Reims is a charming small town in the north-east of France, as well as the capital and most important centre of the region of Champagne. It is largely known for the production of the most famous sparkling wine in the world, being surrounded by beautiful and unique vineyards.
All the main champagne-producer houses, known as Les Grandes Marques, have their headquarters in Reims. Most of them are open to visitors for tours and tastings. Several tunnels carved from chalk lay under the city centre, creating caves and cellars where thousands of bottle of champagne age during the year. Some of these passages date back to Roman times.
While visiting Reims you will realise that there is much more to discover. It was founded around 80 BC and conquered by Julius Caesar after a few years. Since then, it has played an important role in both France and Europe history. All the king of France, from 987 to Charles X in the 19th century, were crowned right here at the Reims Notre Dame Cathedral. The city was destroyed during WWI, during 4 years of bombing, and totally rebuild right after. In 1945, Germans signed the unconditionally surrender at Allied headquarters in Reims, putting an end to WWII.
With so much to see and experience in such a small town, Reims is undoubtedly a must-stop to be added to your itinerary.
Notre Dame Cathedral – It is a beautiful gothic-style building, listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. It features stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall (to replace those damaged in the war), a 12-petaled rose window, a Gothic organ case, and an astronomical clock built in the 15th century. The Cathedral is one of the most famous buildings in France as the kings used to be crowned here. On the west façade you can find the Smiling Angel, a 13th century sculpture that became a famous piece of anti-German propaganda within France after the Cathedral was destroyed by the bombs.
Palais du Tau – Right after the cathedral, the Palais du Tau is a compulsory complement to your tour. It was the residence of the Archbishop of Reims and the venue where the kings used to hold the post-coronation banquets. Today, it hosts and incredible collection which includes an impressive assortment of tapestries, reliquaries and statues. The most important items to see are of course a 9th-century talisman belonging to Charlemagne and the Holy Ampulla that contained the anointing oil for every coronation from Louis VII in 1131 to Louis XVI in 1774.
Basilique of St Remi – This is another little jewel listed as UNESCO World Heritage site and a building of great importance for the history of Reims. St Remi, buried here, was the bishop who baptised Clovis – the man considered as the first king of France – in 496. The interior is sumptuous, combining Gothic and Romanesque styles. Just next door, you can visit the Saint Remi Museum and a beautiful collection about the history of the region.
Champagne tour – any tour in Reims must include a visit to one of the famous champagne houses. Lanson, G.H. Mumm, G.H. Martel, Pommery, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot… you will just have to choose the one (or two!) that you prefer and immerse yourself in an total champagne experience. We suggest to visit one of the champagne houses located on Saint-Nicaise Hill, one of the three sites of the Champagne Landscapes listed by UNESCO. In a unique setting you will discover their huge cathedrals of chalk, where thousands of bottles are preserved, and meet the producers. All tours obviously include a tasting of some sparkling joye de vivre.
Excursion to Lighthouse of Verzenay – Located on the top of one of the prestigious slopes surrounding Reims, the Lighthouse of Verzenay hosts the Musée de la Vigne, where you can discover the fascinating world of the vineyards of Champagne. Thanks to a high-tech audio-visual and scenography system, you will be introduced to every essential step of the production. Visitors can reach the top of the Lighthouse and enjoy a wonderful view over the Champagne vineyards, up to Reims. The visit can also be combined with a tour in one of the champagne houses in Verzenay, where a glass of sparkles will be waiting for you.
Visit to Châlons-en-Champagne – This beautiful little village is called the “sparkling Venice”. Crossed by the River Marne, the Mau Canal and the Nau Canal, Châlons is a city where water is very important and would be the highlight of your visit. A boat ride through the canals will let you discover the highlights of the architectural and natural heritage of this charming town. In the evening, the tourism office organise special boat trips to admire the Métamorph’eau’ses, a sound and light show projected onto the emblematic buildings of the city and follows the flow of the water.
FOOD & DRINK
Being the capital of one of the most iconic French regions, Reims is also home of great culinary tradition and an important destination for all food lovers. In the heart of the city you can find at least 6 Michelin-starred restaurants and numerous Brasseries serving delicious French food and some of the best wines in the world.
If you are looking for a more authentic experience though, we suggest a visit to the Boulingrin Market, a beautiful building built at the end of the 1920s, which on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturday morning hosts the biggest market in the city. Under just one roof you will find restaurants, chocolate-makers, butchers, delicatessens and cheese makers, for a full immersion in the city life.