11 Things to do in Reims: The best attractions for History and Champagne Lovers

Nestled just 80 miles northeast of Paris, the historic city of Reims offers a blend of rich history, architectural marvels, and the finest Champagne. With its roots stretching back over 2,000 years, from a Gallic settlement to a significant Roman city, and later as the coronation capital of France, Reims has played a pivotal role in French history. But it’s not just history that draws visitors to this city; it’s also the heart of the Champagne wine region, making it a must-visit for anyone wanting to savor the authentic taste of world-renowned French Champagne.

Easy Exploration with a Blend of Architectural Styles

Despite its historical significance, Reims, a key city in the Champagne region, is surprisingly easy to navigate. The city’s center is a short walk away from most major attractions, offering a delightful mix of art deco and classical French architecture along its cobblestone streets. For those less inclined to walk, Reims boasts an efficient public transportation system, including buses and trams, ensuring you can explore every corner of the city with ease.

A City of Coronations and Kings

Reims is famously known as the coronation city, with nearly every French king from Clovis I in 496 AD to Charles X in 1825 being crowned here, making it a key destination for those interested in the history of the kings of France. The Reims Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a masterpiece of high Gothic architecture, boasting an impressive collection of sculptures and stained glass windows, including contemporary pieces by Marc Chagall. The nearby Palace of Tau, another must-see, served as the residence for French kings before and after their coronations, housing an array of artifacts associated with royal ceremonies.

1. Visit Reims Cathedral

This 13th century Gothic cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and true masterpiece, renowned for its sculptured facades and incredible stained glass windows by Chagall and Aimé. It hosted royal coronations for centuries, including that of Clovis I in 496 AD who was baptized here, marking the beginning of the French monarchy. With more carved statues on its facades than any other cathedral in Europe besides Chartres, Reims Cathedral is considered one of the best examples of high Gothic architecture. Don’t miss the famous “Smiling Angel” sculpture that survived German bombardment in WWI.

2. Tour the Palace of Tau

Next to the cathedral, this palace served as the residence for French kings before their coronations. Today it houses artifacts like the 9th century talisman of Charlemagne, said to contain a piece of the True Cross, as well as 12th century coronation chalices used in royal ceremonies. You can also see the Holy Ampulla containing anointing oil used at every French coronation from 1131 to 1774. The palace hosted lavish coronation banquets from 990 AD to 1825.

3. See the Basilica of Saint-Rémi

This 11th century abbey church contains relics of Saint-Rémi, the patron saint of Reims, and exemplifies Romanesque and Gothic architectural styles that developed over its 400-year construction. Highlights include the cloister, staircase, and relics like the saint’s chalice. It was named a UNESCO site in 1991 for its outstanding Gothic design.

4. Explore the Champagne Cellars

The chalk caves and caverns underneath Reims provide the perfect cool, humid environment for the second fermentation that gives champagne its bubbles. Many famous champagne houses offer tours of their cellars carved out by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Don’t miss Veuve Clicquot, where you can see remnants of ancient Roman chalk mines, or Pommery with its dramatic limestone cellars illuminated by light shows.

5. Visit the Museum of Fine Arts

Admire works by Renoir, Matisse, Monet and more at this museum established after the French Revolution with seized art from aristocrats. Highlights include a strong collection by 19th century landscape painter Camille Corot. The museum has expanded its holdings to include all major European artistic movements since the 1500s, displayed chronologically and thematically.

6. See the Porte de Mars Arch

This imposing 3rd century Roman arch is one of the largest in the world at 33 meters long, originally marking the northern entrance to the city. You can still make out carved reliefs depicting Roman legends and gods. It was incorporated into medieval city walls before finally being freed during their dismantling in 1854. A symbol of Reims’ history from Gallic village to Roman colony.

7. Tour the Musée Hôtel Le Vergeur

This museum is housed in a 16th century merchant’s mansion with a stunning Renaissance courtyard containing architectural artifacts from the city. See the impressive collection of Gothic and Renaissance furnishings, German Meissen porcelain, 19th century Asian art, and 50 engravings by Albrecht Dürer. The highlight is the courtyard itself lined with archways from a 12th century Templar church.

8. Stop by the Automobile Museum

Car enthusiasts will love this museum’s collection of over 250 antique French cars and motorcycles, some dating back to 1908 like the Berliet. See unique vehicles from long-gone marques like Dillard, Salmson, and Génard Walcker. The kids will be wowed by the 5,000 model and toy cars as well. A can’t-miss for anyone interested in the history of the auto industry in France.

9. Stroll Around Place Royale

This elegant 18th century square features a statue of King Louis XV depicted in Roman emperor dress, placed here in 1818 to replace an earlier one torn down in the Revolution. Soak in the neoclassical French architecture surrounding the square, designed by Pierre Cartelier and built in 1757 to honor the king.

