Reims is the capital of the Champagne wine region, and is a nice place to spend a day. There is more to see and do than just sip some bubbly (although that is a must, too). The center of Reims is small enough that you can enjoy walking to the major sites (the following loop is about 4 miles in total).

The town of Reims has played a major part in French history, intimately linked to the kings of France. Clovis was baptized there, Louis the Pious was crowned there in 816, and beginning in the 11th century, 26 kings of France were crowned within the walls of the Cathedral.

 

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame

The current cathedral is a gothic masterpiece, dating from the 13th century, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991. Before the construction of the actual cathedral, it was the site of numerous religious edifications: Saints Apotres Church (3rd century), Saint Nicaise Cathedral (4th century until 1210 when it was destroyed by a fire), and finally in the 13th century, the gothic cathedral we see today.

It was the Saint Nicaise Cathedral that, in 1027, was recognized at the coronation site for the French monarchy. All the kings of France since that time have been crowned in Reims, excepting Louis VI and Henri IV who were crowned in Orleans. It was here that Joan of Arc succeeded in getting Charles VII crowned in 1429 – a very significant act considering that France had been more or less wiped off the map at that time by the English and their allies.

Unfortunately, the cathedral was seriously damaged by shelling during World War I. Multiple restorations have brought the cathedral back to its original beauty, with additions of some stained-glass panels by Marc Chagall, and the famous smiling angel in the north portal of the west facade.

Just next door is the Palais du Tau (“T” in Greek and reference to the form of the building), the former residence of the archbishop of Reims. Used to host post-coronation banquets, the Palais now hosts a museum containing relics from the cathedral, as well as some statues and tapestries.

 

Smiling Angel statue - Reims Cathedral

Photo: The Smiling Angel, ©Pixabay

 

Champagne Taittinger

The Taittinger family has managed the house for over a century. They offer several different tours that teach you about the process of making champagne, a visit to the cellars which belonged to the Saint Nicaise Abbey’s Benedictine monks, and end with a tasting. Reserve your tour in advance via their website.

 

Santé Champagne

Photo: "Santé!" to your day in Reims, ©MaxPixel

 

Villa Demoiselle

For Art Nouveau and Art Deco aficionados, push on a little further to the Villa Demoiselle. The house has recently been impressively restored and you are free to stroll amongst its beautiful rooms and the garden. The visit is topped off with a glass of champagne.

 

Musée de la Reddition (Museum of the Surrender)

It was here that on May 7th, 1945 at 2:41am that World War II ended, when the Germans signed the declaration of unconditional surrender. The building, now a high school, was the HQ of General Eisenhower and you can visit the map room where the signature took place. Other rooms hold exhibits of uniforms, war souvenirs, press reports and artifacts from this time.

 

Surrender Signature Ending WWII

Photo: The signature of surrender ending WWII, ©OT Reims

 

Place Drouet d’Erlon

This is the main square in Reims, and for pedestrians only. Cafés, restaurants and shops line the square, and you can pop into the medieval Saint Jacques Church for a quick visit.

Very nearby, you may want to stop at :

  • Maison Fossier

Located at 25 cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet, the Maison Fossier has been making les "biscuits roses" since 1691. Pick up some as a tasty souvenir of Reims, and as the feature ingredient for our Truffles recipe.

  • Café du Palais

This eclectic café has existed since 1930 and has been in the same family since its beginnings, and their art collection decorates the walls. The ambiance is great, and you can enjoy a glass of champagne on the terrace while enjoying your biscuits roses, watching the world go by in great fashion.

 

- Laura Crotet, France Just For You

If this article has your dreaming on visiting the Champagne area, or other wine regions of France, here's some more ideas.

France Just For You

Experts in self-drive tours in France

Travelers Reviews

5.0
Cat & Family
One would think driving in a different country where cars are on the wrong side of the road and you don’t speak the language for 11 day trip would not be a smart decision. France Just for You is definitely the travel consultant you go to. Emilie’s very quick replies to queries, personal knowledge of having been to places recommended and …
David
It was the best tour ever! Laura did an amazing job to deliver painless and excellent planning and arrangements. Everything promised was delivered and included much more than would normally be seen without ‘INSIDR’ tips. It is obvious that Emilie and Laura have put a lot of thought and effort into the tours they offer. We definitely recommend …
Clemmer & David
France Just for You - Emile and Laura - accomplished the task with skill and knowledge. Accommodations were excellent with lots of local color, suggestions for parking a large SUV were helpful, solving on the spot problems was handled with expertise and courtesy, sites were overwhelmingly beautiful. The guide book is the best. All the guides were …
Patty & Tim
France Just for You made our trip to France a very wonderful experience! Emilie asked what we'd like to do and she did all of the work. From booking charming, cozy hotels and b&b's to creating itineraries tailored toward our interests. The book she created for us included directions and suggested hikes in Paris, Bayeux, Honfleur and Giverny. We …
Laura & Greg
Just finished an amazing trip to Normandy and was delighted by all the accommodations, private tours and cooking class with Brigitte. All the details they put together allowed us to relax and enjoy. I highly recommend them.
Beth & Majid
We had a wonderful experience with Laura and Emilie- they were very responsive to all of our questions and needs and helped us plan a fabulous trip! While we were there, they were also very helpful when we needed assistance with reservations or had questions about processes during COVID.

What are you looking for?