Champagne, France: The Perfect Day Trip From Paris
Leaving the City of Lights for a wine-soaked day of tasting in France’s Champagne is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of Paris. However, there are numerous ways to plan your getaway, depending on what you’re looking to get out of the trip.
Follow our tips below to discover everything you need to know before heading out for an elegant jaunt to Champagne – because nothing screams ‘luxury day trip’ like sipping on fizzy flutes of top-quality wine in the heart of where it’s made.
How to get there
Accessing Champagne from Paris is as easy as renting a car, hopping a train, or better yet, landing in a private helicopter. Champagne’s two major cities, Reims and Epernay, are where most of the bigger name tasting rooms – think Veuve Clicquot, Krug and Laurent Perrier – are located.
For those that don’t drive, or are simply looking to imbibe without worrying about getting behind the wheel, taking the high-speed TGV train to Reims and enjoying all that the city has to offer is the way to go.
Renting a car opens up many more opportunities for producer visits and regional exploring. However, visiting smaller producers in countryside areas highly diminishes the chance of English-speaking interactions.
Looking to explore further out? It’s best to contact producers in advance to set-up a visit and figure out with whom you can communicate. For larger tasting rooms in the cities, speaking English is never an issue, though reservations may still need to be made in advance.
For those looking to really travel in style, French Adventures offers day tours by helicopter from Paris to Reims, with three different options available. Choose from lunch at Les Crayeres, a Michelin-starred restaurant located on a three-hectare park just outside of Reims’ city center, a tour of Epernay and its cellars, or a simple panoramic view of the region.
What to drink
Having a bit of a baseline as to what you’re drinking is always a great start when visiting a wine region. Champagne is produced from three main grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The wine gets its fizz from a secondary fermentation that takes place in bottle, which traps carbon dioxide (a byproduct of fermentation) within the vessel.
The wines are then aged in bottle on their lees (otherwise known as dead yeast cells) for a certain amount of time before being disgorged, topped off and sent to the market.
As with any wine region, especially one as luxurious as Champagne, etiquette is always key. Drinking in excess is frowned upon and maintaining respectful behavior within tasting rooms is essential. Remember, tasting rooms aren’t bars – there are plenty of those within the city center of Reims, perfect for letting loose after a day of tasting.
What to do
While most head to Champagne with the end goal of sipping as many sparkles as possible, there are actually a handful of regional activities great for breaking up the day.
Reims is home to one of France’s most stunning and historically important cathedrals, Notre-Dame de Reims, located in the heart of the city center. Believe it or not, it was here and not Notre-Dame de Paris, where all of France’s kings were originally coronated.
Take a guided tour through the structure’s stunning stained-glass windows and experience the sense of resilience that comes from within this centuries-long standing church, after having lived through numerous fires and world wars.
For a sophisticated museum break, spend an hour or two at Reims’ Musée des Beaux Arts, the city’s fine arts museum, or gaze upon a slew of beautiful tapestries and paintings at the Palais de Tau, the ex-palace of the Archbishop of Reims, located just next to the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims.
And what better way to end a solid day trip than with a pint of refreshing beer? Grab a local brew at The Glue Pot, a no-frills downtown pub where all of the young winemakers hangout. Wash it all down with one of the joint’s famous burgers and head back to the City of Lights feeling both satiated and satisfied.
Where to stay
Roundtrip jaunts to Reims and Epernay are certainly feasible same-day, though sometimes, a long day of sipping sparkles will have you wanting to simply rest your head as soon as possible– and potentially go for round two tomorrow.
For centrally located accommodations, Reims’ Hotel de la Paix is an excellent choice and a short ten-minute walk from the main train station. Here, you’ll enjoy all that Reims has to offer by foot, no transportation necessary.
For those looking for a more luxurious night away, Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa is the cream of the crop. This breathtaking hotel and spa offers jaw-dropping vineyard views, some of the region’s best wine cellars, and additionally comes with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Royal, on-site.
(Lead image: Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa / supplied)
Published 30 August, 2019