Reims is a sacred town in northeastern France in the historical Champagne-Ardenne region and it’s where I began my recent trip through France’s world-famous champagne province with the British Guild of Travel Writers.
It’s an interesting place to spend a day or two for all sorts of reasons. Here are 9 that might convince you to pay a visit one day.
9 Reasons You’ll Really Like Reims
It’s home to the impressive Reims Cathedral…
This impressive gothic-style cathedral has been here since the 13th century and you should put aside a bit of time to explore it.
Named the Notre-Dame de Reims, you’ll notice it’s very similar to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. It’s here that most of France’s kings were coronated. And while it was never quite finished due to the great plague (notice the incomplete spires), this cathedral tells many stories.
Take a guided tour and you’ll hear how Reims Cathedral was damaged by the German invasion of WW1 and you’ll notice that some of the angel carvings at the doorway no longer have heads for this very reason. Look out for the Smiling Angel, the most famous of them. His cheery face was restored in the early 1900s and remains one of the most photographed parts of the church.
…where you can explore the incredible stained glass windows
Inside, it’s very elaborate and light streams in through the stained glass windows which span various eras.
The contemporary stained glass designs by March Chegale are interesting and look out for the Champagne window by Jacques Simon. It’s here you’ll spot important figures from the past including Dom Perignon, the famous monk and cellar master.
The Palais du Tau is really impressive
The Palais du Tau forms part of the cathedral and was once the residence of the archbishops of Reims. It got its name from the greek word ‘Tau’, meaning ‘T’ – due to the shape of the Palatine chapel and you’ll find towering religious statues here as well as medieval rooms, luxurious royal capes and tapestries.
The most treasured things to look out for are the Charlemangne’s talisman, Saint Remi’s chalice and the Sainte-Ampoule – the holy flask that contains the oil once used during the coronation ceremonies.
There’s a great food market
The Halles du Boulingrin is open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings and is the place to marvel at more Art Deco design and stock up on all the French cheese you could possibly fit in your suitcase.
… and heaps of other history
Once you’ve explored the cathedral, you’ll also find many other monuments and features of historical interest. This includes the Gallo-Roman Mars Gate, Fort de La Pompelle Museum, Saint-Reim Basilica and Foujita Chapel.
Parts of Reims were rebuilt after the invasions of the first and second world wars. So you’ll find nice examples of Art Deco buildings across the city. You won’t miss the gold angel-topped Subé fountain which stands tall in the centre of Place Drouet d’Erlon, at the centre of four streets.
There are loads of attractions
From the Regional Collections of Modern Art (FRAC) and the Reims-Champagne Automobile Museum to the Planetarium and Saint-Reims History Museum, there’s plenty for all types of travellers to explore here.
It’s the Gateway to France’s Champagne region
I mean, do you need more reason than that? In Reims, you will find all sorts of champagne houses, including Taittinger, Pommery, Lanson, Mumm and Ruinart as well as various champagne bars. It’s also a great base for starting a tour of the Marne Valley. Look out for my upcoming post for a little itinerary I’ve put together.
You can explore the amazing cellars of Veuve Clicquot
I’m telling you about the Verve Clicquot cellars because it’s where I went for the BGTW gala dinner. There are other cellars you can explore too but I can recommend this one. This enthrallingly long underground space of chalk cellars, known as crayères, houses everything from quarter bottles of champagne to those huge 30-litre bottles known as Melchisedech, which many of us can only ever dream of owning.
It’s a really beautiful place and the public areas can be hired out for events. Other champagne houses in Reims that you can tour include Champagne Lanson, GH Mumm, Pommery, Taittinger and many more..
Getting there is really easy
It’s just 45 minutes from Paris on the fast train, meaning you can tie in a city break to the City of Lights before you get your fill of history and world-famous bubbly.
Have you been to Reims and if so, what were your favourite things about the city. Feel free to leave your comments and tips.