Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region of France, Reims is a city steeped in history and culture, offering a wealth of experiences for travelers. From sipping on exquisite champagne to exploring the historical significance of World War II, and admiring the stunning cathedrals, Reims offers an array of attractions. Plus, its proximity to the French capital, Paris, makes it an ideal destination for a day trip.
Tour a Champagne House
Reims is one of the two most-visited cities in the Champagne region, the other being Épernay. This charming city is home to some of the world’s most renowned Champagne houses, including Taittinger, Mumm, and Veuve Clicquot. A visit to Reims is incomplete without experiencing a champagne tasting.
I chose to tour Taittinger, known for its stunning cellars. The Taittinger tour, with various pricing options, lasts an hour and offers a chance to explore the cellars, learn about the art of champagne production, and, of course, indulge in tastings.
Reims Cathedral, also known as Notre-Dame de Reims, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit for history enthusiasts. It holds a significant place in France’s history as it served as the site for the coronation of the Kings of France.
While the cathedral endured damage during the French Revolution, the devastation of World War I left a more lasting impact when it suffered German bombardments. Through numerous renovations, Reims celebrated the cathedral’s 800th birthday in 2011. Visiting the Reims Cathedral is not only culturally enriching but also budget-friendly.
Palais du Tau
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palais du Tau, was once the residence of the Archbishop of Reims. Today, it houses a small yet impressive art collection, featuring 16th-century tapestries and items from the cathedral treasury, as well as artifacts related to the coronations of French Kings, including the talisman of Charlemagne. The palace also hosts cultural events.
Admission to Palais du Tau is 8 EUR.
Housed in the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Musée Saint-Remi is home to a diverse collection of ancient relics and tapestries.
The museum is divided into four sections. The first section presents the history of the Abbey buildings and showcases a tapestry depicting the life of Saint-Remi. The Gallo-Roman area, highlighting the ancient city of Reims, follows. There’s also a permanent military exhibit and a collection of local items dating back to prehistoric times.
The museum is closed on Mondays, and the entrance fee is 5 EUR.
Adjacent to Musée Saint-Remi stands the Basilica Saint-Remi, also designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This medieval abbey church, the largest Romanesque church in Northern France, serves as the final resting place for figures like Louis IV. The church’s interior is as magnificent as its exterior, making it one of the top attractions in Reims. The admission fee is 6 EUR.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
Musée des Beaux-Arts is among the many worthwhile museums in Reims, encompassing a wide range of European art movements. Most of the exhibited pieces are Flemish, Dutch, and French paintings. The museum’s foundation dates back to the late 18th century, with its artifacts confiscated during the French Revolution.
Please note that the museum is currently closed for relocation purposes, with plans to reopen in 2023. The usual admission fee is 5 EUR.
Roman Portal, Porte de Mars
Dating back to the third century, La Porte de Mars is an ancient Roman triumphal arch composed of three arches with well-preserved original carvings. The arches depict scenes of Romulus and Remus, agrarian life, and Leda and the Swan. A visit to La Champe de Mars is a delightful free activity in Reims.
See an Opera
If your stay in Reims allows, take advantage of the affordable opera house. Tickets start at just 20 EUR, providing a wonderful reason to dress up and enjoy a night out on the town.
Musée-Hôtel Le Vergeur
One of the oldest buildings in Reims, Musée-Hôtel Le Vergeur houses a collection of decorative works of art depicting the illustrious history of Reims. Here, you can also catch a glimpse of the Reims ruins. If you’re interested in seeing an ancient Roman horreum, be sure to check out the Cryptoportique next door.
The admission fee is 5 EUR.
Picnic at Les Halles du Boulingrin
Les Halles du Boulingrin, a covered market, is a paradise for food lovers. It offers an abundance of fresh regional produce, delectable baked goods, and locally crafted food items. This market is the perfect place to gather supplies for a picnic if you prefer dining al fresco rather than in a restaurant.
The market is open on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Forte de la Pompelle
A symbol of Reims’ defense and its role in World War I in northeastern France, the Fort de la Pompelle Museum stands as a poignant reminder of significant historical moments from 1883 to the present day. The museum features a remarkable collection of German helmets, uniforms, and everyday items used by soldiers, immersing visitors in the poignant stories of these men’s experiences and the hardships of combat during World War I in the region.
Musée Automobile Reims Champagne
Founded in 1985 by Phillippe Charbonneaux, the Musée Automobile Reims Champagne is a fascinating attraction in Reims. It showcases over 200 cars and motorcycles from 1908 to the present day. In addition to the display of classic vehicles, the museum offers valuable insights into the rules and regulations for acquiring and driving classic cars.
The museum is open daily except for Tuesdays, and the admission fee is 9.50 EUR.
Place Royale is a magnificent square in the center of Reims, constructed in 1757 to honor Louis XV. At its heart, a bronze statue of the king stands with an outstretched hand, symbolizing his protection over the people. The square boasts splendid arcades and balustraded roofs, making it a great spot for people-watching.
Donated by American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, the Carnegie Library in Reims is adorned with brilliant examples of art deco ornamentation. Its decor includes a large, semi-cylindrical reading room with parquet floors and expansive stained-glass windows. Exploring the decor at Bibliothèque Carnegie is one of the best free things to do in Reims.
Chapelle Foujita is a whimsical blend of Japanese culture with elements from the Italian Renaissance. The chapel was designed and decorated by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, an artist of French-Japanese descent, in the 1960s. The chapel is the final resting place for both Foujita and his late wife.
Sample the Original Biscuit at Maison Fossier
Maison Fossier has been producing biscuits since the late 17th century and is renowned as the original biscuit creator. While they offer various types of biscuits, their most famous creation is the Biscuit Rose de Reims (Pink Biscuit from Reims). For food enthusiasts, a visit to Maison Fossier is a must-include item on your list of things to do in Reims.
For those traveling virtually or in the USA, Fossier biscuits are available for delivery to select European countries. Check out the Amazon link below to try them for yourself!
Taste Regional Specialties
Reims boasts a plethora of outstanding dining establishments. The city has its own unique specialties worth trying while you’re here. In addition to the Biscuits Rose de Reims, be sure to sample jambon de Reims (Reims ham) and moutard de Reims (Reims mustard). Don’t forget to indulge in locally produced Chaource, a soft, semi-crumbly sheep’s milk cheese.
For those willing to splurge, Reims is home to six Michelin-starred restaurants. Make your reservations well in advance to savor the culinary delights.
Go to the Room Where Germany Surrendered in WWII
The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel was riveting, I finished it last week. It tells a great story of love and betrayal in the Champagne region during the time of WWII. Seriously, I couldn’t put it down.
Getting to Reims
As mentioned earlier, Reims is conveniently close to Paris. Direct trains depart multiple times daily from Paris Est station, with the journey taking less than an hour. Alternatively, consider a private day trip from Paris for a hassle-free and enjoyable visit to Reims.
Reims City Pass
The Reims City Pass starts at 22 EUR for a single day and provides access to all museums, free public transportation within the city, complimentary tours, free champagne tastings, and discounts at select shops. It’s an excellent value if you plan on visiting several attractions in a day. The Reims City Pass is available in 24, 48, and 72-hour increments.
Reims is a captivating city with a rich tapestry of history and culture waiting to be explored. Whether you’re sipping champagne in its prestigious houses, delving into its historical significance, or immersing yourself in its artistic and culinary delights, Reims offers a diverse range of experiences for every traveler. Plan your visit to this enchanting city and uncover the treasures it has to offer.