Must-Visit Towns in Champagne
There’s no doubt that France is home to some of the most fantastic destinations in the world. Whatever you’re looking for – whether it’s art and culture, charming scenery, romance, or fine dining, you’ll find everything you’re looking for and more in this one magnificent country. Of the many places to visit here, however, two in particular stand out as truly unique and unforgettable. With fascinating history, breathtaking beauty, and a laid back atmosphere that sets them apart from the rest of the world, Epernay and Reims are two towns that should be a the very top of your must-visit list.
Although there is plenty of history and culture to enjoy in this charming, albeit fancy, little town, it’s the champagne that’s produced here that has truly put Epernay on the map. Vineyards abound, with thousands upon thousands of acres of grapes just waiting to be harvested and turned into an exquisite bubbly beverage that is known and enjoyed the world over. If you enjoy touring vineyards and wine cellars, Epernay will certainly not disappoint. Many visitors are surprised to find out that there are actually more than 100km of chalk cellars, filled to the brim with some 200 million bottles of aging champagne located directly beneath the roads of the town. The famous Avenue de Champagne is a favorite path of visitors, and the locals like to joke that it’s the most expensive road in the world because of all the precious cargo stored below.
When you’ve had your fill of fine sparkling wine, Epernay also features a number of beautiful historical sites. One in particular, the Château de Conde, remains a favorite stop for visitors due to its size, breathtaking grounds and fascinating history. In fact, there is evidence that the chateau, as well as the surrounding village have been around since Roman times, perhaps even longer. Over the centuries, it has served as home to many famous French families, from the Savoies and the Condés, to Cardinal Richelieu and, of course, Olympe. Today the castle still dominates the magnificent landscape, surrounded by 300 year old trees. It has been beautifully restored and serves as a private residence that is lived in year-round.
Reims also has more than its fair share of champagne, but it’s even more well known for its strong ties to the French monarchy. In fact, for centuries this unassuming town was the traditional site where the kings of France were ceremoniously crowned. Founded sometime around 80 BC, it’s no surprise that this area is absolutely teeming with history and intriguing ties to the past. Just about everywhere you turn you’ll see fountains and other monuments, from the noble statue of Louis XV to the carving dedicated to Joan of Arc on horseback. The oldest monument in the town is the Porte de Mars, or Mars Gate, which is a huge arch that rises up to over 40 feet high and stretches for a length of over 100 feet. This magnificent structure, which consists of three archways and several columns, was one of four gates to the city during Roman times.
Reims is also known for the incredible churches and cathedrals that are found throughout the town. The Saint Remi Basilica is a former Benedictine Abbey, and has now been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features exquisite Romanesque and Gothic design styles that together make the structure a simply spectacular sight to see. But perhaps no building in Reims, France or even all the world is as well known as the Cathedral Notre Dame. This fantastic church, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the site of the coronation of Charles VII in 1429, accompanied by Joan of Arc, who is honored by several statues on the grounds surrounding the cathedral. It is covered with spectacular stained glass windows that were intricately crafted in a variety of shapes, pictures and vibrant colors. For those wishing to see and learn a little more about the infamous church, there are guided tours, including one that allows visitors to climb the 250 steps to the tower. It’s something you simply won’t ever forget.