Whether you are a huge champagne fan or are just looking for an interesting part of France to visit, I would say visiting Champagne is well worth it!
In fact, the champagne hillsides, houses, and cellars are considered so special that they made in onto the UNESCO World Heritage List!
The Champagne wine region is a wine region within the historical province of Champagne, located in the northeast of France.
Having visited this part of France several times myself, I’d like to share with you the main things you should know before visiting Champagne, to make the most of your trip.
Things to Know Before Visiting Champagne, France
Where to Stay When Visiting the Champagne Region
The two most obvious places to stay when visiting Champagne are Reims and Epernay.
Reims is the largest city in the region and Epernay is the town with the famous ‘Champagne Avenue’ (Avenue de Champagne).
Both have a train station and can therefore be reached relatively easily by public transport.
Why Stay in Reims When Visiting Champagne?
Reims is the perfect place to stay if you are looking for a more lively location with more things to do.
You’ll find famous champagne houses here to visit, but also museums, nightlife, etc.
It’s not the prettiest French city but it’s a convenient base and offers the most facilities.
If you choose to stay in Reims, Hotel Cecyl is a good budget hotel option with a very central location. Don’t expect anything luxurious, but it’s a comfortable option.
For a more high-end hotel option in Reims Les Berceaux de la Cathedrale is a gorgeous place right in the city center. Or, if you really want to splurge, check out Domaine les Crayeres, a luxury 5-star mansion on the edge of the city.
Why Stay in Epernay When Visiting Champagne?
Epernay is where you go to visit the Avenue de Champagne. This is the beautiful street lined with some of the most famous champagne brands, or ‘champagne houses’ as they call them.
Epernay is a cute French town. It doesn’t have as many facilities as Reims, but it’s a great place to stay if you want to soak up that typical small-town French vibe for a few days.
If you choose to stay in Epernay, check out Au Moulin Champenois as a budget-friendly hotel option. Or for a high-end hotel check out La Villa Eugene, which is a beautiful 5-star hotel with a pool, set in a 19th-century mansion
Why You Shouldn’t Stay in Either Reims or Epernay
I have stayed in both Reims and Epernay and really enjoyed both.
But, if you have a car I would recommend staying outside of both, to be surrounded by vineyards and small champagne producers.
It’s a great way to get away from it all, enjoying the beautiful sights this region has to offer.
Hotel Dans Les Vignes is a good option, surrounded by vineyards and located right next to one of my favorite champagne houses, Bonnet-Ponson. But more about champagne houses later.
If you have a slightly bigger budget then check out Domaine du Chalet, which is a beautiful hotel with a pool and spa, within walking distance from several champagne houses.
Lastly, L’Ecrin des Vignes is worth mentioning, which is a gorgeous 18th-century B&B in an idyllic setting.
Tip: it’s worth checking out VRBO for accommodation as well, especially if you are on a budget or want more space than a hotel room.
Things to Do in Champagne, France
Visit Several Champagne Houses!
Of course, the most popular thing to do when visiting Champagne is taking tours of champagne houses and tasting a lot of champagne!
I would recommend to start with visiting some of the main, world-famous Champagne houses. They offer well-organized tours of their cellars and tastings of several of their champagnes.
After that, go to some of the smaller, often family-run, champagne houses to see the difference.
Of course, visiting the famous brands might give you some bragging rights, but in the end, I enjoyed visiting the smaller producers more.
With the smaller producers, the entire process takes place onsite, so you can see the journey from grape to bottle. Larger brands, by contrast, tend to welcome visitors solely to their cellars, where the bottles are stored.
Which Champagne Houses to Visit?
My two favorite champagne tours were with Veuve Cliquot in Reims and Mercier in Epernay. Mercier takes you on a train through their cellars, which is a fun experience!
The first house to be established in Champagne, in 1729, is Maison Ruinart. Therefore visiting this one, simply because it’s the oldest, is worth it as well. You can find Maison Ruinart in Epernay on the Avenue de Champagne.
Another popular one among the big names is Taittinger. Their tour is one of the best organized and most insightful ones.
And then move on to some of the smaller champagne producers.
If you have a car you can drive into the countryside to visit these champagne houses yourself, but otherwise there are also organized tours you can join.
A few organized tours I’d recommend:
- A small-group afternoon champagne tour.
Perfect if you are staying in Reims and are looking for a tour that also takes you to Epernay.
- A full-day champagne tour to Moët et Chandon and a family-run winery, plus lunch.
Perfect if you are staying in Epernay and want to combine visiting a famous brand with visiting a smaller champagne grower.
