Reims, France

Located, only about an hour northeast of Paris (and linked by fast trains (TGV) to many other cities in France), Reims is an easy day trip from the big city but you may want to stay a bit longer to explore the area.  This is the heart of France’s Champagne region and, not surprisingly, the base for many of the largest champagne producers.

Why to go:  If champagne isn’t enough of a reason for you, there’s also plenty of history in this area.  The cathedral in Reims, considered by some to be the French version of England’s Westminster Abbey, is where French kings were crowned for about 1000 years.

When to go:  This depends on the purpose of your visit. If you’re looking to just visit the champagne houses, most of the year would work because they’re basically inside/underground.  You may want to avoid harvest season though (Sept/Oct depending on the weather that year) because many will be closed for the harvest.  However, to appreciate the beauty of the area, I would suggest going anytime other than winter because the landscape would just be more attractive.  The miles and miles of vineyards are much more impressive in warmer weather than during the winter when they just look like black vines. You can click on to this site to read more about it.

What to see/do:  As mentioned, Reims is the main city of the Champagne region and has lots to offer visitors.  You would definitely not want to miss the cathedral (Notre-Dame de Reims).  The town is walkable making visiting some of the town’s other historic buildings (Town Hall, etc.) very easy.  But let’s not forget that you’re in the Champagne region and should take advantage of tours and tastings at les grandes marques located in and around Reims.  Within Reims, you will find Veuve Cliquot, Piper Heidsieck, Taittinger, Mumm and Ruinart among others.  In the nearby town of Epernay, you can do tours and tastings of Pommery and Moët & Chandon.  There are also many other smaller champagne producers to be found in and around these towns.

What to eat/drink:  Champagne, of course!  And along with your glass of bubbly, this is a region where traditional French cuisine is plentiful.

Where to make a detour:  If you’ve exhausted your champagne palette and are looking for something different, how about the unique experience of viewing the region from above?  There are a few companies in Reims that offer visitors this opportunity with a ride in a hot air balloon.