Champagne is a region in northern France famous for its gorgeous landscapes, ancient towns, and of course, sparkling wines. There’s no doubt that the region produces the best bottles of champagne and sparkling wines and is home to some traditional grape varieties, like Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay.
But did you know that there are a lot of other fun things to do in Champagne, aside from visiting vineyards and wine tasting? The region has many interesting cities and villages to enjoy, and you might not get to see everything in one trip.
To help you decide where to go, I’ll share with you the best towns and villages in Champagne to visit.
|The 5 Best Towns in the Champagne-Ardenne Region|
The Capitals of Champagne
1. Reims: Home to UNESCO World Heritage Site Palais du Tau à Reims
Reims is the capital city of the Champagne Region. It is only about 45 minutes away from Paris via the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF)’s high-speed train or train à grande vitesse (TGV).
Although Reims was badly damaged by World War II, it remains to be a historic destination, since the city is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Reims is also listed as a Ville d’Art et Histoire (City of Art and History).
One of the most visited historic sites here is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, or simply Reims Cathedral. It’s a 13-century High Gothic cathedral, where coronation ceremonies of several French kings took place — from Louis VIII in 1223 to Charles X in 1825.
Another UNESCO-listed historic destination in Reims is the Palais du Tau à Reims. This 17th-century palace in Neoclassical styles that used to be the residence of the Archbishop of Reims. It also served as the residence of the would-be kings of France before their coronation at the nearby Reims Cathedral. Celebrations after the coronation are also held in this palace.
Porte de Mars, or Mars’ Gate, is a 3rd-century Roman triumphal arch, where the temple of Mars once stood. It was considered one of the greatest arches in the entire Roman world.
The Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) is also a must-visit, especially if you’re into arts. Some of the city’s most renowned collections of arts and paintings can be found here. Take note, though, that the museum is temporarily closed until 2023.
2. Epernay: Home to the Most Renowned Champagne Houses
If Reims is the capital of the Champagne region, Epernay is the capital of Champagne the drink. It is only about 25km south of Reims. The two cities are linked by the regional train line called Lignes des Bulles (Line of the Bubbles).
From Paris, you can take the SNCF Transport Express Régional (TER) train. The ride will take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
In Epernay, you’ll see the famed L’Avenue du Champagne (Avenue of Champagne). It is a 110-km avenue of wine houses, lavish mansions, and chateaus that were constructed from the profits of the very successful champagne trade in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some of the well-known popular wine cellars along L’Avenue de Champagne are Moët-et-Chandon, Mercier, and Perrier-Jouët.
Montagne de Reims produces excellent Pinot Noir, while Vallée de la Marne (Marne Valley) produces great Pinot Meunier, a chimeric mutation of Pinot Noir.
Other Notable Towns in the Champagne-Ardenne Region
Located on the Seine River, Troyes is called “la cité en forme de bouchon de champagne” (or the city in the shape of a champagne cork) because of its form when seen from an aerial perspective.
Like Reims, Troyes is also named a Ville d’Art et Histoire. This commune in the Aube department of Champagne is the historic capital of the region. Its rich heritage can be seen in its medieval and renaissance architecture.
Troyes is also considered one of France’s best medieval centers. It’s home to several notable churches built in the Middle Ages, such as the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul de Troyes (or Troyes Cathedral), the 12th-century Église Sainte-Madeleine (Church of Saint Madeleine), and the 13th-century Gothic Basilique Saint-Urbain de Troyes (Basilica of Saint Urbain).
The 17th-century Town Hall, which features late Renaissance interior and architecture, is also a must-visit. There are also quaint half-timbered houses lined up along Rue Kléber, Rue Emile Zola, and Ruelle des Chats.
Because of its ideal position, Châlons-en-Champagne was a regional trading center since Roman times and an important wool trade center during the Medieval period. A number of its historical monuments date back to the 12th century during the city’s golden age as a trading center. Because of this, Châlons-en-Champagne is also considered a Ville d’Art et Histoire.
Most of the important historical sites in the city are religious — cathedrals and churches showcasing Gothic architecture. Some of these include the Cathédrale Saint-Etienne from the 13th century, the 12th-century UNESCO World Heritage Site Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, and the 11th-century Église Saint-Jean, Châlons-en-Champagne’s oldest church.
Langres is a walled medieval town in the Haute-Marne department of Champagne-Ardenne. It stands above the Marne River on a plateau overlooking lush landscapes with woodlands and lakes.
This Ville d’Art et Histoire is full of history as it dates back before the Middle Ages. You can find plenty of Medieval roads to meander, historic churches such as the 12th century Cathédrale Saint-Mamme, and extravagant Renaissance residences. If you want more of Langres’ history, you may want to visit the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Langres.
Langres was once a major stronghold but only around 3-4 kilometers of rampart path remains because much of what surrounds the town was destroyed due to a raised road that runs alongside it. Despite this, Langres is still impressive and is a pleasant place to stroll around.