“Roman Durocortorum”, “The home of Champagne”
While this was another trip to Luxembourg, the occasion for it was reaching the beautiful city of Reims not too far away. The truth is that you are nearer if flying to Paris, however the cost to get there already in June was double than Luxembourg, not to mention the hotel, no matter if Paris or Reims, however as we’ve been doing for the past years with this destination, getting a nice deal with British Airways on a flight+hotel package was the best decision once again in all means. Not only the great flight times and a great hotel, but also the location of the city in between so many other places to visit at easy reach.
Reims, one of the most historic and important cities in France come not only for being the capital of champagne, yes the world famous drink and name of the region, but from its past. Since a key Roman establishment in the middle of the crossroads leading towards the west of the empire, to become the place where most of the kings of France have been crowned for centuries at the nowadays, UNESCO World Heritage listed Cathedral. Yet the city is much more with the countless sights, historic churches, palaces and beautiful architecture in the many squares and streets. It is also a really great destination for some good shopping, and of course a thriving nightlife. Restaurants, bars and pubs are all over the historic core, with very lively nights.
It was for a while in the wish-list radar, now happy to finally accomplish the trip and slowly, visiting more and more places in this great country with so much to see and do where somehow there’s still so many more cities waiting in the list. The only trouble in getting to most of the remaining are the limited flights or travel connections for being able to manage in a weekend.
A day is well enough to visit every sight at a slow and lazy pace, enjoying the life as locals do, with a nice coffee and pastry, a beer at any of the many bars and a nice lunch. Still, there are way more you can do having your base in Reims, as is visiting the many Champagne vineyards literally everywhere surrounding the city and the entire region with such idyllic villages. The vineyards, their hillsides, houses and wine cellars are all listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not to miss is of course, the birthplace of the champagne, the Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers barely 30 kilometres south of Reims.
When coming to the food subject, this is like finding a bar serving champagne anywhere in the city. Easy to find everywhere, great quality and competitive prices if I’m honest with you. Still, the usual rule of thumbs apply to avoid the unnecessarily overpriced or tourist traps.
For more information about Reims check Wikipedia site. France’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Reims:
- Colbert Square At the northwest of the city, marking the northern limit of the historic old town. The main train station is located here, and so parks at both sides on what used to be the medieval ramparts.
-Porte de Mars The solely surviving Roman gate in Reims. Located in the northern garden, known as Les Hautes Promenades.
- Place Drouet d’Erlon One of the major pedestrian thoroughfare connecting the Colbert Square with the heart of the city centre. Plenty of shops, bars and restaurants along its way.
-Fontaine Sube At the intersection with Rue du Cadran Saint-Pierre.
-Saint Jacques Church At the next intersection of streets after Fontaine Sube. It is the oldest church in Reims, dating from the 12th century since its construction although altered afterwards.
- Rue de Vesle The major avenue crossing the entire historic centre from southwest to northeast. It changes its name along the way to Rue Carnot, Rue Ceres and Avenue Jean Jaurès outside of the old town limits beyond.
-Grand Theatre Taking Rue de Vesle towards the east (heart of the city) you reach the beautiful building of the opera.
-Beaux-Arts Museum While not in Rue de Vesle, it is just behind the Grand Theatre. Housed in a former abbey.
-Palace of Justice The next building after the Theatre, in neo-classical style. It has a facade facing Rue de Vesle, and a second facing the Cathedral Square.
-Place Royale One of the most elegant squares with a statue of Louis XV in its centre. Located in the section of Rue de Vesle named already Rue Carnot. All the buildings along the four sides are historic, such as the Central Post Office.
- Place Cardinal Luçon – Cathedral Square South from the Palace of Justice and Place Royale. The major sight and reason number one why to come to Reims.
-Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral An UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. It has been for many centuries the place of coronation of the Kings of France. One of the finest examples of High-Gothic architecture. Don’t miss admiring the front from Rue Libergier for a grand view.
-Palace of Tau Also part of the UNESCO listing. South of the Cathedral. Finalised in 1509 as the archiepiscopal palace, has been the residence of the Kings of France during their coronation. Nowadays you can visit as part of the museum exhibiting among the collection, statues and treasures from the cathedral, and the sumptuous Salle du Tau, where the royal banquet took place during the coronations.
-Carnegie Library Completed in 1927 south from the Palace of Tau, is one of the finest art-deco buildings in France, yet do not expect the traditional fine lines that define this artistic movement from the main structure, but pay attention to the stained glass and overall luxurious decoration.
- Place du Forum North from Place Royale it is one of the largest in the city centre, occupying the space of the former Roman Forum, where the cryptoporticus survives.
-Hotel des Contes de Champagne and Hotel Le Vergeur Nowadays a museum, these are two buildings along the northern side of the square, being a fine Gothic merchant’s house.
- City Hall Square Just straight along Rue Colbert after Place du Forum.
-Hotel de Ville The City Hall dating from 1627, and fully completed in 1823 is a second reincarnation since the previous building became too small. Destroyed in a fire after WWI, was restored in 1928.
- Outside of the city While not far and still at walking distance, there are further sights in Reims you should not miss.
-Abbey of Saint Remi An UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. South of the city, in the area of colleges and university faculties. Founded in the 6th century, yet the current building was consecrated in 1049, with the oldest facade in the Romanesque style. The main success of the Abbey was the acquisition of relics, noteworthy that of Saint Remi. Nowadays is a museum with great exhibitions and collections of every epoch of the city’s history.
-Abbey of Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers Commonly described as the birthplace of champagne due to one of its Benedictine monks, Dom Pérignon who contributed like no other to the development and production of the sparkling wine. Nowadays the abbey is property of one of the most prestigious winery, Moët & Chandon.
While the city’s international airport is not too big nor provide a good network of destinations abroad other than within France, it is only 30 minutes away from the massive Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, hence opening the options to the rest of the world. From downtown Paris it’s only 45 minutes by train to Reims; and so are the many other major cities connected directly via railway, where time travel is greatly reduced thanks to the high speed TGV trains.
Coming overland from anywhere in France and beyond the neighbouring countries is easy and straightforward. Plenty of buses and trains link with the major cities, such is the case of Luxembourg from where we came from this time.
Within the city there are plenty of buses and two tram lines, useful considering the high-speed railway station is not in downtown but few kilometres away, but linked with the tram. Nevertheless, the historical centre is very compact and distances are short in between sights, with many streets fully pedestrian friendly hence the best way to enjoy the city is on foot.
Since this was a day trip from our base in Luxembourg City, there is little I can say about accommodation here in Reims other than the usual, checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. For all the information about hotels in Luxembourg, check that respective guide.