How to make a day trip to Reims

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 Reims is about more than champagne.  Here’s my take on a great way to do a day trip to this pretty and friendly city, that includes more than just champagne!

Make sure you drink plenty of champagne, but there is much more to Reims

Make sure you drink plenty of champagne, but there is much more to Reims

Arriving in Reims

Reims is only 45minutes by TGV from Gare de l’Est in Paris.  Make sure you book a TGV rather than a stopping all stations train that will take you 2hours.  Also make sure you book 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 in getting there!

Once you arrive, either head off on foot or take the Citadine bus or tramway into the old part of town.

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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.

Originally there were four Roman gates in Reims, but this is the sole survivor

Originally there were four Roman gates in Reims, but this is the sole survivor

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.

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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.

The Baroque townhall

The Baroque townhall

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).

Art Deco details

Art Deco details

I will be writing and showing more Reims architecture in an upcoming post.

Reims  Cathedral

The stunning Cathedral deserves your full attention

The stunning Cathedral deserves your full attention

Restored extensively following WWI, the pretty pink sandstone Gothic cathedral deserves your full attention (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.

Just one of the magnificent cathedral windows

Just one of the magnificent cathedral windows

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 aperatif, 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.

White chocolate mousse charlotte with biscuit rose at Brasserie Flo

White chocolate mousse charlotte with biscuit rose at Brasserie Flo

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.

Just some of the luscious choices at L'Atelier d'Eric

Just some of the luscious choices at L’Atelier d’Eric

Champagne in Reims

A visit to a champagne cave is a must

A visit to a champagne cave is a must

I know, you’ve probably been thinking, “but what about the champagne?”  And indeed, no visit to Reims 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.

Thousands of bottles deep in the caves at Taittinger

Thousands of bottles deep in the caves at Taittinger

Head back to the station, and make sure you’ve booked your return train as late as possible, to make the most of this great town!

While Reims makes a great day trip, I do suggest you stay over night and linger longer in this lovely city – there is so much to see, do, eat and drink!

For more photos of beautiful Reims, check out frugalfirstclasstravel on Instagram #reimstourisme

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.

Related posts:  

A short guide to Paris

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17 Comments on “How to make a day trip to Reims”

  1. Sandra 17/11/2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Next time I’m in Paris I will follow your advice.

  2. Pretraveller 17/11/2013 at 7:32 pm #

    Jo, Reims sound like a fantastic place to visit, so I am happy to hear that you had a fabulous visit. The food looks gorgeous, and it was interesting to hear about the champagne caves.

    I have done the tour at Domaine Chandon which is near Melbourne in Australia which shows how their champagne is made, but they are in a more modern facility which doesn’t have the historic interest of the cave systems.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 17/11/2013 at 9:00 pm #

      Thanks, Anne. The champagne caves were really interesting, and I’ll be posting more about them in the future

  3. pedmar10 17/11/2013 at 8:58 pm #

    great article, thanks for showing Reims is more than Champagnes ::)

  4. Jessica of HolaYessica 18/11/2013 at 2:46 am #

    What a lovely place to visit! If/when I’m next in Paris I may just have to add Reims to the itinerary.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 18/11/2013 at 6:12 am #

      Stay tuned Jessica, I’ll be posting more in the coming weeks. Glad you enjoyed the first post!

  5. Susan's Story 18/11/2013 at 7:22 am #

    Reims is a favorite of mine traveling France, and of course, the champagne is divine!

  6. Pamela 20/11/2013 at 11:26 am #

    Thank you Jo for such a helpful post on Reims. Have always meant to go but somehow never got around to it. Now it’s definitely on the list for next year! Really appreciated all the interesting info: architecture, history, stained glass etc. We always just tend to think about champagne and food and not about all its other attractions. That said though will definitely try one of your recommended restaurants. Do you know if you need to book in advance or can you just walk in around 12ish and get a table?
    In addition have a question about the champagne tours. The cellars have always sounded fascinating but I now have a disability and walk with a stick. I’m worried the stairs may be difficult for me (particularly if they’re steep and don’t have stair rails). Are there lots of stairs at Taittinger? If so, can you visit without going down into the cellar? Also like the sound of walking from the station to the Roman gate and past the gardens – but a bit worried about how far the walk is into central Reims. How long did it take you?
    Looking forward to the rest of the posts on Reims.
    Best wishes, Pamela

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 20/11/2013 at 8:44 pm #

      Hi Pamela, many thanks for your kind words. You should be able to get a table for lunch at either of the restaurants I mentioned without booking. We did have bookings, but neither were completely full.

      At Taittinger we did go down a spiral staircase. It was long , but not particularly steep. When I visited Taittinger I was given a private tour of the caves, so I’m not sure whether the normal tour would use them. You need to ring to book a tour anyway, so just ask. The reception staff speak beautiful English and were very nice.

      Reims is flat, so the walking is not difficult. It’s about 7mins from the station to the Roman gate, then about 10-15 into the centre of town depending on the route. Take the bus or a taxi to go to Taittinger, as its a bit further.

      I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts.

  7. janine@thegoodlifefrance 27/11/2013 at 9:56 pm #

    Lovely photos, great write up and its the perfect day trip for Champagne tasting from Paris isn’t it?! I always find the people so friendly…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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    […] Reims is only 45minutes by TGV from Gare de l’Est in Paris.  Make sure you book a TGV rather than a stopping all stations train that will take you 2hours. Read more […]

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