Biscuits Rose de Reims and Chardonnay: a Traveler’s Guide to Champagne

Introduction

Welcome to the land of the fizzy, bubbly, sparkling champagne. Champagne is a province of France lying just 100 miles east of Paris. Champagne used to be a part of the Champagne-Ardenne administrative region until 2016 when the Champagne-Ardenne region was merged with Lorraine and Alsace to create the Grand Est region. Champagne’s commercial cities include Épernay, Reims and Troyes. Apart from beautiful vineyards and stunning architecture, Champagne also has lush, green hills, lakes and forests ideal for long walks, biking and bonding with nature. It also has five UNESCO World Heritage sites and six of its cities have earned the Villes d’Art et Histoire (City of Art and History) title. Located to the north of France, Champagne’s climate is relatively cool. Average summer temperature is 23°C but winter is quite cold with a lot of snow. Visitors should always be prepared for rain as it rains year round.

What Is Champagne Famous For?

Champagne is Champagne’s trademark, not just because of the grapes grown in the area but for the dedication, passion and traditions that wine-makers and grape growers have put into the process. Champagne is also home to numerous World Heritage Sites and a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (City of Art and History). Champagne is divided into five wine-producing districts: Côte des Blancs, Aube, Vallée de la Marne, Côte de Sézanne and Montagne de Reims. The Champagne region gained its popularity for wine-making since the early Middle Ages despite wars and unrest.
Pinot Meunier, Pinot noir and Chardonnay are the most widely grown grapes in this region and they are grown in large quantities in the Vallée de la Marne region, Aube, and the Côte des Blancs respectively. The Hillsides, Houses and Cellars of Champagne were all listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2015.

There are also many cities holding the Ville d’Art et d’Histoire title in Champagne for their multiple historical and cultural sites. Reims, Troyes, Sedan, Langres, and Chalons-en-Champagne have all earned the City of Art and History title.

Top Champagne Destinations to Visit

The sheer amount of historical monuments, churches, Champagne houses and vineyards in this region means that visitors will have a difficult time trying to see all the destinations on their list. It’s hard to decide on one attraction, but you can start at these locations.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims

Arguably, Reims most famous monument, the Cathedrale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 13th century and which once served as the coronation site for old French kings. Its Gothic architecture and amazing sculptures are as amazing as its immense proportions. Although most of the initial stained-glass windows have been damaged, visitors can still see the six stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall and the Gallery of Kings.

Palais du Tau

The Palais du Tau or the Archbishops’ Palace, another UNESCO World Heritage site, once served as the residence for archbishops. It adjoins the Cathedrale and contains the Salle de Tau, a banquet hall used for feasts after coronation ceremonies and a treasury which hosts precious items such as the chalice of Saint Remi. Exquisite Arras tapestries and tapestries telling the story of King Clovis can also be found in the Salle du Tau and in the treasury. Make sure to visit the royal apartments used by the French Kings during coronation ceremonies.

Basilique Saint-Remi

Built between 1005 and 1049, the Basilique is the oldest church in the city of Reims and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is an exemplary example of Romanesque architecture, even though its exterior is mainly Gothic. Visitors to the Basilique can see the tomb of Saint Remi and its gorgeous stained glass windows crafted in the 12th century.

Collegiale Notre-Dame-en-Vaux

A registered UNESCO World Heritage site, the Notre-Dame-en-Vaux has Europe’s largest collection of bells, a total of 56. Its stained glass windows dating back to the 16th century must not be missed. Its architecture is a mix of Gothic and Romanesque influences.

Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises

French statesman Charles de Gaulle lived in this village with his family in a private home called La Boisserie. Tourists can visit his house and the surrounding parkland. The memorial Charles de Gaulle created in de Gaulle’s memory is a permanent feature which retells de Gaulle’s life story. The Memorial also includes the Croix de Lorraine, 44m high, pink granite cross.

Porte de Mars

The Porte de Mars is a 32m long and 13m high triumphal arch created by the ancient Romans in the third century AD. Its exterior and ceilings of the passageways are covered in intricate, well-detailed carvings. The Porte de Mars can be found in the Place de la Republique.

Cathedrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul

Located in Troyes, this gothic cathedral was built in 1208 and contains 180 stunning stained-glass panels. Its delicately beautiful rose window and its ornate Beau Portail doorway are major attractions to visitors.

The Starter List of What to Do In Champagne

The fun never ends in Champagne city, don’t get overwhelmed planning your travel itinerary, use our starter list of activities to do.

Visit the Maisons du Chamapagne

Wine tasting is the premier activity most visitors to Champagne have in mind. But it does not end there; you can visit the underground cellars where wine bottles are stored, pick grapes in the vineyard and even watch a demonstration of the wine-making process. More than one vineyard can be visited in a day and in places like Epernay, you can walk from one vineyard to another.

 

Visit the Reims city centre

Start your exploration with a visit to the city square which contains a bronze statue of Joan of Arc, the Palais de Justice and the Place du Cardinal-Lucon.

Visit Europe’s largest ancient fortress

A wondrous relic from the Middle Ages can be found in Sedan. Occupying 35,000 square metres of rock face, the Chateau Fort de Sedan, Europe’s largest medieval fortress casts an imposing shadow on the River Meuse. It has more than seven floors and was used as an internment centre during the First World War by German forces.

Visit the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay

This street houses some of the most famous champagne brands in the world such as De Castellane, Mercier and Moët et Chandon.

See the "Carcassonne of the North"

Langres is a hilly town located in the south of Champagne which has been fortified since the Roman era. It has an impressive collection of historic stone buildings, most of which date back to the 13th and 17th centuries, while some are older. Langres contains 3.6 kilometres of ramparts, formidable towers and a Gallo-Roman gate. Visitors can climb the ramparts for gorgeous views of Marne Valley.

Visit the old Formula 1 track

There used to be a Formula 1 track in Reims boasting a sharp angular turn that humbled most drivers. It stopped being used as a track but most of the buildings around the starting line have been restored.

Lac du Der

Europe’s largest water is the Lac du Der which was constructed in 1967. This lake is a must-visit for birdwatchers as it an essential part of the migration route of water birds such as cranes, aigrettes and bewick swans. More than 60,000 cranes stop at Lac du Der each year during migration.

Museum hopping

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Where to Eat In Champagne

It might seem like champagne is Champagne’s only gastronomic trademark, but visitors will be pleasantly surprised. Before we dive into where to eat, here’s a brief summary of what you should eat. Start with some of Champagne’s rich grey truffle, also called the jewel of the forest, which is gotten from the woods during the spring. You can try some of these grey truffles in a sauce served with white pudding (boudin blanc de Rethel).

Then indulge in some Champagne Sauerkraut cooked with a special Champagne sauce containing rhyme vinegar, wine vinegar and Reims vinegar. Indulge in the aromatic Reims ham flavoured with Champagne or a Gogo salad with fish or a lentils in a champagne sauce and wash it down with some Chardonnay. When in Ardennes, eat a dish of cacasse à cul nu (French for naked derriere), a stew made with potatoes and little bacon pieces. This dish was a favourite of the poor in the olden days and the scarcity of meat in the dish gained its name. Reims also has its famous pink biscuits, which is served as an accompaniment to be dipped in champagne during wine tasting.

Cafe du Palais, Place Myron Herricks, Reims

Before the meal comes, the interior of the building will awe you. The walls of the Cafe du Palais are covered in art and the ceiling is made with stained glass. The neon-lit bar adds an Art Deco vibe to the room. In such a stylish restaurant, French classics like escargots, foie gras and meat and cheese spreads are the obvious option. Make sure to have some baba au rhum for dessert. A snack menu is also available outside official lunch and dinner hours.

Le Millenaire, Rue Bertin, Reims

Chef Laplaige adds seasonal and modern spins to traditional French dishes. This Michelin starred restaurant has various menus catering to fish, poultry, entrees and desserts. It also has a cheese platter.

Le Foch, Reims

Another Michelin starred restaurant where the fish dishes are a must. Critics have described Le Foch as one of the best fish restaurants in France, artistic plating and delicious meals combine to make a visit here a memorable experience. Try the blue lobster served with garlicky Ile de Re potato confit and a rhubarb macaroon for dinner.

