Discover Reims - cathedrals and champagne

  • A city of coronations and champagne wines, Reims is a city that abounds with both history and culture. With its cathedral, Palace of Tau, and museum in the Abbey of St. Remi, all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it holds an important part of France's history. Its renowned Champagne Houses, surrounding vineyards, and culinary specialities are part of the country's gastronomic heritage. A stopover ...
    © Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / 123RF
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination France

A city of coronations and champagne wines, Reims is a city that abounds with both history and culture. With its cathedral, Palace of Tau, and museum in the Abbey of St. Remi, all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it holds an important part of France's history. Its renowned Champagne Houses, surrounding vineyards, and culinary specialities are part of the country's gastronomic heritage. A stopover point for many tourists (mainly from abroad), travelling to the French Riviera in summer or the Alps in winter, Reims far from rests on its laurels, and is rather a resolutely modern and welcoming city.

Reims: what to do?

With 75 miles of champagne cellars winding underneath the city and its close surroundings, it would be a shame to go for a holiday in Reims and not visit the globally renowned Champagne Houses. Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Ruinart, Canard-Duchêne, Mumm... These grand Champagne Houses welcome mostly visitors to share the secrets of the production of the King of Wines, at the heart of former Gallo-Roman underground limestone quarries converted into cellars.

The city where 33 French kings were coronated, from Louis the Pious in 816 to Charles X in 1852, Reims is world-famous for its cathedral, the construction of which began in 1211. After climbing 249 steps, it is possible to discover the city from up top, as well as the statues located on the higher parts of the cathedral, which is itself a Gothic masterpiece, thanks to a narrow passage that runs around the base of its roof (tickets for this exceptional visit can be purchased at the welcome desk in the Palace of Tau right beside the cathedral).

Located in the former Abbey of St. Remi, the Museum of St. Remi (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) takes you on a tour of the history of Reims through its collections covering prehistory up until the World Wars. Organised into sections, it presents the history of the abbey, the Gallo-Roman period, the city's military history, and the regional architecture.

The Reims Christmas Market has already welcomed thousands of visitors over the past several years to its village set up on Erlon Square. Numerous chalet-style pavilions display locally-made handicrafts while the city lives to the rhythm of its musical shows, the home St. Nick, and mulled wine, which is consumed almost as much as champagne during this period.

Even before being a city associated with champagne, Reims was known as the city were the kings of France were coronated. From Louis the Pious to Charles X, 33 sovereigns were crowned in the city where Clovis I was baptised in 498 by St. Remi in a baptistery located on the spot of the current cathedral. The three cathedrals subsequently built on the same spot were followed by the current Notre Dame Cathedral. This Gothic masterpiece, whose first stone was laid in 1211, is a model of its kind in Europe for its luminosity. It also surpasses every other church for the wealth of its statues, of which there are approximately 2303. Of these, the Smiling Angel is the most well-known and perfectly reflects the spirit of the Champagne School of the 13th century.
Jean d'Orbais, Jean le Loup, Gaucher de Reims, and Bernard de Soissons were the principle architects (whose names are still renowned to this day, rare for such an old Medieval building). However, since it has undergone numerous renovations over the years, the structure has other great names inscribed in its stones and stained glass windows (the Simon family, masters of stained glass windows, Marc Chagall in the stained glass windows of the axial chapel, and even the German artist Imi Knoebel for the stained glass windows of the apse inaugurated in June 2011).

Next to the cathedral, the Palace of Tau owes its name to its T-shape. It originally served as a home to the archbishops of Reims and the place where the future king would spend the night before his coronation in prayer. It was also in the Festin hall of this palace that the coronation banquets were held. Despite its transformation in the 17th century by Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte, the Palace of Tau has preserved some of its Medieval-style rooms. A UNESCO World Heritage Monument, the palace holds the cathedral's royal treasury, the most incredible items of which are Charlemagne's talisman (9th century), the St. Remi Chalice (12th century), and the Holy Ampulla reliquary that contained the original celestial oil that was used to anoint the new king during the coronation ceremony.

Practically in opposition to the Notre Dame Cathedral, the St. Remi Basilica distinguishes itself through its depth and the feeling of privacy it exudes. Construction of this Romanesque and Gothic style structure, which holds the tomb of St. Remi, began in the 9th century. Like the cathedral and the Palace of Tau, it is also a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Monument.

