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A Wonderful Weekend of Sightseeing and Champagne Tasting in Reims

A Wonderful Weekend of Sightseeing and Champagne Tasting in Reims

If you have seen the sights of Paris and are ready for a change of scenery and pace, you may be pleased to learn that you can hop on a fast train from Paris to Reims and be in the Champagne region in under one hour.

Reims is a walkable and compact city east of Paris with a rich history and a laid-back vibe. It is famous for being home to some of the region’s champagne houses, such as Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, and Ruinart, plus it has a Unesco heritage-listed gothic cathedral. So, if you are partial to a glass of bubbles and are interested in exploring one of France’s most historic cities, you won’t want to miss this destination.

The main train station is in the city centre, and you only need to cross the road from the station to reach the central boulevard, lined with bistros, bars, patisseries, and ice cream parlours. It’s the perfect place to start your day with a café crème and croissant!

Reims makes a fabulous day trip from Paris, but if you decide to stay in Reims for a few days as I did, you can also visit Eperney, a 40-minute train journey away.

Here, you will find the Avenue of Champagne, the centre of the world’s fizzy stuff and the home of the Epernay Champagne houses. For me, the best champagne house in Epernay was the stunning mansion and cellars of Moet and Chandon. I booked a Moet and Chandon champagne-tasting session and tour and would highly recommend it.

So let me help you discover the wonderful world of Reims!

Reims Cathedral.

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Is Reims worth visiting?

So what is it about Reims that makes it such an important culture and historical centre in France?

In the early Middle Ages, it became an important centre for Christianity. Its famous cathedral, Notre-Dame de Reims, was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and is where 25 French kings were crowned.

During the medieval period, Reims was a powerful city known for its wealth, trade, and influence. Its role in the Champagne trade brought great prosperity to the region.

Like much of Europe, Reims endured its share of war and conflict over the centuries. Sadly, 80% of Reims was destroyed during WWI and WW2 but was rebuilt from the ashes. Many of the city’s buildings were reconstructed in the Art-Deco style, an example of which can be seen on a visit to the Opera House.

Today, Reims is a vibrant university city known for its historical landmarks and connection to the Champagne wine industry. It’s a centre for education, culture, and tourism in the Champagne region of France and is worth visiting.

What to do in Reims, France

Most people come to Reims for a champagne experience, so I have included a section on what to expect during a tasting tour towards the end of this itinerary. In the meantime, let me highlight the historic landmarks in Reims that you will want to see.

Notre-Dame de Reims

One of the best things to do in Reims is to take it slowly and admire its beautiful buildings as you wander around its streets and squares. It won’t be long until you come across its most important historical landmark – Reims Cathedral.

Facade of Reims Cathedral.

Notre-Dame de Reims is in a square that houses the Tau Palace and a few restaurants and bars. Behind it is a small park, Square Henri Deneaux, from which you can get lovely shots of the cathedral’s apse.

Reims Cathedral viewed through blossom trees.

From 1027 onwards, all the French kings were crowned in Rheims (as it was spelt back then), except Louis Vl and Henri lV. In 1654, Louis XlV, the Sun King, was crowned here, and after the Revolution, in 1825, the last king crowned in this church was Charles X.

Interior of Reims Cathedral with pews.
Interior of Reims Cathedral with pulpit and pews and stained glass windows.

The cathedral took 60 years to construct, and the beautiful stained-glass rose window is one of its outstanding features. Its Gothic architecture is intricate and a testament to the skill of the stonemasons who carved this monumental cathedral with its 2303 sculpted figures over 1000 years ago.

Stained glass circular window inside Reims Cathedral.
The Rose Window
Modern stained glass windows in Reims Cathedral.
March Chagall Stained Glass Windows

Why not take a guided tour of Notre Dame de Reims and learn about its illustrious history?

If it’s a nice day, you can sit in the shadow of the cathedral and, if lucky, listen to the sound of a nearby busker filling the air with French melodies.

Man playing an accordion in front of Reims Cathedral.

