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Reims is a city in the Champagne region of France brimming with history and culture. Between sipping champagne, experiencing a memorable and moving visit to a critical piece of WWII history, and exploring the many cathedrals, there are a ton of things to do in Reims. Besides, its close proximity to the French capital makes for a super-easy day trip from Paris.
Spoiler alert – I saved the best for last.
in a rush? pin for later!
Table of contents
- tour a champagne house
- visit reims cathedral
- stroll around palais du tau
- marvel at art & archaeology at musée saint-remi
- check out saint-remi basilica
- get your fine art fix at musée des beaux-arts
- visit the roman portal, porte de mars
- see an opera
- experience reims history at musée-hôtel le vergeur
- pack a picnic at les halles du boulingrin
- forte de la pompelle
- musée automobile reims champagne
- place royale
- admire the art deco style of bibliothèque carnegie
- visit chapelle foujita
- sample the original biscuit at maison fossier
- taste regional specialties
- go to the room where germany surrendered WWII
- getting to reims
- reims city pass
- pin it!
tour a champagne house
Reims is one of the two most-visited cities in the Champagne region, alongside Épernay. The city of Reims is home to some of the most famous Champagne houses, including Taittinger, Mumm, and Veuve Clicquot. No visit to this is complete without experiencing a champagne tasting!
I opted to visit Taittinger due to its reputation of having the most stunning caves. The tour of Taittinger lasts an hour and there are different pricing tiers. You will tour the cellars, learn about the art of champagne production, and of course, sample to your heart’s content!
Please note: The champagne houses are currently closed at the recommendation of the French government due to COVID-19. You can check the status here.
visit reims cathedral
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Reims Cathedral (or, Notre-Dame de Reims) is a must-visit tourist destination. It was a critical place in the country’s history, as it served as the location of the coronation of the Kings of France.
The cathedral saw some damage during the French Revolution, but the effects of war took a much greater toll during WWI, when the building suffered German bombardments. It has gone through numerous renovations, and, in 2011, the city of Reims celebrated the cathedral’s 800th birthday!
Visiting the Reims Cathedral is a great free thing to do in Reims.
stroll around palais du tau
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Palais du Tau was formerly the residence of the Archbishop of Reims. Today, it houses a small art collection of stunning 16th century tapestries as well as items from the cathedral treasury and other items associated with the coronations of French Kings – the talisman of Charlemagne is even here! Cultural events in the city are also held here.
Cost of admission is 8 EUR.
marvel at art & archaeology at musée saint-remi
Housed in the former Abbey of Saint-Remi (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site!), Musée Saint-Remi hosts a myriad of ancient relics and tapestries.
The museum is divided into four sections. The first showcases the history of the Abbey buildings along with a tapestry depicting the life of Saint-Remi. Next is the Gallo-Roman area, highlighting the ancient city of Reims. There is a permanent military exhibit, and finally, a collection of local items dating back to prehistoric times.
The museum is closed on Mondays and entrance is 5 EUR.
check out saint-remi basilica
Right next door to the Musée Saint-Remi is the Basilica Saint-Remi. It is – get this – a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Yes, Reims is chock-full of these cultural gems. The basilica is a medieval abbey church, the largest Romanesque church in Northern France. Louis IV is buried here, among other lesser-known royal figures. The interior of the church is just as exquisite as its exterior, and definitely one of the best things to do in Reims.
Cost of admission is 6 EUR.
get your fine art fix at musée des beaux-arts
One of the many museums in Reims worth visiting, Musée des Beaux-Arts touches all bases, covering all of the major European art movements. Most of the pieces are Flemish, Dutch, and French paintings. The museum was founded in the late 18th century with artifacts seized during the French Revolution.
The museum is currently closed for relocation purposes, and plans to reopen in 2023. Admission is normally 5 EUR.
visit the roman portal, porte de mars
Dating back to the third century, La Porte de Mars is an ancient Roman triumph arch. It is comprised of three arches, on which the original carvings are still visible. The arches show depictions of Romulus and Remus, an agrarian scene, and Leda and the Swan.
La Champe de Mars is a great free thing to do in Reims.
see an opera
If you happen to be visiting Reims overnight or for a few days, take advantage of their affordable opera house! Tickets start at just 20 EUR, and who doesn’t like an excuse to get dressed up for a night on the town?
Schedule is available here.
experience reims history at musée-hôtel le vergeur
One of the oldest buildings in Reims, the Musée-Hôtel le Vergeur hosts a collection of decorative works of art depicting the illustrious history of Reims. Here, you can see some of the Reims ruins as well! If you want to see an ancient Roman horreum, stop next door to check out the Cryptoportique.
