A visit to the Champagne region of France is quite different compared to visiting any other wine region across the globe. Located northeast of Paris, this small region produces what may be considered the most renowned and recognizable wine in the world.
While the region may be small, there is plenty to do and see, and of course, lots of bubbles to sip along the way! This straightforward travel guide is designed to highlight some of the best things to do in the area in addition to some of the best vineyards to visit.
Champagne Region Basics
First, check flight prices directly into Paris. The easiest way to get to Champagne is by either car or by rail. There are direct express trains (TGV) running multiple times daily from Paris to Reims, the capital of the Champagne. The train ride will take you approximately 45 minutes.
There is also a train route available that takes you to the second city of the Champagne — Epernay. Getting to Epernay by train will take a little bit longer, closer to an hour and a half. That being said, whichever destination you choose to begin your journey should be based on the kind of experience you’re looking to have in Champagne.
Reims is a wonderful town to walk around, with many Champagne retailers, restaurants, and tasting rooms. If you’re looking to visit the producers themselves, or visit Epernay, we suggest renting a car as having the flexibility will make your trip much more enjoyable.
What To See in Champagne France
- Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Reims (Reims, FR) – This is a 13th-century cathedral where historically the kings of France were coronated. Located in the center of the city, it is not to be missed. Be sure to observe the spectacular stained glass by Marc Chagall.
- Palais du Tau (Reims, FR) – A former home of the Archbishop of Reims. This is where the royal coronation banquets would occur. Today, the Plais du Tau serves as a museum for the cathedral, showcasing artifacts from the monarchy.
- Avenue de Champagne (Epernay, FR) – A drive down this avenue will quickly acquaint you with many of the famed producers of Champagne. Unseen at street-level, there are hundreds of miles of caves, which house over 200 million bottles slowly aging over time, just beneath your feet.
- Abbey of Hautvillers (Ay, FR) – The monk Dom Perignon’s final resting place is located in the picturesque village of Hautvillers, on the edge of the Reims Mountain Nature Reserve.
Where to Stay in Champagne
- Hotel de la Paix (Reims, FR) – Functional and well-located – a reasonable and comfortable option.
- Les Crayeres (Reims, FR) – Highly regarded & centrally located in Reims – this hotel is adorned with a two-star Michelin restaurant.
- L’Assiette Champenoise (Tinqueux, FR) – Housing arguably the most famous restaurant in the region, the L’Assietee Champenoise is one of the most luxurious accommodations available in Champagne.
Understanding Champagne as a Wine
It’s no secret that Champagne is a very special wine. Surprisingly, how these wines are made is still a mystery to many. At its core, Champagne is an incredibly well made wine that takes dedication and patience to produce. It is a wine that is intimately tied to the “terroir” of the region, and each house’s unique philosophy on production.
Champagne is made as a blend of three main grape varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, & Meunier. The process has its roots in blending, in which still wines of each varietal are made from different parcels of land and then blended together, creating the signature cuvee for each producer.
In some cases, the winemaker may be working with as many as 400 different base wines! Once the blend is decided upon, the wine is inoculated with yeast for a second time, and sealed. As the fermentation occurs for the second time in the bottle, the bi-product — carbon dioxide — is trapped in the sealed environment. This creates the bubbles that make Champagne so famous.
The wines age with the yeasts in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months, but most producers choose to age their wines for much longer periods. This length of aging helps to create the toasty aromatic signature of Champagne.
Each producer has its own signature blend. For example, Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label is a signature blend for that producer. However, the same producer may also make a multitude of other “cuvees”, including single-vintage or single-parcel Champagnes. Tasting Champagne is a unique experience in that both the land as well as the winemaker hold so much influence over the final product in the glass.
If you’re looking to taste a variety of Champagne styles from legendary producers, see our list below of some of our favorite eateries, wine bars and beyond.
Best Wine Bars, Cafes, & Restaurants in Champagne
- Le Bocal (Reims, FR) – Local café & fishmonger, serving a plethora of raw seafood, one of Champagne’s most natural pairings. Casual with great outdoor seating.
- Café du Palais (Reims, FR) – Classic French dining adorned by art deco décor and stained-glass ceilings dating from the 1930’s.
- L’Epicerie Au Bon Manger (Reims, FR) – Casual & delicious cafe. Great for breakfast – also wonderful to pick up cheese & charcuterie for a lunch to-go.
- Glu Pot (Reims, FR) – Local favorite pub for late-night bottles of bubbly. Ask for the off-menu list.
- Perching Bar (Verzy, FR) – Wine bar built into the forest – a true treehouse Champagne tasting experience with spectacular views. No reservations.
- Le Coq Rouge (Reims, FR) – Casual & busy bar, centrally located.
- Tresors de Champagne (Reims, FR) – Bar featuring the producers of the « Special Club », founded in 1971 to promote small, family-run producers of Champagne. By-the-glass features change daily and a unique opportunity to try a custom flight of producers, many of whom are closed to the public.
- Le Parc Les Crayeres (Reims, FR) – Located at a 20th-century château, Chef Philippe Mille’s more casual off-shoot of Michelin-starred Le Parc.
- L’Assiette Champagnoise (Tinqueux, FR) – Fine dining from famed Chef Arnaud Lallement adorned with three Michelin stars, and naturally an exceptional wine list.
If you’d prefer to visit the Champagne producers themselves, see the stunning vineyards and understand their wine-making practices, we recommend to the below 4 producers for an all-encompassing experience. It’s an ideal lineup if you’re spending a weekend in Champagne country.
Best Vineyards in Champagne France to Visit
- Veuve Clicquot (Reims, FR) – 2-hr or 1.5-hr tours booked in advance, offered Tuesday through Saturday.
- Moet & Chandon (Epernay, FR) – 1-hr tours & access to their 28 miles of caves. Open to the public, although booking is required.
- Larmandier-Bernier (Vertus, FR) – A unique opportunity to visit a family producer, Larmandier welcomes visitors Monday to Saturday, by appointment.
- Pommery (Reims, FR) – 1-hr tours offered through the caves of Pommery, or chose the tour the Villa Demoiselle, sister producer to Pommery and architectural landmark of Reims. Advanced booking is required.
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