Hi Frugalistas! Reims (pronouned “rance” as in France) is an easy and convenient day trip from Paris, being only 45minutes away by TGV. What most visitors will find surprising is that a day trip to Reims is about more than champagne. Here’s my take on things to do in Reims on a day trip from Paris to Reims, that includes more than just champagne!
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Starting your day trip to Reims: arriving in Reims from Paris
It is easy to travel to Reims from Paris as it is only 45minutes by TGV from Gare de l’Est. When you visit Reims make sure you book a TGV rather than a stopping all stations train that will take you 2hours. Also make sure you book your Paris to Reims train to Reims-Centre rather than Reims Champagne-Ardennes which is well away from central Reims. If you are only there for the day, you don’t want to waste time on your Paris to Reims day trip getting there – it really is one of France’s most beautiful cities, as well as one of its most interesting.
Once you arrive, either head off on foot or take the Citadine bus or tramway into the old part of town.
Architecture in Reims
Reims was settled by the Romans (it is often erroneously credited with being named after Remus), was where 26 French kings were crowned and was decimated by World War I. This gives Reims a unique architectural heritage that is well worth exploring.
A short walk from the Reims Centre station (turn left and walk along the pretty gardens), the Porte de Mars is an impressively intact Roman gate. Look carefully, and find the wheel ruts under one of the gateways. More Roman architecture is visible on the Place de la Forum in the form of an underground walkway.
Adjacent to the Roman is a medieval building, now a museum dedicated to old Reims. Further afield, the Town Hall is the sole surviving example of Baroque architecture.
But it’s Art Deco that is the characteristic architecture of Reims. After WWI (when only 60 building were left standing) there was a need to rebuild quickly. In response to this need, Reims rebuilt in the newly emerging Art Deco style. Whether it was due to this haste, lack of funds or just local tastes, the Reims style of Art Deco is a style of its own. While my guide, Sophie, referred to it rather disparagingly as a pastiche, I rather like to think of it as just the result of early adoption of this newly emerging architectural style. Wander around the town, and in particular along and around the Cours Jean Baptiste Langlet and admire this style in action. For a more traditional form of Art Deco be sure to visit the Carnegie Library, just behind the Cathedral (it is still the town library, but you can go into the reading room and view its delightful stained glass windows if you are quiet and respectful).
I will be writing and showing more Reims architecture in an upcoming post.
Restored extensively following WWI, the pretty pink sandstone Gothic cathedral deserves your full attention during your Reims day trip from Paris (and really, a separate blog post). At the entrance look out for the twin laughing angels – these have become somewhat of a symbol of Reims. Inside the Cathedral is really all about the windows – a true delight! The bulk of the stained glass windows are (restored) Gothic in style, but three more modern sets of windows really stand out. First, a Chagall triptych, then a window by local glassmakers in the 1980s and finally six windows by German glassmaker, Imi Knoebel (a German was chosen specifically, as an act of reconciliation) to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the cathedral in 2011.
Eating and drinking in Reims
While there is not a great, specific Champagne cuisine, Reims is a fabulous place for foodies. My recommendation is to make lunch your main meal for the day so you can enjoy the great food and local wine on offer.
Apart from champagne, make sure you try the local red wine Bouzy, which is light and flavorsome (often served lightly chilled). I also tried the local aperitif, ratafia, which was very pleasant, with a grapey, vaguely peppery flavour.
Food in Reims is really all about the biscuit rose (pink biscuit, pronounced biskwee roze) a local biscuit developed to be dunked in champagne like a biscotti. You can buy biscuits roses in all sorts of flavors and styles from Biscuits Fossier (Cours Jean Baptiste Langlet). In restaurants, biscuits rose are made into all sorts of luscious desserts.
For a fantastic lunch I can recommend both Brasserie Flo at the corner of Place Drouet d’Erlon (with a delightful courtyard dining area) and the very traditional, family-owned Cafe du Palais (just oppposite the Grand Theatre at place Myron Herrick).
Go for a wander and find some great artisan food shops for your afternoon tea, or for a special snack on the train home. Apart from the market (undercover, just near the Roman gate), try Aux Gourmets des Halles for charcuterie items, Fromages et Vins du Boulingrin if cheese is more your thing and L’Atelier d’Eric for gorgeous gateaux (all on rue de Mars, just along from the market). Even though it doesn’t really go with champagne, chocoholics can get their fix from La Petite Friande on cours Jean Baptiste Langlet (just near Maison Fossier) – keep an eye out for their champagne cork and bubbles chocolates.
Champagne in Reims
I know, you’ve probably been thinking, “but what about the champagne?” And indeed, no day trip to Reims from Paris would be complete without a visit to a champagne house and a tour of its caves (cellars). All the big houses have tours, usually with a tasting afterwards (most don’t just offer tastings). At Taittinger (where I visited) the caves are particularly historic, having been created originally as chalk pits by the Romans, then used for wine by monks in the Middle Ages, and then more recently used for protection during WWI.
Head back to the station, and make sure you’ve booked your return train as late as possible, to make the most of this wonderful city.
While Reims makes a great day trip from Paris, I do suggest you stay over night and linger longer in this lovely city. There are so many things to do in Reims France that don’t involve champagne. You can also explore more widely on a day trip to Champagne from Paris.
Plan your daytrip or short stay in Reims:
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Stay overnight in Reims:
Author’s note: I was a guest of Reims Tourisme during my visit to Reims, but you know I wouldn’t recommend anything I didn’t like, and that all my opinions are definitely my own.