Cost of admission is 5 EUR.
pack a picnic at les halles du boulingrin
This covered market is a food lovers’ paradise. There’s an abundance of fresh produce from the region, mouth-watering baked goods, and locally produced food items. It’s the perfect place to grab a few things for a picnic if you’re not up for eating at a restaurant!
The market is open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. The schedule is available here.
forte de la pompelle
Emblematic of the defense of Reims and WWI in northeast France, the Fort de la Pompelle Museum serves to remind us of crucial moments in its history, from 1883 to today. Its impressive compilation of German helmets, uniforms, and everyday objects used by soldiers will submerge you in an impassioned place of remembrance that depicts the story of these men’s ordeals and the hardships of combat during WWI in the region.
musée automobile reims champagne
Established in 1985 by Phillippe Charbonneaux, the Musée Automobile Reims Champagne is an interesting thing to do in Reims. It showcases over 200 cars and motorcycles from 1908 to the present day. In addition to displaying classic vehicles, the museum also strives to provide information regarding the rules and regulations regarding acquiring and driving classic cars.
The museum is open daily except for Tuesday, and admission is 9,50 EUR.
Place Royale is a magnificent square in the center of Reims, built in 1757 in honor of Louis XV. There is a large bronze statue of him in the center of the square, with one hand extended, symbolizing the protection of his people. It’s got gorgeous arcades and balustraded roofs, and is a great place to people-watch.
admire the art deco style of bibliothèque carnegie
Built with donations from Andrew Carnegie, the American steel mogul, the Carnegie Library in Reims showcases some brilliant examples of art deco ornamentation – just check out that lighting fixture! There is a large, semi-cylindrical reading room with parquet floors and large, stained-glass windows.
Checking out the décor at Bibliothèque Carnegie is absolutely one of the best free things to do in Reims.
visit chapelle foujita
Chapelle Foujita is a whimsical example of Japanese culture blended with references from the Italian Renaissance. The artist who designed and decorated the chapel in the 1960’s, Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita, was of French-Japanese descent. Here you will find the tombs of both Foujita and his late wife.
sample the original biscuit at maison fossier
Fossier biscuits have been around since the late 17th century, and are considered to be the original bis-cuit. They offer a variety of types of biscuits, however they are most famous for their Biscuit Rose de Reims (Pink Biscuit from Reims). It goes without saying, particularly if you’re a foodie, that a stop at Maison Fossier is a must-add item to your list of things to do in Reims!
Just in case you’re travelling virtually these days, Fossier biscuits are available to be shipped to some European countries. If you’re in the USA, check out the Amazon link below to try yours!
taste regional specialties
There’s no shortage of great places to eat in Reims. In fact, the city has many of its own specialties that are worth sampling while you’re here. In addition to the Biscuits Rose de Reims, be sure to try jambon de Reims (Reims ham) and moutard de Reims (Reims mustard) as well! And don’t forget to sample the locally produced Chaource, a soft, semi-crumbly sheep’s milk cheese.
If you’re willing to shell out the cash, there are six Michelin-starred restaurants in the city! Be sure to make reservations far in advance.
go to the room where germany surrendered WWII
I’ve saved my personal favorite for last. Visiting Musée de la Reddition was by far the highlight of my trip to Reims, and perhaps of that entire two-week trip to France and the Netherlands. This is where WWII officially ended on May 7, 1945.
Discover this pivotal event that transpired secretly in the “map room” located in Lycée Roosevelt in the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, directed by General Eisenhower.
Documents, uniforms, and artifacts bring the months that foreshadowed the capitulation of the Third Reich to life. Stepping foot into the signature room, a major locality in European history, was incredibly moving. The room symbolizes not only the end of a tragic period in history, but also the beginning of a long process of reconciliation. Prepare yourself for tears.
Cost of admission is 5 EUR, but worth much, much more.
The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel was riveting, I finished it last week. It tells a great story of love and betrayal in the Champagne region during the time of WWII. Seriously, I couldn’t put it down.
getting to reims
As I mentioned above, Reims is super-close to Paris. There are direct trains leaving multiple times per day from Paris Est station. The train runs every four hours and total travel takes less than an hour. Be sure to check schedule and prices here – each way starts at 26 EUR per person.
reims city pass
The Reims City Pass starts at 22 EUR for one day and is good to get you into all museums, free public transportation within the city, free tours, free champagne, and discounts at certain shops. It’s well worth it if you plan on going to a few places within a day. The Reims City Pass is available in 24, 48, and 72 hour increments.
Due to current COVID-19 restrictions in France, the Reims City Pass is currently unavailable. Stay updated by checking this website.