Posted by on 01 Nov 2019 , in Europe
We fell in love with this region for many reasons: above all for its exquisite champagne, but also its scenic routes, outstanding restaurants, cool Bars à Champagne, delicious local gastronomy, rich history, comfortable accommodation and very welcoming people!
Let’s start with why this region is famous: CHAMPAGNE. Did you know that no one can call sparkling wine champagne unless its grapes are grown in the Champagne region?
We love to give you tips to make sure your holiday in France will be an unforgettable experience. This is why we recommend you travel to the Champagne region to indulge in champagne tastings, a truffle hunt, tree climbing, a night or two in a chateau, dinner at a top restaurant, cruising on the Marne and much more!
1. Where to taste Champagne?
We were lucky to visit a few Grandes Maisons de Champagne in Epernay, Champagne’s capital city. Our favourite was undoubtedly Mumm’s. We were amazed by the kilometres of underground tunnels that housed the champagne and were delighted by the tasting session at the end of our time there. Anyone travelling to Champagne should try to visit at least one of the Grandes Maisons as well as a local producer such as the Champagne G Thibault which we love. Do try the Grande cuvée spéciale, 50% chardonnay / 50% pinot noir!
Our top take-away from our Grandes Maisons visits? Champagne can either be a concoction of multiple grapes such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, or one grape only. The blends of grapes, the year of production, and the vineyard location are all things that contribute to the champagne’s uniqueness.
Au 36 also offer the chance of tasting bubbly with their 3 glasses degustation: try a 100% Pinot Noir Champagne, a 100% Chardonnay Champagne and a 100% Pinot Meunier Champagne! Let us know which your favourite is! Hungry? We loved the rose-flavoured macaroon (Reims speciality) as well as the Chaource (cheese) toast and beetroot mousse. Don’t forget to book before you go as this place is very popular!
French Travel Connection loved the original concept at Perching Bar. What better way of tasting mouth-watering champagne than up in a tree looking out onto one of the best views of the region? That’s right – this very bar was designed to perch some 6 meters off the ground! Sit back on your swing, sip champagne and chat to Olivier whilst kids can enjoy tree climbing under supervision. Being the highest bar in Europe, we would recommend booking in advance.
Lastly, but definitely not least, is C Comme bar, perfectly located for those of you who are staying in one of our favourite four star hotels, Jean Moet. We strongly suggest signing up for the Champagne & Caviar tasting or the Champagne & Chocolate tasting. Expect a very warm welcome from the owner who knows all there is to know about champagne. We loved that tasting menus are tailored every month to a local producer who comes to present their champagne.
For those who don’t want to drive and worry we recommend you to discover the best of the Champagne region with our Champagne day tours!
2. Where to eat?
Our Champagne tips would not be complete if we did not recommend places to eat! And at French Travel Connection we loved the Champagne region’s restaurants. They were such great experiences that we really want to share them.
Let’s start with Brasserie Flo in Reims, its authentic and beautiful dining room being the main attraction. When the dishes started to be served, we were even more convinced by the quality of this stunning place. Do not leave without trying the goat’s cheese flan and aptly-named Champagnissime with pink Reims biscuits and strawberry sorbet. The pictures just do not do them justice!
Another place that we loved is the recently opened L’Alambic, hidden behind a small blue door on the corner of a street in Reims. Make sure you book a table for dinner in the Caveau (the cellar). With outstanding service and a cosy interior, the menu features delicacies such as foie gras, regional cheeses, meat and fish dishes and delicious desserts.
3. Where to stay in Champagne?
There are many options for accommodation in the Champagne region, from a boutique hotel in the city centre, a small village Chateau, or a crewed canal barge , there are options for everyone. At French Travel Connection we have selected a few places we rate highly and have recommended for years!
HOLIDAYS INN REIMS Let’s start with our two favourite hotels in Reims: Holidays Inn Reims 4* with its beautiful rooftop breakfast room with a view on the Champagne region. We love this hotel because people are incredibly welcoming, rooms are nicely decorated and comfortable, it is located in the centre of Reims and its breakfast room/ restaurant has the best view of all the hotels in Reims.
BEST WESTERN HOTEL DE LA PAIX Our second favourite hotel is the Best Western Hotel de la Paix 4* located in the centre of Reims. Recently renovated with a lot of taste and beautiful materials, the hotel boasts a great swimming pool and the restaurant is a popular lunch spot amongst local Remois (Reims habitants) which we can only assume is a good sign.
