As the home of the most celebrated and celebratory wine in the world (Champagne for the uninitiated), Reims is the most important city in the Champagne region. The entire region is filled with history, and it has one of the most beautiful buildings that were built during the Middle Ages. Despite the fact that World War I destroyed most of the old homes, the Art Deco style that the city was rebuilt in certainly has its own special glamour. If you want to know some of the reasons that Reims is worth a visit, we recommend that you keep on reading.
The Cathédrale Notre Dame
Honestly, this cathedral alone is worth the trip to Reims. With two square towers and a triple-arched doorway, it is truly a magnificent sight that defies description. Can you imagine the extravagance and egos of a French royal coronation? This resplendent Gothic cathedral was the home for many of those coronations, and the site itself has been home to churches since the 5th century. The stained glass windows truly mark a rainbow of colors, with the most spectacular ones being the Chagall creations in the central axial chapel, the north transept’s rose window, and the western facade’s 12-petalled great rose window.
The most famous event that has taken place at the Cathédrale Notre Dame happened on 17 July 1429, when Charles VII was sworn in as King, with Joan of Arc at his side. Between 1223 and 1825, 25 total coronations took place here. Since 1991, the Cathédrale Notre Dame has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you are feeling particularly strong, you should consider taking the one-hour tour that leads you up all 250 steps.
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 121m-long former Benedictine abbey church combines early Gothic and Romanesque elements. The converted 17th- and 18th-century abbey next door (Musée St-Rémi) has 16th to 19th-century military history and local Gallo-Roman tapestries and archaeology. Because Saint Remi is the patron saint of Reims, this is a heralded location. The basilica is the final resting place for many of the former French monarchs.
The Palais du Tau
You guessed it, another UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Palais du Tau was constructed in 1690 and it is a former archbishop’s residence. Before their coronations, this is where French princes would stay. After their coronation, the Palais du Tau would often be home to many sumptuous banquets. Nowadays it is a museum, and it offers some spectacular tapestries, liturgical objects, and statuary from the cathedral. The Great Hall (Salle de Tau) is built in rather impressive Gothic-style.
Given that Reims is one of France’s most important centers for Champagne production, if you have a passion for the drink, you should certainly consider exploring its rich history. There are many chalk tunnels underneath the city, many of them holding bottles of Champagne that are just waiting to vintage to perfection. There are countless Champagne tastings and tours in the city as well.
The rich history
We have discussed that Reims has a rich history, but nothing that we have discussed so far is going to be enough to tell you about what Reims has to offer. Before being conquered by the Romans, Reims was founded by the Gauls before 80 BC. There is still an impressive Roman gate in the city that dates back all the way to 3 AD. The gate is called the Porte de Mars, and it is a massive edifice of three triumphal arches. Until around the 16th century, this was Reims’ city gate. Wherever you go in Reims, you are sure to stumble across a rich piece of history.
The perfect location
Given that Reims is only around 130 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Paris, it is certainly worth a day trip if you do not want to stay here much longer. There are excellent road connections between Reims and Paris, and the train connections are excellent as well. Keep in mind that you could explore the wonders of Reims for several days on end. The city is home to stunning pedestrian boulevards, art deco cafes, Roman remains, and a fine-dining scene that is home to four different Michelin-starred restaurants.
A luxury reason to visit – Les Crayères
This luxury hotel is about eight minutes from the Vranken Pommery champagne house on foot. The Basilique Saint-Remi is only a kilometer removed. This grand chateau offers antique-style furnishings, plush rooms, and celebrated style. It is also home to Reims’ most famous haute gastronomic restaurant. The dishes here are generous and modern, with the wine selection feeling much like a tribute to Reims’s Champagne heritage. There are multiple terraces and landscaped grounds on the property. If you are looking to explore Reims at its most refined, you cannot go wrong with staying at Les Crayères.