nord (every 6-15min, 25min journey time, €10 for Billet Île-de-France inc 1 change) then transfer for Gare de l’Est.
Walking from Gare du Nord to Est takes under 10min – if arriving by Eurostar with light luggage, it’s hardly worth the one-stop metro journey.
From Gare de l’Est, trains to Troyes (every 1-4hrs, €15 online) take 1hr 30min.
Troyes station is a 10min stroll to the walkable town centre. You’ll need a local bus for the stadium. A single ticket is €1.30, pay on board, validate in the machine – if you need it, a 24hr pass is €4.
For an Aube 10 taxi, call +33 3 66 72 27 22.
There’s no hotel near the stadium, only a campsite, the municipal one with a pool, open from late March until mid October.
On the stadium side of town, near the cathedral, are two charming if expensive, rustic hotels: La Maison de Rhodes, with its own intimate outdoor pool and medieval garden; and sister establishment Le Champ des Oiseaux, also faithfully restored and tucked away in the old quarter.
Also upscale and historic, the Relais St-Jean has been tastefully converted with a nod to contemporary requirements, with a gym and, individually hired by the hour, a jacuzzi in a 16th-century cellar.
Equally central, the Hotel-Pension du Trianon (2 rue Pithou, +33 3 25 73 18 52) is a handy and affordable choice, set near the market place and a few paces from the bus for the stadium. It’s also got a friendly, busy bar downstairs.
Another reliable choice is the Best Western Hôtel de la Poste, a former coaching in now a 32-room mid-range lodging.
Towards the station, Les Comtes de Champagne is an affordable introduction to historic Troyes with a range of room types and rates.
Bars and restaurants dot Troyes town centre but no pubs – Irish-tinged Le Furious closed a while back.
Near the main square, a hub of venues includes Le Chat Noir, more restaurant than bar but busy and informal, and XXL, more bar than restaurant with sport on TV and a grill menu. Both are tourist-friendly.
Locals gather from early doors in La Lorraine (56 rue Georges Clemenceau), a small spot full of betting tips and football talk, while a few doors down, Le Ranch is a convincing candidate for best bar in town. Part pub, part bar, with an understated cowboy theme, rock soundtrack and buzzy younger clientele, Le Ranch has a TV in the corner for football-gawping, a darts machine and Guinness and Magners on draught.
Older locals prefer prominent La Chope (64 rue Générale de Gaulle), just opposite the bus stop for the stadium, another betting bar, while on a parallel street, Le Barrois (7 rue Claude Huez) is a real football hang-out. Staffed by a Marseille fan and someone who still turns out for Troyes veterans, it’s a large space patronised by shoppers from the nearby market, with a back wall dedicated to OM and Troyes AC, pennants and photos of line-ups through the ages.
Open until 5pm-3am, not Sun or Mon, Le Bougnat des Pouilles is a fine place for music, wine and cocktails, happy to show European games.
Finally, near the cathedral towards the stadium, Serbian-staffed Le Musée is the other realistic candidate for best bar in town, decked out in funky art by Thierry Bidaux, with a small stage for live performances and prominence given to TV sport.