If you are going to visit France and you want to include a bit more to your French tour than Paris and other well visited areas then you should add Reims to your itinerary! Not so far from Paris in a train, the city is not only famous for its drinks (you guessed, I’m talking about Champagne) but also for its long history and culture. Culture, History, Art, Reims has got it all and if that’s not enough, you can rest assured that French gastronomy is very well represented as well. Considering a visit?Here are the top 10 things to do in Reims.
1 / Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims
The Cathedral of Reims is probably as famous as the one in Paris if not more. With a deep religious and historical heritage, this site has seen many Kings coronations including the famous Louis XIV. It also was deeply and was built on the site where Clovis was baptised.
Named a Unesco site in 1991, this religious site also suffered a lot through the first World War, and has been renovated since. The austerity of the site and the architecture is strongly reinforced by the beautiful painted glass that covers the back of the building. When the sunlight hits the windows, a bolt of colours invade the white and grey stones of the Cathedral. If there is one thing you cannot miss in Reims, it has to be Notre-Dame! Don’t miss the Smiling Angel in the left entrance of the Cathedral and the statue of Joan of Arc.
How long should you plan there: Half a day.
Cost of a visit : The visit of the Cathedral is free, a fee is asked for a visit of the towers.
2 / The Towers of the Cathedral
If your visit of the Cathedral left you wanting more and you are feeling a little adventurous then you will want to do a visit of the towers! This is one we highly recommend: the views from the top of the Cathedral are amazing (since no buildings are actually higher than the one you are standing on).
Be careful though: to get there you will need to climb a few hundred steps! We’d also advise you to wear some good shoes since the two birds of prey that reside in the Cathedral tend to leave a few surprises on the way. It’s all very worth it on a nice sunny day!
How long should you plan there: One to two hours. Those are guided tours.
Cost of a visit: 7.50 EUR is you are only visiting the Towers, if you want to couple this with a visit of the Palais du Tau then the bundled price is 11 EUR.
3 / The forgotten Abbey St Remi
Another world heritage inscribed by Unesco, what makes this Abbey so special is its architecture. It seems that it was built other three different time periods and this shows when you get to explore it. A much quieter site than the Cathedral, this place of worship is, nevertheless, one fantastic piece of heritage that you shouldn’t miss.
Because of it’s location a little outside of the city centre it, sadly, tends to be forgotten by the tourists passing by, don’t make the same mistake and go there for a visit. We’d also advise you to put a little coin in for the light. Once the choir gets illuminated, the whole place changes completely and will make you feel so very small.
How long should you plan there: Half a day is more than enough including transports.
Cost of a visit: Visiting the Abbey is free.
4 / Palais du Tau
Everywhere you look in Reims it seems like there is a Unesco site… The Palais du Tau is another one of them and is linked to the Cathedrale de Reims. This used to be the residence of kings in waiting, and is now a museum that holds many treasures.
Even if you don’t like museums much, this still holds some historical relics that you might want to see. They’ve also kept exposed the gargoyles of the Cathedral that still seem to be spitting lead a hundred years after the fire.
How long should you plan there: We’d recommend a good two hours to get a chance to see most of it. If you don’t like museum that much, maybe one.
Cost of a visit: The entrance price is 7.50 EUR or 11 EUR if you add a visit of the Towers.
5 / Cafe du Palais, Art Deco and good food.
If you are hungry or simply if you want to see the influence of Art Deco on the city of Reims then go to the Cafe du Palais. One of our favourite spots in Reims, located only a minute away from the Cathedral, this place is bustling with all kind of strange decorations but the must-see has got to be the jaw dropping stained-glass ceiling at the back of the building.
If possible pick a table there and bask in your surroundings while appreciating some local specialities.
What we love about the place? While maybe the prices might look a bit high, the portions are huge and there is no way you’ll come out of there hungry! The staff are amazingly nice and we’ll go back in a heartbeat next time we get back home.