Palace du Tau

Next to the cathedral is the Palace du Tau. It’s a former archbishop’s palace and a UNESCO World Heritage site containing fascinating exhibits, including artefacts related to the coronation of French kings.

During my visit, the Tau Palace was shut down for renovations, which was disappointing; however, it is due to re-open in 2025, so keep an eye on the Palais du Tau website for exact dates.

Angie’s tip: If Reims Cathedral and Tau Palace have whetted your appetite for religious buildings, visit the Romanesque abbey of Saint-Rémi Basilica, which is slightly on the outskirts of town but reachable by foot or tram.

Carnegie Library

Behind the cathedral is the Carnegie Library, built after its predecessor was destroyed in World War One. It is noted for its Art Deco styling and is one of France’s national heritage sites (Monument Historique). It contains over half a million documents, including manuscripts from the 7th century. You are free to enter and look at the Art Deco interior. Check the opening hours on the Carnegie Library website.

A white building with columns and a temple roof.
White stone building with wording 'Biblioteque" above the entrance.
circular building with stained glass windows.

Place Royale

This square, named “Place Royale” in honour of King Louis XV, is surrounded by elegant neoclassical buildings and is a central focal point in Reims.

White building with arched walkways and a flag on its roof.

Town Hall

The Town Hall of Reims, known as “Hôtel de Ville de Reims,” has a rich history that dates back several centuries. It was originally constructed in 1636 as the administrative centre but, like much of the city, was destroyed by bombings during WW2.

When the war was over, it was reconstructed in its previous classical French architecture, including its elegant façade, grand staircase, and richly decorated interiors. It now houses the Mayor’s office and council chambers and hosts city events.

Light coloured brick building with a grey turreted roof.

See the traditional French shops in Reims

Reims has its fair share of pretty shopfronts and as you wander around the city you will be kept busy snapping photos of them!

Red shop front with table and chair outside.
Shopfront covered in flowers.

Head to Fossier for a pink biscuit

Reims is supposedly the birthplace of the biscuit, and its pink biscuits are a big hit in town, often accompanying a glass of fizz.

Fossier’s flagship store is at 25 Lessons Jean-Baptiste Langlet 51100 Reims, where you can purchase the traditional pink finger biscuits of Reims, similar to those used to make trifles in the UK. We went for something a bit more exciting and bought the chocolate-covered pink raspberry square biscuits. I can confirm they were delicious with a cup of tea in our hotel room!

Pink packet of biscuits.

Follow the Reims Walking Trail

If you are interested in learning about some of the historic buildings in Reims, it is worth following the heritage trail around the city. Information panels in French and English tell the story behind some of the more noticeable buildings, giving an insight into their rich heritage.

Wrought iron gates with emblems.

Champagne Tasting in Reims

There are plenty of champagne houses in Reims, and Taittinger was the one that we chose to visit. Their cellars were closed for renovation and will reopen in Summer 2024, so our tasting was carried out in a historic building once used for banquets for the French nobility visiting the city.

Cream coloured stone building with statues of musicians carved into its facade.

We started in their gift shop, which featured special bottles of Champagne, glasses, cork stops, and more. Our sommelier introduced herself, and then we made our way up the heavy wooden staircase to a completely white, modern-looking banqueting suite.

Tattinger Champagne bottles on a desk.
Angie standing in an old looking oak lined room next to a table with bottles of Tattinger champagne.

During our experience, we learned about Taittinger’s history, how Champagne is produced, and how Taittinger is exported worldwide.

It was interesting to learn that Taittinger has vineyards called “Domaine St-Evremond” in Kent that are not too far from our home. Apparently, the soil and weather conditions closely match those in the Champagne region, so it is the perfect place to establish the brand abroad.

Now to the tasting. We opted for the L’Instant Rosé tasting, which included a glass of rosé and white. It was fun to sip champagne in Reims, the only area in the world that can officially label its sparkling wine as champagne.

Rose champagne being poured from a bottle.