10. Visit the Saint-Rémi History Museum

Housed in a former abbey next to the Basilica of Saint-Rémi, this museum traces Reims’ history from prehistoric times through the Renaissance with an impressive collection of artifacts spread over 17 exhibit rooms. Highlights include the cloister, grand staircase, and objects revealing the city’s development from Celtic village to Roman colony to coronation capital.

11. See the Art Deco Carnegie Library

This hidden gem donated by Andrew Carnegie after WWI features incredible art deco design and decor from the 1920s. From the tiled floors to stained glass accents and curved wooden furnishings, you’ll feel transported back to the Roaring Twenties. Though no longer a lending library, the building is open to visitors free of charge to admire its time capsule interior.

The Reims City Pass

The Reims City Pass is your key to unlocking all the top attractions and activities in Reims. This convenient pass offers free admission or discounts to over 20 museums, monuments, champagne houses, restaurants and more. It also includes unlimited free use of the CITURA public transportation system during the validity period of your pass.

Pass Options & What’s Included

  • 24-Hour Pass for €18
  • 48-Hour Pass for €24
  • 72-Hour Pass for €30

With the Reims City Pass, you’ll receive:

Free Admission to:

  • Reims Cathedral and Palace of Tau
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • St. Remi Basilica
  • Porte de Mars Roman Arch
  • Museum Hotel Le Vergeur
  • Artillery Museum
  • And more museums…

Free Public Transportation on CITURA buses and trams for the duration

Discounts at:

  • Champagne Houses like Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Ruinart, Taittinger, G.H. Martel, and more (cellar tours, tastings)
  • Restaurants like Brasserie Les Halles, Le Pré Champenois, Charmes
  • Activities like the Reims City Tour, Paris Golf Course, Little Train tour
  • Shops like Lafayette Galleries and chocolate/pastry makers

The pass is activated with your first use and is valid for one person only during the 24, 48 or 72 hour period selected. It can be used once per attraction.

The Reims City Pass allows you to see the best of Reims at your own pace, saving both time and money. Get yours from the Reims Tourist Office or purchase it online in advance.

Conclusion

If you’re considering a trip to Reims, you really can’t go wrong. This historic city has so much to offer in terms of culture, architecture, food and drink. Whether you’re a history buff who wants to walk in the footsteps of French royalty, an oenophile eager to taste the world’s finest champagnes, or simply someone looking for a relaxing getaway steeped in French charm, Reims delivers.

The best way to plan your visit is to first decide which of the top attractions most pique your interest. If you’re passionate about medieval history and religious art, you’ll want to allow ample time to thoroughly experience the awe-inspiring Reims Cathedral, Basilica of Saint-Remi, and history museums. Love art and architecture? The Museum of Fine Arts, Musée Le Vergeur’s Renaissance courtyard, and art deco Carnegie Library are musts. Of course, no trip to Reims is complete without indulging in champagne tours and tastings at prestigious estates like Veuve Clicquot.

With so many world-class attractions packed into Reims’ compact city center, it’s easy to map out an efficient itinerary that checks off your top priorities. Most visitors find that two full days is the ideal amount of time to soak it all in at a relaxed pace. The Reims City Pass is also well worth purchasing for unlimited access to sites and public transit.

No matter how you plan your visit, Reims is sure to linger in your memories as a true highlight of your travels in France. The ageold coronation town simply oozes history, grandeur, and that indefinable French “je ne sais quoi.” So start planning your royal treatment in Reims today!

FAQ

Q: What are some of the best things to do in Reims?

A: Some of the best things to do in Reims include visiting the stunning Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, enjoying champagne tasting at prestigious champagne houses, exploring the Champagne vineyards, and taking a guided tour of the city.

Q: Where is the best place to stay in Reims?

A: The Best Western Premier Hôtel de la Paix is a popular choice for accommodation in Reims, offering a central location and comfortable amenities for visitors.

Q: What can I include in my itinerary for a day trip to Reims?

A: A day trip itinerary to Reims can include a visit to Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, champagne tastings at renowned champagne houses, exploring the city’s attractions, and enjoying a leisurely stroll through the heart of the city.

Q: How can I get to Reims from Paris?

A: You can easily reach Reims from Paris by taking a train from Paris Gare de l’Est station, with the journey taking around 45 minutes to an hour depending on the train type.

Q: What are some of the must-see attractions in Reims?

A: Some must-see attractions in Reims include the UNESCO-listed Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral, the Palace of Tau, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, and the bustling Place Drouet d’Erlon.

Q: What are the main things to see and do in Reims?

A: In Reims, you can explore the historic Gothic architecture of the city, enjoy champagne tastings, visit renowned sites like the Palace of Tau and Notre-Dame de Reims, and experience the vibrant atmosphere of the city center.

Q: Is it possible to do a day trip to Reims from Paris?

A: Yes, it is very feasible to do a day trip to Reims from Paris, as the city is conveniently located within easy reach by train, allowing visitors to explore the key attractions in a single day.

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