Famous for its cathedral, where French kings were traditionally crowned, Reims (pronounced ‘Rance’ with a nasal twang and a guttural roll on the R if you can manage that!), is a lovely city on the banks of the River Vesle. Reims has a wealth of interesting buildings, good hotels, excellent restaurants, and of course, lots of lovely bubbly to taste at the various Champagne houses in the city.
Reims is one of France's 20 most popular cities for international visitors.
- Capital of the Champagne Region
- Population 215,500
- Tourist Office
2 rue Guillaume de Machault
- By train: Trains leave Paris Est station regularly through the day, taking 45 minutes to Reims via the high-speed TGV
- By road: From Paris, take the A4/E50 directly to Reims (143 kms, 89 miles). From Calais, take the A26/E15 towards Arras, then the A26/E17 directly to Reims (275 km/171 miles.
Château les Crayères
64 bd Henry Vasnier
Set in its own parkland, with wonderful views from the terrace, the chateau is a peaceful place for a luxury visit. The stone façade looks older than it is (it was built in 1904). Inside it’s luxurious and comfortable, with elegant fittings. See below for the two restaurants.
Grand Hotel des Templiers
22 rue des Templiers
In a 19th century building once owned by a champagne agent, the hotel is just outside the main center. The bedrooms are comfortable rather than grand and bathrooms are well equipped. It has the advantage of a heated swimming pool. (Breakfast only served).
Hotel de la Cathedrale
20 rue Libergier
Good choice for a basic stay just near the cathedral with small brightly decorated rooms. (Breakfast only served.)
Latino Cafe Hotel
33 place Drouet-d’Erlon
Central hotel with a real whizz (hence the Latino name). Expect a friendly welcome, basic rooms, hot colors and an inexpensive restaurant good for a snack.
Where to Eat
There’s plenty of choice of restaurants, with many of them around the main Place Drouet-d’Erlon which is always worth exploring, particularly for a light lunch. You can find plenty of excellent food in Reims at restaurants, brasseries, and bistros.
Reims is associated with Champagne, but there are plenty of edible treats as well. From the 15th century onwards, Reims has been the capital of gingerbread making after King Henry IV legalized the Gingerbread Makers’ Guild.
Try the traditional Biscuit Rose (pink biscuits) of Reims, one of the oldest of all French biscuits. Or go for the twice-baked biscuits that have been around -- well, only for 300 years. Around the 1690s, bakers, wanting to find a use for their cooling bread ovens, invented the twice-baked biscuit. Shop for these delicacies in at any of the four branches of Maison Fossier, which has been making biscuits since 1845.
Their most central shop is at 25 cours Jean-Baptiste-Langlet.
There’s plenty to see and do in the centre of Reims, so ignore the industrial parts that surround and make for the compact area around the cathedral.
The main attraction is the magnificent Gothic cathedral, one of France’s great treasures. Other places to explore include the Palais du Tau, the former palace of the high and mighty bishops of Reims dating from 1690, and the Basilique St-Remi, dating from 1007.
Don’t miss the Musée des Beaux-Arts for its interesting collection, including two Gauguin still lifes and German portraits, and the Musee de la Reddition (Museum of the Surrender), that was Eisenhower’s HQ from February 1945.
Champagne Houses to Visit
Many of the major Champagne makers have houses and caves. In the southern part of the centre, near the Abbaye St-Remi, the cellars are particularly impressive, some carved from the Gallo-Roman quarries used to build the city.
Some you can visit without making a reservation, particularly in the summer months when they are open for long hours. Others you may have to make a reservation for but then you will get a guided tour in English.
- Flea Market 1st Sunday of each month at the Reims Exhibition Centre, Site Henri Farman
- Markets daily 6am to 1pm in different parts of the city (see the Tourist Office website for detailed information)