The experience lasted around one hour and was excellent. It cost €37 per person. Bookings should be made early, as Taittinger is a popular champagne house, so you don’t want to miss out.

Finish your day with a traditional dinner in Reims

Enjoy a delicious dinner featuring regional specialities like coq au vin or escargots, paired with a glass of Champagne.

Reims has many beautiful restaurants and is one of France’s top gourmet destinations. It boasts eight Michelin-starred restaurants, including La Millenaire and L’ExtrA. Other restaurants to try are Le Condorcet and L’atelier.

Do you fancy somewhere more casual to eat? I recommend the pub/bistro-style food at Au Bureau, beside the cathedral – we ate there twice.

Looking for a traditional eatery? Head to Café du Palais for a quintessential Reims experience. Nestled near Reims Cathedral, this family-run café has been a local favourite since the 1930s. Today, it continues to charm visitors with daily lunch service and occasional dinners amongst the quirky interior.

Searching for good coffee in Reims? You will find it at J’Aime Thé Café. This quaint coffee shop roasts its beans onsite, guaranteeing a full-flavoured beverage.

Getting From Paris To Reims By Train

It’s pretty simple to get between the two cities. A direct train to Reims Central Station from Paris will take approximately 45 minutes and costs approximately £16 one way.

You can also take a train from Paris to Champagne Ardenne TGV. From there, you must take another train, which will take 12 minutes to reach Reims.

Guided Tours To Reims From Paris

It’s very easy to experience champagne tasting in Reims alone, but you may prefer to be part of a group and have your transport arranged for you. For this reason, I am including a couple of guided tour options:

From Paris: Reims and Champagne Tasting Full Day Tour. Enjoy tastings and cellar tours in three Champagne houses, a three-course lunch, and a stop at the Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral.

Small Group Champagne Day Trip from Paris with Six Tastings. Groups of up to 8 people will enjoy a day in the Champagne region, visiting Reims, Epernay and Hautvillers Abbey.

Guided Champagne Tours In Reims

Here are two fantastic champagne tours to book if you plan to stay in Reims.

From Reims: Morning Champagne Tour and Tastings – Max 8 participants, Entry fees, six tastings and transport.

Reims: City Centre Walking Tour and Champagne Tasting. Explore Reim’s medieval squares, cobbled streets and monuments and finish with a glass of champagne.

Where To Stay In Reims

I stayed three nights in Reims at the recently renovated Best Western Premier Hotel De La Paix. I was pleasantly surprised by the superior quality of my room, the hotel communal areas, the swimming pool, and the restaurants and bars.

My spacious room was on the top floor and had a superb view across the rooftops and to the Cathedral and distant countryside. Please follow this booking link for Best Western Premier Hotel De La Paix.

Rooftop Views of Reims from hotel room.

Another superb place to stay with great reviews, and next to the cathedral, is La Caserne Chanzy Hôtel & Spa.

If you are looking after the euros and need a more budget-friendly property, you will love Hôtel Porte Mars Reims Gare Centre Arena. It’s a five-minute walk from the railway station.

Final Thoughts On Visiting Reims

Reims surprised me with its delightful charm and calming effect after the crowds and noise in Paris. It doesn’t stay quite as calm at night, though, as it fills up with students and can feel a little chaotic, which changes the city’s vibe. Nevertheless, I would still recommend Reims as a wonderful place to visit.

I loved that it was easy to navigate, with all the important landmarks close to each other, and that the city was so clean. It is noticeable that the people of Reims are proud of their historic city and maintain buildings and public areas very well.

Long road lined with sandstone buildings in Reims.
Corner building in Reims.

The main boulevard is a perfect place to people-watch while sitting on one of the cafes’ outdoor terraces sipping a flute of bubbles. After all, this is the commercial capital of the Champagne region, so it’s a must.

Reims town centre.

If you are continuing your trip through Eastern France, an easy train link takes you from Reims via Strasbourg to Colmar, one of the prettiest villages in the Alsace Region.

Please PIN for Future Travel to France

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