- A half-day champagne tour, visiting 2 small producers.
Starts in Reims and is perfect if you’re looking for a tour that focuses just on the smaller producers.
- A champagne tour by e-bike.
Perfect if you are looking for a more active way to explore the champagne region, without it being too challenging. This tour starts in Reims.
My favorite family-run champagne producer is Bonnet-Ponson. They offer a great tour showing you not only their cellars and vineyard but also all of the machinery they use. Plus, they are quite unique in producing organic champagne!
Champagne Salmon is another great option. It’s a medium-sized champagne producer in a beautiful setting and with good tours.
Champagne Dom Caudron is a cooperation of small growers that offers tours. And, if you book ahead you can book a champagne and chocolate pairing!
And lastly, Pierson-Cuvelier also comes highly recommended.
The Logistics of Visiting Champagne Houses
Before you visit any champagne house, check their opening hours. Many champagne houses close for lunch and almost all close relatively early in the afternoon.
I highly recommend booking any cellar tours ahead of time. I have been lucky once or twice, walking into a champagne house and being able to join a tour immediately, but generally that doesn’t happen.
All champagne houses offer their tours by appointment, so booking ahead is your best option.
As mentioned, if you don’t have a car and want to visit some of the smaller champagne producers you can book an organized tour.
Taxis are surprisingly expensive so I would advise against that unless money is no issue.
Tip: the champagne tours take you through the cellars, which are quite cool. Bring a sweater, and wear comfortable shoes because you’ll walk a lot and the floors can be uneven.
Non-Champagne Things to Do in the Champagne Region
Although the main things to do when visiting champagne are visiting champagne houses and tasting champagne, of course there are other things to do here as well.
A few of my recommendations:
- Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the Palace du Tau in Reims
Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, located in the center of Reims.
- Basilique Saint-Remi
A medieval abbey church in Reims.
- Fort de la Pompelle
If you have a car, a drive to this fort just outside of Reims is worth it. The Fort de la Pompelle, also known as Fort Herbillon, is one of a number of forts built around Reims after 1870. The forts saw combat during the First World War in the defense of Reims. It’s also a nice area to walk around on a sunny day.
- Musée de la Reddition
This museum in Reims commemorates the end of World War II.
- Musée Automobile Reims
If you love cars and want to do something not champagne related then visit this car museum.
- Halles Centrales du Boulingrin
This typical French covered market is worth a visit. Do check google maps before you go to see if they are open.
- A sightseeing tour of Reims by segway
If you are looking to learn more about Reims and want to do that in a fun way, then check out this tour.
- The Reims City Pass
This pass gives you free admission to museums and unlimited tram and bus rides. Plus it offers discounts on certain restaurants, shops and champagne cellar tours.
- Épernay’s Hôtel de Ville
The town hall in Epernay is an impressive building and worth checking out.
- Le Ballon d’Epernay
For a spectacular view of the area, get onto this moored hot-air balloon.
Hautvillers is a cute town worth visiting. Stop here for lunch, a walk around the city, and to visit the abbey.
And, The monk Dom Perignon’s final resting place is located in this picturesque village.
- Eat lots of delicious French food!
Ask your hotel for recommendations closeby. But, a few of my recommendations, in Reims, are L’Apostrophe, L’Alambic and Anna-s La Table Amoureuse.
And if you’ve had enough French food, try Le Riad for great Moroccan food or Saigon Caphe for Vietnamese food.
How Much Time do You Need to Explore France’s Champagne Region?
I would say you need two full days to experience the highlights of the Champagne region.
This way you have one day to visit a couple of the main champagne houses and one day to either drive to or go on an organized tour to visit some of the smaller houses in the countryside.
This also gives you enough time to explore Reims or Epernay, soak up the French atmosphere, and enjoy the food.
Tip: depending on traffic or which public transport you take, it takes only around one to two hours to get to Reims or Epernay from Paris. This makes combining a visit to the Champagne region with a few days in Paris a perfect option!
Best Time to Visit Champagne
I would recommend visiting Champagne between May to October.
The fall harvest begins in late September and that’s when the champagne houses are at their busiest, both on the production side and the tourism side.
Some of the smaller, owner-operated champagne producers might be so busy with the harvest that their options for tours are limited around this time. That’s something to keep in mind if you want to visit smaller champagne houses.
If you are looking to avoid the crowds, November can also be a good month to visit the champagne region. It does get cold by then though.
Enjoy visiting the Champagne region!
I hope all of this information helps you plan a perfect trip to the champagne region. It really is a beautiful part of France!
And if you have any questions, just leave a comment below.
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