Troyes is rooted in the Roman era, becoming a hub of several Roman roads leading to Reims, Langres and even Milan. As Rome fell and church became the dominant force in European life, Troyes became a medieval center of commerce.
The buildings in Troyes are largely made of wood, and not surprisingly, fire has historically been Troyes greatest enemy. Indeed, the Great Fire of 1524 very nearly destroyed the entire town. However, despite the numerous wars inflicted upon France, Troyes suffered very little damage. Its old, wooden structures may list a bit, but the city itself has managed to preserve much of its historical identity. In the downtown area no fewer than ten churches, all centuries-old, enthrall visitors and parishioners alike with their magnificient stained-glass and mixtures of Gothic, Classic and Romanesque architectures.
In addition to its churches and half-timber buildings, Troyes boasts a number of Hôtels Particuliers (mansions) of the old town. These fantastic, palatial homes were the residences of the aristocracy and they share with the rest of the buildings a penchant for ornately carved wooden beams.
Visitors will notice a dolphin motif carved into many of the city's buildings and edifices - this is related to the Maison du Dauphin. The Dauphin was the heir to the French throne, and dauphin is the French word for dolphin. The Maison du Dauphin is the former residence of the king's successor, though its former opulence has long-since declined into a crooked, leaning yellow mansion.
Interestingly enough, Troyes' city center is shaped like a champagne cork - the rectangular body is defined by tree-lined boulevards and the rounded "top" is bordered by the Seine river.