JEAN MOET For a boutique hotel experience, we love Jean Moet 4*’s beautiful entrance, its sauna and its super stylish rooms. The hotel is located in the heart of Epernay,very close to the cool C Comme bar we praised above . Rooms are limited, so call us quickly and we will book you in!
CHATEAU DE RILLY For those of you who want to stay in a chateau, we highly recommend the Chateau de Rilly, found in the heart of the Champagne region. Its large comfortable rooms are decorated with refined French taste. You will be sure to love the beautiful garden as well as the spa and beautiful breakfast room. You will feel like a king or a queen for your entire stay there as the service is totally 5*. So if you like to be spoilt and want a quiet stay outside of the big cities, look no further: Chateau de Rilly is your answer!
RAYMONDE To polish off your stay in Champagne, France why not enjoy Raymonde’s crewed canal barge! What a relaxing way to discover a region cruising down the canals with this all inclusive option. Spend one week on-board Raymonde barge following the famous Champagne route and stopping along the way in Hautvilliers village, Reims and Meaux.
5. Review on what to do in Champagne:
• Tasting champagne
• Stay in charming accommodation
• Eat local food: Chaource cheese, Langres cheese, Rose Biscuit by Fossier and Reims ham
• Cruise down the Marne
• Visit Epernay and its Avenue de Champagne
• Visit Reims and its Cathedral
• Hunt truffles
• Unwind in a Champagne bar
6. Suggested Itinerary: 6 Nights King stay in the heart of Champagne
Day 1 – Arrive at Reims train station and rent a car to start your Champagne holiday. Drive to the beautiful Chateau de Rilly where you will spend 6 nights (15km-20min). Dine at your leisure at Chateau de Rilly.
Day 2 – Enjoy an early breakfast at Chateau de Rilly and drive to Reims where you will park the car for the day. Take the day to familiarise yourself with the Champagne region before driving around the rest of the week. Follow the Bubbly tour which includes Champagne tastings as well as a visit of Reims cathedral and a stop in Epernay. We Have dinner at L’Alambic restaurant before heading back to Chateau de Rilly.
Day 3 – Have breakfast at Chateau de Rilly and drive to Hautvilliers (20min) to have lunch at Au 36. Make sure you book before you go. Sample from a huge selection of champagne and enjoy a variety of small plates local to Champagne-Ardenne. After lunch, walk through Hautvilliers where you will see Dom Perignon, Father of Oenology burial. Pay attention to the iron signs next to village house doors. These date back to the Middle Ages and indicate what shops used to be there. After visiting Hautvilliers, drive to Epernay for dinner at Chez Max restaurant. Drive back to Chateau de Rilly after dinner (20 minutes).
Day 4 – After breakfast at Chateau de Rilly, spend the morning relaxing in the chateau’s spa. Have lunch at Le Coquet Bar – a delicious restaurant in Ludes (3km – 7 min). Drive to Verzenay lighthouse (7km – 15min) which has been converted into a museum, great for both adults and for kids. After your visit, make sure you have reserved an afternoon slot at the Perching Bar or at the Climbing tree park (5km) which are both closeby. Finish off the day back at Chateau de Rilly for dinner.
Day 5 - Have breakfast at Chateau de Rilly and drive to Reims (15km – 17min). Spend the morning wandering round the shops: stop at Fossier to buy some local biscuits, Galeries Lafayette and other boutiques along rue Vesle. Have lunch at the Café du Palais, who boast authentic bistro cuisine, a selection of wines by the glass and a large choice of champagne. After lunch, walk around the streets of Reims to discover its rich architecture and history. Many sites, monuments and museums show the history of Reims, from the Gallo-Roman to the modern era, and particular emphasis on the Art Deco period. Stop by the three UNESCO heritage monuments: Palace of Tau, Saint-Remi Basilica and Notre-Dame Cathedral. Dine at Brasserie Flo to enjoy refined French cuisine. Head back to Chateau de Rilly.
Day 6 – Following breakfast at Chateau de Rilly, drive to Epernay to stroll through its Grande Avenue de Champagne. Sip champagne as a new connoisseur and visit some Grandes Maisons. We suggest you book your visits to Moet & Chandon, G.H. Martel, Vranken-Pommery and others here. Have lunch in one of the numerous restaurants in Epernay. We also recommend you to stop at C Comme for a fun evening champagne aperitif and Caviar tasting. Dine at your leisure in Epernay, before heading back to Chateau de Rilly (20km - 25min).
Day 7 – Enjoy your last breakfast at Chateau de Rilly and spend the morning relaxing before heading back to Reims for lunch at Michelin-starred Assiette Champenoise before dropping off your rental car.