Notre Dame Cathedral
A masterpiece of Gothic art, the impressive Notre Dame is one of France’s greatest cathedrals. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has seen 32 French kings crowned under its soaring ceiling throughout the course of it’s history.
Construction on the cathedral began in 1211, on the site of a church that had burnt down, and was finally completed 300 years later. The cathedral has some amazing stained glass windows and a wonderful feeling of historical grandeur. It has stood the test of time, surviving as Reims was laid flat by bombing during the First World War.
The cathedral is the heart of the city, on the Place du Cardinal-Lucon, opposite the tourist office.
In July and August daily guided tours are available. Open daily. Free entrance.
To make the most of your trip to Reims, it’s well worth visiting a selection of the champagne houses. Whilst each visit can vary in content, a tour of the châteaux, the immense cellars and the unfolding story of the complexities involved in making champagne can be quite an amazing experience. It’s possible to arrange visits to most of the champagne houses, some charge a fee, but it’s worth it for the tour of the cellars, carved out of chalk many centuries ago where thousands of bottles are stacked up at their various levels of production, and of course the tasting. Generally you need to make an appointment for a tour or to arrange a tasting. If you only have a couple of days in the area, it may be worth planning ahead and making at least a couple of appointments before you go. Remember that the majority of the houses arrange visits on weekdays only, however during the summer season some are also open for visits on Saturdays, or even Sundays. Please check the companies’ individual websites or call them for up to date information and details of opening hours and prices. Alternatively, go to the tourist office by the cathedral and simply ask which caves (“kaav”, or cellars) are open on the day. They’ll give you a map that shows where to find them. It’s also worth noting that after your 4th or 5th visit, one cellar starts to look very much like another, so no need to overdo it.
The main Champagne houses including Krug, Lanson, G H Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck. Pommery, Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot are within walking distance of the cathedral. The following list includes most of the champagne houses located in Reims.
In 1843 an unknown wine maker by the name of Johann-Joseph Krug decided to set up his own champagne house. Today, more than 160 years on, Krug is one of the most revered of all champagnes. The creation of Krug champagne remains unique in the industry. It is made from a mix of pinot noir, chardonnay and meunier grapes taken from a small number of vineyards in local villages. Krug still use traditional methods, storing the juice in oak barrels made from 200 year old or more trees, whilst all of the other big champagne houses now use stainless steel vats for this stage in the process.
Recommend booking an appointment at least a month in advance. Weekdays only.
5 rue Coquebert (+33 (0)3 26 84 44 20). www.krug.com
Founded in 1760, it was originally called Delammote after the founder who was a Knight of the Order of Malta. The Maltese cross has always been used as the House crest.
Tours are in English, French and German and include a visit to their cellar and tasting. Duration around one hour.
Tours are by appointment, on weekdays only (excluding bank holidays). Closed in August.
12 boulevard Lundy. (+33 (0)3 26 78 50 50). www.lanson.tm.fr
G.H.Mumm & Cie
Founded in 1827 by a wealthy family of German wine merchants from the Rhine Valley. This house has the third largest brand in the world with a yearly production of over 8 million bottles.
Tours available in English, lasting around 45 minutes plus a short video and a look at ancient venting tools.
Open daily from 1st March to 31st October. At one day’s notice, a drive through the vineyard. Off season visits by appointment only.
34 rue de Champ de Mars. (+33 (0)3 26 49 59 70). www.champagne-mumm.com
The Heidsieck part of the winery has been around since 1785 when a former cloth maker, Florens Louis Heidsieck went to Reims and became involved with wine. After his death, his nephew Christian Heidsieck took over in partnership with his cousin Henri Guillaume Piper, thus the Piper-Heidsieck dynasty was created. It is now the official champagne of the Cannes Film Festival.
Self-guided tours in electric cars with commentary in English, followed by a tasting. Open daily from March 1st to December 31st. Booking generally recommended.
51 boulevard Henry Vasnier. (+ 33 (0)3 26 84 43 44). www.piper-heidsieck.com
Founded in 1858, by Alexandre Louis Pommery, and taken over soon afterwards upon his death by his capable wife, Madame Pommery. In the 1860s she linked 20 chalk quarries that had been carved into the hills by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, to form a series of conical-shaped champagne cellars that stretch for 11 miles and hold an amazing 20 million bottles. These are the most visited cellars in Reims. Today, Pommery is considered to have one of the finest vineyards in the Champagne region.
Tours include the cellars and vineyards and last around one hour. Tour & tastings by appointment only.
5 place du General Gourand. (+33 (0)3 26 61 62 63/65). www.pommery.fr
Established since 1734, Taittinger is now one of the few family owned Champagne houses in the region. The house uses Chardonnay as the dominant grape for the brand making, creating a light and elegant taste. The oldest parts of the cellars are located on the site of Gallo-Roman chalk mines dug in the 4th century.
Daily from mid March to mid November, weekdays only during winter.
Paying cellar tours, including the vineyards and a short film, last about one hour.
99 place St-Nicaise. (+33 (0)3 26 85 45 35). www.taittinger.com
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin
Founded in 1772 by Philippe Cliquot, and by 1775 it was the first house to distribute rosé champagne. Philippe’s son, François inherited the company but died of a fever in 1805, leaving his 27 year old widow Barbe Nicole Ponsardin to take control. Veuve (widow) Cliquot was very successful, and is heralded as one of the most impressive business women of modern times. It was the official champagne of the Danish, Swedish and English courts, and it was also drank at the celebration of the Queen's silver jubilee in 1977.
Tours by appointment only. Monday to Saturday 1st April to 31st October. Winter months, weekdays only.
1, place des Droits de l'Homme, (+33 (0)3 26 89 54 41/26 89 53 90). www.veuve-clicquot.com
Produced a celebratory bottle for the 700th anniversary of the Grimaldi family of Monaco in 1997. Tours by appointment only.
4, Boulevard Henry Vasnier, (+33 (0) 3 26 84 43 50). www.charlesheidsieck.com
This is one of the largest remaining independent champagne houses, owned by the same family since it was founded in 1776. From 1832 to 1870, the house gained top worldwide ranking with sales of 2.5 million bottles. In 1909 Tsar Nicholas II nominated the house as the official supplier to the Imperial Court of Russia.
Tours by appointment and recommendation only.
21, Boulevard. Lundy, (+33 (0) 3 26 40 42 11). www.champagne-roederer.com
One of the oldest champagne houses, founded in 1729, the Ruinart has a spectacular network of cellars more than 30 metres below ground. These cellars include chalk pits listed as historic monuments.
Tours on weekdays, by appointment only.
4, rue des Crayères, (+33 (0) 3 26 77 51 51). www.ruinart.co