How long should you plan there: Go for lunch or simply a coffee and relax for an hour or two.
Cost of a visit: Count around 35 EUR for a set meal.
6 / Get out of town and visit the nearby vineyards.
If you are tired of the city then what better plans than to visit the nearby vineyards and local cellars? From the famous cellars of Veuve-Cliquot to smaller ones, there are hundreds of people making Champagne in the area and it would be a shame if you didn’t get to see one of them.
Some vineyards now offer a formula where you can stay with them, in the middle of their grapes, in some lovely rooms, others offer a few visits, it’s really up to you to decide what you’d prefer to try out.
How long should you plan there: We’d recommend a morning or a night if staying in the vineyard is something you fancy.
Cost of a visit: Prices vary widely from 20 EUR to 200 EUR!
7 / Taste the local delicacy: Have a cup of Champagne!
When in Reims… have some Champagne! Sure it’s maybe a bit “overdone” but it would be a shame to show up in the area and not get a cup of Champagne!
We can’t advise you on where to get it, you could enjoy it with an afternoon snack at the fancy hotel of Les Crayeres or simply in town. Choices are many and even if you don’t like Champagne that much (a bit like me), you might find one that will make you change your mind!
Your mind can’t be changed? Then try something else! People don’t just produce Champagne around here, people are good at making alcohol in general and we’d even recommend you to try the local whisky which is quite enjoyable.
Where can I do this: Anywhere, Champagne is such a tradition that most people might have a cup of it for lunch and dinner so go for it!.
8/ … and pair it with some cheese!
Cheese… Oh beautiful cheese. An institution here in France and such a great thing to pair with wine… Except for the owner of “Fromage et Vins du Boulingrin”who decided that cheese should also be able to be paired with Champagne. And boy does he know what he is doing! His cheeses are amazing and he is passionate.
Would it be just me, I could stay in this shop for hours. Prices are reasonable and you get to bring some cheese back home (well, if the customs of your country let you).
Fromager is a job that seems to be disappearing from some areas in France so we hope this one never leaves Reims!
How long should I plan for this? Include it in your shopping.
9 / Indulge your sweet tooth.
Reims is not just famous for making Champagne, oh no, they’re a great contender when it comes to sweet and they’ve got a bit of everything to make everyone in your family happy! Take a tour of town and try of few specialities. First of: the “biscuit rose” from Fossier. Famous and distributed all over France, this little pink biscuit makes the city proud and you can’t leave the city without trying at least one.
But if biscuits aren’t your thing then don’t worry, the “bouchons” might work better for you… Chocolate filled with alcohol, hard to resist! In the shape of a cork, those chocolates never seem to go out of fashion! I wonder why…
How long should you plan there: It might take you two hours.
Cost of a visit: Little bags of local treats shouldn’t cost you more than 10 EUR.
10 / Relax with a coffee Place d’Erlon.
If there is one thing we like to do in France it’s sitting outside with a coffee when the weather is nice… It’s a nationwide phenomena and Reims is no exception. So after a long day of visits get yourself on the Place d’Erlon and enjoy a coffee while watching people passing by. If coffee is not your thing by now you know that you’ve got a few other possibilities!
Place d’Erlon, located near the train station, is a lovely place with many cafes, bars and restaurants and an excellent place to stop for a bit. Quieter than the city centre itself, the fountain (under renovation during our visit) offers a great view.
How long should you plan there: An hour or more if you just want to sit for a while.
Cost of the experience: The price of a coffee.
There is a lot to do in Reims so we would recommend spending at least three days in the city and maybe a bit more if you are planning to tour the nearby cellars and vineyards. Most people overlook Reims and only regard it as a starting point to explore the home of the famous Champagne. We think it’s a mistake. The city itself deserves time to explore its beautiful history and culture.
Have you been to Reims? Which attraction did you enjoy the most and would you come back? Let us know in the comments!
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We would like to thank the Tourism Office of Reims for showing us their beautiful city.