The Champagne region of France has two notable cities, Reims and Epernay. Reims, however, is the capital of this region and is worth exploring not just for its amazing champagne but also for its history as well. This post covers how to spend one full day in Reims and Champagne, where we will first explore the city of Reims and then take a tour of the Champagne region.
Reims is a super easy train ride from Paris. In fact, it’s a very popular day trip from the City of Lights. Hop on a fast TGV from Paris and in 40 minutes you are in the heart of the Champagne region, in Reims. People usually hop off from the train straight into a champagne tour, spend the full day in various champagne houses and then hurry back to hop on the train to get back to Paris again.
Since I had one full day in Reims and Champagne with an overnight stay, I knew I wanted to explore the city in addition to also doing a tour of champagne houses. With this in mind, I got to work researching how to do both in 24 hours and found a way! The below itinerary works for both a day tour or an overnight stay but regardless will help you see the best of both the city of Reims and the Champagne region!
Morning in Reims
I arrived in Reims early morning from Paris. After dropping off my bag and changing (I arrived in Paris from Egypt!), I went straight to find a pastry shop . I mean, isn’t that the cardinal rule of visiting France? “Thou shall eat pastries for breakfast?” ha!
I stumbled upon Boulangerie Hardy when I was walking and stopped and got food there and it was delicious!! I decided to get more pastries for the go.
After breakfast, I decided to explore the city. It was both a Sunday and drizzling that day but despite some places being closed and the rain, I decided to still walk around.
The Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Reims’ cathedral is truly breathtaking and a fine example of gothic architecture. It’s been here for 800+ years! The first Christian king of the Franks, Clovis was baptized in the 5th century AD at a church that was on this site before this cathedral was built. Since the cathedral was built 800 years ago, it has seen the coronation of 26 French kings including Charles VII who Joan of Arc led through this church to be coronated in 1429.
The highlight of the cathedral for me was its elaborate façade with its 3 doors each depicting a scene. The middle one depicts 56 of France’s kings with Clovis in the middle. Most of these statues are from1250. The other highlights were the stained-glass on the inside of the main door and the Marc Chagall stained-glass windows at the apse.
In addition to touring the cathedral you can also take a guided one-hour tour up to the tower of the cathedral if you have the time. I skipped this in the interest of time.
Palais du Tau
This is the former Archbishop’s Palace and houses artifacts from the Notre-Dame Cathedral next door along with other royal treasures including coronation jewels and various tapestries.
Wander the Streets
The pedestrian section of Reims reminded me of a mini Champs-Elysees, lined by trees and shops on either side. The road has 2 fountains on either ends. One is an old Victorian style fountain representing the 4 rivers that flow through this area. The fountain on the other end is much more modern and fun!
Reims’ covered market was built in 1927 and re-opened in 2012 after a huge renovation. It had an antique market the day I visited but usually sells produce and food on Saturdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
La Porte de Mars
This was the entry to the city during Roman times and has stood here since the second century AD.
Afternoon and Evening in Champagne
Remember when I said I found a way to do both the city of Reims and the Champagne region? Here’s how…
The most popular way to do a champagne tour in Reims is to book a full day champagne tour. These full day tours run from 9:30 AM to 6PM. However, some of these companies also offer half day tours in the morning or afternoon. The best way to explore both the city of Reims AND tour the region of Champagne is to book one of these half day tours.
Difference Between Full and Half Day Tours
|Things to Consider||Full Day||Half Day|
|Times||9:30 am to 6 pm||9am to 1 pm or |
2 pm to 6 pm
|Number of champagne houses visited||3||2|
|Number of tastings||9-10||6|
|Cost||Close to 200 euros||Close to 100 euros|
|Other places visited – view points, Hautvillers village||Included||Included|
|Other inclusions – lunch||Included||Excluded|
I decided the half day option was for me as that’s what I had time for. Upon doing this comparison I also realized I wasn’t missing too much not doing the full day tour. Although, I probably would have done the full day tour if I had two days in Reims instead of one.
Best Companies for Full and Half Day Tours
Sparkling Tour Reims
This is one of the best companies for a full or half day tour. They offer tours Monday through Saturday. They will pick up and drop you from a central spot in Reims. The tours are all “small groups” up to 8 people. You can check them out HERE
A la Française Champagne
The other awesome company for a wide variety of different tours including the full and half day is A la Française Champagne. They offer tours everyday including Sunday. They will also pick you up and drop you from a central spot in Reims and the tours are all “small groups” up to 8 people. Some of the other tours they offer include a bike champagne tour through Champagne and their full day tour includes a visit to Moët & Chandon!
I toured with A la Française Champagne. I picked them because they were open on Sunday and they were SO great! Lisa our lovely tour guide went out of her way to make sure we learned about champagne, saw some great view points AND that we tasted some amazing champagne! HERE is their site to book.
If you have your own car, then you can also tour independently. However, you may have to call and make reservations ahead. Booking a tour saves you from all that trouble!
A visit to a champagne house includes a lesson about how champagne is made, a tour of the cellar and tastings! It’s all very interesting and insightful. Bring a jacket as the cellars can be cold. You can also purchase bottles of any champagne you may like from a tasting.
I visited 2 houses on my half day tour and had 6 tastings. Both houses are highly rated and were lovely!
Hautvillers and the Church of Don Pérignon
Hautvillers is a quaint little village in the region of Champagne and home to the Church where Don Pérignon is buried. Don Pérignon was a Benedictine monk who made important contributions to the production and quality of Champagne and is revered in this region.
Driving Around Champagne
Champagne is so beautiful! Soft rolling hills full of vineyards and cute little villages dominate your line of sight in this area.
The one below was my favorite with the village and river in the backdrop!
If you are day tripping, then you probably will head back after this. But, if you are staying the night, one of the best things about Reims happens late at night when it gets very dark!
Night in Reims
Given that it was Sunday, most places were closed so finding dinner at a nice spot or one of the ones that come recommended was a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, I grabbed dinner with another solo traveler I met on my champagne tour at Grape Bar Reims and it was great!
One of the best thing you can do at night in Reims is to watch the light show on the façade of the Cathedral. This is the number one reason to spend one full day in Reims and Champagne than a day trip. I know for a fact the show happens in the summer (I visited in June). What I cannot really say for sure is if the show is year around.
Check this website and this website in combination to see if there is a show during other times of the year. Another thing you can do is ask the Tourism office when you get to Reims. In the summer, the show starts pretty late as it doesn’t get dark until late. The good news is that you don’t have to book anything for this show! Just simple show up and grab a spot out in the courtyard in front of the church.
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Like wine related small city experiences? Check out one of my favorite places in the world! Cochem, Germany!
Have you been to France’s oldest wine route? Check it out HERE or below!