France’s Champagne region in the country’s north is probably most famous for the sparkling wine which takes its name but even for those who don’t enjoy a glass of bubbles, Champagne offers plenty to see and do.
Many visitors will head straight for the ‘Champagne triangle’, the heart of the wine producing area, between Epernay, Reims and Chalons-en-Champagne. Epernay is home to the Moet-Hennessy group whose famous labels include Moet & Chandon, Mercier, Krug and Veuve Clicquot.
With so many labels producing so many bottles of Champagne every year, storage is a major priority and the group’s wine cellars stretch for 28 kilometres underground!
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At Reims, after visiting the home of Mumm and sampling a glass or two (guided experiences are available from €14), a visit to Reims Cathedral is a must-do. The Cathedral holds significant historical importance with every king of France since the 11th Century being crowned here. The present building was started in 1211 and Joan of Arc is believed to have attended the coronation of Charles VII here in 1429.
Other important sites at Reims include the Roman remains of Porte Mars (a triumphal arch) and the forum, whilst the Musee de Beaux Arts is home to a wonderful collection of canvases from the 15th and 16th Centuries which feature biblical scenes.
The third town in the ‘Champagne triangle’ is Chalons-en-Champagne. Here you’ll find traditional half-timbered houses, canals, a medieval old town and stunning stained glass windows in the magnificent Cathedral St-Etienne.
Other notable towns in Champagne include Troyes and Chaumont. Just 23 kilometres north of Chaumont lies a memorial to the former French General and President, Charles de Gaulle. The giant granite cross of Lorraine was erected in 1972 to honour the former French leader and now dominates the landscape.
If you’re looking to get active on your visit to Champagne, the Ardennes, a thick forested area, lies on the border between Champagne and Belgium and is popular with walkers and nature lovers.
Here you’ll find just some of the 5,000 kilometres of footpaths and walking routes in the region. There are also 400 kilometres of cycling paths, many of which follow the banks of Champagne’s many lakes.
After a day of exploring the region, make sure you sample the local fare which often includes stuffed trout, Ardennes ham and the famous sausages called ‘andouillettes’ – all washed down with a glass of Champagne, of course!
How to get to Reims
The city of Reims is situated in the north east of France, 145km from Paris. The most direct route by car is via the A4 motorway, with a driving time of around 1.5 hours.
TGV rail services operate multiple times per day between Paris and Reims with a journey time of less than 50 minutes.