Pain & Cie, Reims

A French delicatessen which offers sweet and savoury meals made with mostly organic ingredients. Diners will enjoy hams, breads, cheeses and a variety of drinks at this cozy restaurant.

Why Not, Epernay

Seat down at the Why Not restaurant for traditional French dishes with authentic flavor. Have the tartare du boeuf au couteau or the Gratin de raviole for your main meal and finish with a pineapple and melon salad for dessert. It is wheelchair accessible, pet friendly and has free WiFi.

En Appart’ The: 23, Rue Chanzy, Reims, France

Enjoy a luxurious Sunday brunch at this tea salon which is just a stone throw away from the Musee des Beaux-Arts. A famous brunch spot in Reims, visitors can enjoy delicious pastries and beverages.

A Bubbly Night’s Rest: 5 Places to Stay on Your Trip to Champagne

Akena City Reims Bezannes, Reims City Center

Located in the Reims-Bezannes business park, the Akena City hotel is a delight to experience. All rooms are ensuite with access to free WiFi, free private parking and are equipped with a flat-screen TV, desk and wardrobe. A breakfast buffet is served each morning.

La Mongeardiere, Ay

If you plan to spend a while in Champagne, the privately managed La Mongeardiere provides housing units fully equipped with a washing machine, a television, an ensuite bathroom with a hair-dryer, a kitchen containing an oven, a fridge, coffee machine and electric teapot and a microwave as well as a seating area. Free WiFi and a terrace are also included.

Kyriad Troyes Centre, Old Town

At the Kyriad Troyes Center, each air-conditioned room contains a flat-screen televison, free WiFi access and ensuite bathrooms equipped with hairdryers. There is an on-site snack bar and snacks and drinks vending machines are also available. Private parking can be requested and parking for electric cars is also available. The front desk is accessible for all 24 hours.

Best Western Premier Hotel de la Poste and Spa, Troye

Located in Troyes historic downtown, the Best Western used to be a posting office and has a horse and carriage theme. All Rooms are air-conditioned and ensuite with a flat screen television and satellite channels access. Free WiFi, a mini-bar and a breakfast buffet each morning are also offered at the hotel. The City centre and a number of restaurants are also within walking distance. It also contains a spa known as the Nuxe Spa. The Nuxe Spa services such as the sensory shower, hammam and sauna is also accessible to guests at no extra cost but treatments and massages will attract a charge. The Best Western Premier Hotel de la Poste and Spa also offers secure and private parking and a 24 hour front desk service.

Campanile Reims Center - Cathedral, Reims City Center

The Campanile offers rooms with ensuite bathrooms containing showers, a flat-screen TV with access to international and satellite channels and an electric kettle. A breakfast buffet is served each day in the air-conditioned dining room but a restaurant and an outdoor terrace bar is also available for guests seeking other dining options. Reception is available 24 hours a day. Private parking and free WiFi is available.

Did You Know…?

World War II officially ended in Champagne, France on the 1st of July, 1945, the German regime signed its official surrender here. Only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region can be called champagne, this rule is covered by European Union law. Over 90% of champagne grapes are grown by small vineyard owners who sell their grapes to the large Champagne houses or co-operatives. The Champagne houses and cooperatives can only own 10% of the region’s vineyard as a group.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Most visitors to Champagne are there for the champagne. If you fall into this category, visit during the harvest season in autumn but visiting in spring and summer will afford you the chance to see Champagne’s wild flowers and gorgeous scenery.
Visitors in Paris can get to Reims in 45 minutes using the train. There are bus rides to Reims at a cheaper price but the journey is longer. Reims also has its own airport.
The colour of champagne is influenced by the force exerted when pressing the grapes. Grapes are pressed gently to prevent colour from the wine-skins from staining the wine. To make this possible, there are strict limits dictating how much juice can be pressed out of a weight of grapes. Cheap champagne is gotten from hard pressed grapes.
Yes, you can. A train ride from Paris will get you to Reims in just 45 minutes. You may also use a car but be aware of Paris’ high traffic.
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