champagne

Journey a short distance east of Paris and you’ll discover the rolling hills and chalk plains of the most famous wine district in the world: Champagne, France. This idyllic, historic area is a wine lover’s Mecca and an ideal place to visit for anyone looking to get away from busy city life. The former regional capital of Reims is the life and soul of the district and where the majority of tourists stay to experience the Champagne lifestyle. Venture below the city and explore the many underground wine cellars to sample their myriad delights.

For those wanting to leave cities behind and roam the sprawling vineyards Champagne is known for, Epernay is the place to be. A small town southwest of Reims, Epernay is the heart of wine country. It’s here where the majority of significant Champagne producers reside and due to its relatively small size, it’s easy to travel around and sample a plethora of vineyards and Champagne houses on foot. This countryside retreat is the quintessential Champagne experience and will promptly tantalize the senses of anyone who considers themselves an amateur wine connoisseur.

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If wine is a particular passion of yours or you’re seeking authentic French serenity, look no further than the bubbling, majestic region of Champagne. And to make your trip as unforgettable as possible, please take a look at our top recommendations for what to see and do while you’re there. Make sure to note down your favorite places in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.

The City of Wine The largest city of the district, Reims, is where most visitors will find themselves. It boasts four UNESCO World Heritage sites along with countless ways to taste an abundance of some of the best wine anywhere in the world. The Cathédrale Notre Dame is the focal point of the city, with some of the finest gothic architecture in the country.

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An Underground Adventure Head to one of Reims Champagne Houses, such as Veuve Clicquot or Pommery, and venture under the streets of the city for a delightful wine cellar tour. Every house is unique, each with millions of individual bottles to see and sample. Bring your jacket, though, as it can get awfully chilly down there.

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Roam the Plains A short distance from the town of Epernay is the hamlet of Mutigny. Within this small community is a 1.4-mile wine trail which weaves its way through tranquil vineyards. English-speaking guides are available, as well as an astounding view across the Marne Valley; cap your journey off with a Champagne tasting at the end.

A View on Four Wheels If your feet have become tired from your travels, hop on an open-top bus tour. These tours travel through vineyards as well as around Reims. The panoramic sights are perfect for photographs and also provide a chance to meet a producer and tour their cellar (tasting included!).

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Stay in the Country For the ultimate wine lovers out there, the capital of Champagne, Epernay, has to be experienced. A short drive from Reims, Epernay is located at an intersection of three of the four main vineyard regions. Plan your stay for mid-harvest (usually August/September time) to truly witness everything the area has to offer.

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Walk Through History In the center of Reims lies the Cryptoportique. This U-shaped monument is there as a reminder of the role and importance Reims had in Roman times. Now it welcomes thousands of visitors every year and provides a wide variety of attractions, from outdoor music events to inside exhibitions.

Off the Beaten Path For lesser known and more intimate wine cellar tours, Champagne Aspasie in Brouillet is a charming way to start. Just a 30-minute drive from Reims, this 400-year-old farmhouse provides its visitors with a warm welcome and a deep dive into the Champagne-making process. You can also stay the night, with free tastings to boot.

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A Cozy Way to Taste Just outside Epernay is the commune of Hautvillers, and it’s here where you’ll find the Tribaut winery. Ghislain and Marie-Jose have welcomed visitors to their vineyard for over 40 years. Not only do they sell a vast quantity of their wine to the larger Houses, they also produce 150,000 bottles themselves. Sipping the finest wine on a sunny terrace is an ideal way to spend an afternoon in this oenophilic paradise.

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Accommodations

High-end For the epitome of luxury, the Domaine Les Crayeres should be at the top of your list. This chateau-style hotel nestles itself within 17 acres of lush greenery. Elegant rooms with a classical French style await you, with a gourmet restaurant and a 600 Champagne-labeled wine list to welcome you in.

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Mid-level The Hotel Jean Moet is wonderfully located within the Champagne capital of Epernay. This 18th Century building delivers superb service and a glass of Champagne at any time of the day. And after a long day of vineyard excursions, you can always head back and relax in their relaxing pool or infrared sauna.

Budget Found within the center of Reims, the Hotel Azur offers quality accommodation for a reasonable price. The spacious rooms are complemented by a pleasant full-service breakfast, served on their flowered patio – all of this just a few minutes’ walk from all of Reims’ attractions.

Food

France is known for its high level of delectable food, and Champagne is no exception. Along with a mass of delicious French cuisine, you’ll find the best in Flemish dishes, due to Champagne’s close proximity to Belgium. The region also celebrates the largest game hunting ground in the country; meaning that high-end meats such as venison, rabbit, and pheasant come as standard.

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Around the cities and towns of the region, you’ll come across vans and shops selling gaufres – a particular type of Belgium waffle that’s as good as it sounds. For two of the finest restaurant experiences around, we’d recommend sampling the delights of Reims’ Anna-S. la Table Amoureuse. Or for those spending the majority of their time in and around Epernay, head to La Cave a Champagne for its renowned culinary specialties and traditional atmosphere.

Drinks and Nightlife

With Champagne being widely considered the sparkling wine capital of the world, it will come as no surprise that it’s stocked with an assortment of bars which come with a lot more than just wine. However, due to the more sophisticated nature of the region, it’s unlikely to ever be referred to as “party central”. The liveliest of places is likely to be Club 21 – a great place to enjoy music supplied by a live DJ. Or for a traditional Irish pub with live music, Le Kilberry is sure to provide a memorable night out.

For something a little out of the ordinary, we’d highly recommend visiting Perching Bar. Found within the Regional National Park of Montagne de Reims, Perching Bar is only accessible by a wooden walkway, and, as you may have guessed by the name, is perched in the woods 23 feet off the ground. This solar-paneled powered bar is a champagne bar like no other.

Tips and Culture

If your stay in Champagne is limited to a long weekend, Reims is the best place to stay. With plenty of activities and wine routes signposted around the city, you are able to travel around on foot and thoroughly experience everything Reims offers. For longer visits, splitting your time between Reims and Epernay is the best way to stay. The mix of inner-city and countryside excursions around wine country is the sweetest blend there is.

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When spending a day sampling some of the finest wines in the world, it’s important to remember to eat. However, most wineries don’t offer food, so devouring a hearty breakfast and having snacks on hand is advised. It’s key to make a reservation if desiring to eat at one of the region’s 11 Michelin-starred restaurants when hunger finally strikes, as getting a table can be tricky.

And don’t forget, Paris is only a short train ride away.

Must-See

Leaving the beautiful vineyards and wine cellars behind momentarily, you can discover Champagne’s must-see attraction: the Palace of Tau. Getting its name from the Greek letter ‘Tau’, this T-shaped building was the former Archbishop’s residence, and where Princes used to stay before their coronation.

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It is now one of Champagne’s premier museums, containing treasures dating back to the 9th Century, as well as some of the most impressive architecture and tapestries in the country. This gothic-style palace is the pièce de résistance of Reims; an epitome of French cultural and history that is sure to marvel anyone who steps foot inside.

Champagne deserves to be at the top of any wine lover’s or cultural wanderluster’s bucket list. So, start on those plans in your BUCKiTDREAM planner, and don’t forget to share your experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.