With buildings as representative as the Carnegie library, the Grand Théâtre, the Café du Palais, several structures on Place Drouet-d'Erlon, and numerous façades concentrated in the city centre, Reims is a major representative of Art Deco architecture in France.
The Art Deco that popped up in Reims during the reconstruction that took place between-wars reveals a blend of the Hausmannian and late Art Nouveau styles. Thus, taking a tour of these finely wrought façades will at the same time take you on tour of the city centre.

The cryptoporticus (built around the year 200), a series of three semi-buried Roman galleries; Place Royale, built in honour of Louis IV; and City Hall, one of the city's most remarkable buildings, represent decorative elements of the Renaissance style and complete the list of major sites of interest in Reims.

  • The vineyards and big Champagne houses.
  • Exceptional heritage.
  • The centres of research and education.
  • The sometimes fickle weather.


The Reims Tourist Information Centre offers an entire range of individual passes so that visitors can see as much as the city has to offer as possible. For example, the Reims City Card lets you visit the main museums, take a tour (with a tasting) of one of the largest Champagne Houses and visit the Notre Dame Cathedral with an audio or live guide. The 'Escapades à Reims' pass includes one night in a hotel and visits of some of the Champagne cellars. The 'Reims Destination Noël' pass includes one night in a hotel, the Reims City Card and organised visits to celebrate the Christmas season. There is also a golf-themed pass available that offers one night in a hotel, a reservation for a green fee, a guided tour of one of the large Champagne Houses, a bottle of champagne for two and lunch in a restaurant in Reims. To discover the city in-depth and at your own pace, the Tourist Information Centre also has audio guides for hire (starting at £4) and offers visits called 'Regards sur la Ville' (a look at the city). These guided visits for individuals takes those interested on a tour around the city at night and on a bus trip to a vineyard.

To avoid

With its relatively new tramway, numerous bus lines, and train station serviced by TGV trains located at the heart of the city, Reims is an easy city to discover on foot. Although it isn't difficult to find a parking spot thanks to the many car parks, visiting Reims by car is not the ideal option.

Reims: what to eat?

The main city of the Champagne-Ardenne region, Reims is known above all for the production of champagne.
It's impossible to visit the city without enjoying a few glasses. You are sure to find the one that best suits your taste among all the grape varieties, blends, and Champagne Houses. Blanc de blanc, rosé or...? Let yourself be guided by your palate and your tastes.
To accompany this drink synonymous with celebrations and important occasions, it is difficult to say no to the slightly less famous (at least to the French anyway) Biscuits Roses de Reims. Made according to the traditional recipe, which is still used and kept secret by the original producer, the biscuit owes its crunchy consistency to being twice-baked, "like in an oven which takes hours to lose its heat".
Other specialities from Reims that must be tried are the 'Bouchon au marc de Champagne' and the 'Bulle à la Vieille Fine de la Marne', which are two dark chocolate delicacies filled with champagne marc in the first one and 'Vieille Fine de la Marne' (a champagne-based brandy) in the second.

Reims: what to buy?

It's obviously impossible to leave Reims without taking any champagne with you. Between Taittinger, Drappier, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm, Ruinart, and more, the choice of houses is endless. There is something for all tastes!
The Pink Biscuit of Reims is also a must. Founded in 1756, the Maison Fosser has been making this delicious biscuit from its original recipe for more than 250 years, boasting the particularity that it doesn't disintegrate when dipped into liquid. Recognised by the royal courts for the quality of its products, the Maison Fossier also sells croquignols, macaroons, meringues, champagne-style shortbread, and various types of gingerbread (including a peppery one that is the perfect accompaniment for foie gras).
Other typical specialities from Reims include 'Bulle à la Vieille Fine de la Marne' and 'Bouchon au marc de Champagne' which are two chocolate-based delicacies made by 'La Petite Friande', a brand created in 1832 (at the same time as chocolate bars).
To discover all of the specialities of both Reims and Champagne, 'Le Terroir des Rois' is a speciality shop where small and big name champagnes, Reims mustard and vinegar, ratafia, champagne marc, artisan pâtés, and other tasty delights can be found all in the same place. Maison Fossier
20, Rue Maurice Prévoteau

La Petite Friandise
15, Cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet

Le Terroir des Rois
8, Rue du Préau

Reims Reviewedhotels
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    With a great location in the city centre, the Europe hotel boasts ...

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