Visiting Champagne France is a memorable experience for wine lovers and history enthusiasts. This stunning region in northeastern France, home to the world’s most renowned sparkling wine, offers breathtaking landscapes and a rich cultural heritage to explore.
In this article, I’ll go through how to get to Champagne, France, where to stay, how to visit Champagne houses, and some other regional highlights that aren’t drinking champagne.
How to Get to Champagne
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The Champagne wine region of France is 79 miles east of Paris. It is easy to visit Champagne on a full day trip from Paris. However, to get the most out of the area, spending at least one night is ideal.
Reims is the largest city in the Champagne region of Montagne de Reims and the lovely small town of Epernay is home to the famous Champagne Avenue. Many visitors to the region choose to stay in one of these two towns. There are also many other lovely hotel options in the region, but they will generally require a rental car.
Trains to the region operate from Gare de L’Est train station in Paris. Trains to Reims are more frequent than trains from Paris to Eperany. There are about 20 trains a day between Paris and Reims and trains between Paris and Epernay run about every three hours.
Both stations are located in the town centers. Trains run regularly between Reims and Epernay, taking about 30 minutes. A popular option is to stay in the larger city of Reims and take the train to Epernay for the day to experience the famous Avenue de Champagne.
It takes about one hour and 45 minutes to drive from Paris to the Champagne region, depending on traffic.
There is an airport in Champagne, Châlons Vatry Airport, but it is tiny. The best option is to fly into Charles de Gaulle in Paris and then take the train or hire a car.
Where are the Champagne Houses?
There are 370 champagne houses, over 16,000 growers, and 319 villages in Champagne. The villages in the region are classified as champagne producers. The highest classification is Grand Cru.
Some of the big houses are located in the city of Reims and the town of Epernay. This includes Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Jouet, Taittinger, Pol Roger, Pommery and more.
There are small producers throughout the region, both inside and outside the villages. It is possible to visit many smaller producers; however, the opening days and hours may vary considerably, and many are only open by appointment.
If this is your first visit to Champagne, I would recommend staying in either Reims or Epernay and visiting the champagne houses in and around these towns.
How to Get Around Champagne
Once you’ve arrived in Champagne, I am sure you will be keen to visit some of its famous Champagne Houses. The good news is that the easiest way to visit some of the most well-known Champagne Houses is on foot.
In the town of Reims, the wonderful Charles de Cazanove is less than a 10-minute walk from the station. The other famous champagne houses of Martel, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, and Taittinger are located near each other, about a 30-minute walk from Reims station. Ubers and taxis are also readily available.
In Epernay, the beginning of the UNESCO World Heritage site Champagne Avenue is about a 10-minute walk from Epernay station. It is a beautiful street and quite a pleasure to walk along. It is also home to some of the best known names in Champagne, including Moet et Chandon and Perrier Jouet.
Taking a tour can be a great way to explore Champagne houses with an expert guide. Several companies offer small group tours in the area with cellar visits and tastings.
It is possible to hire a car to explore the Champagne region but this will of course limit the driver’s ability to taste.
How to visit the Champagne Houses
The houses generally offer a mix of tours and champagne tastings. A visit may cover the champagne production process or involve a cellar tour. All tours will include some type of tasting.
Many houses also offer a champagne tasting without a tour. The price of the tours and tastings will generally depend on the champagnes being served eg older, more prestigious champagnes in a tasting will result in an increased price as well as the number of different champagnes being tasted.
Most of the top houses require a booking. Some big Champagne houses have bars that are open during the day. However, the most prestigious Champagne houses require visitors to take a tour or a guided tasting to enjoy a glass of champagne.
It is best to book your tours and tastings ahead of time, particularly during busier times like the weekend. The tour and tasting times tend to be set, so even if there is a slot available, it may not be at a convenient time.
NB: If you are doing wine tastings in Reims or Epernay you will not see the actual champagne vineyards. The vineyards for the houses are located throughout the region. The vineyards can sometimes be visited on a private tour.
What are the best Champagne Houses?
This question is not easy to answer as there are so many options! I have written dedicated articles on the Champagne houses in Reims and the Champagne houses in Epernay.
However, if you are in a hurry and it is your first time visiting the Champagne region, here are my recommendations.
In Reims, I really liked Charles de Cazanove. It is only a 10 minute walk from the station and has tasting options at very reasonable prices. If you can, I would also visit one of the larger houses in Reims, either Veuve Clicquot or Taittinger.
In Epernay, I really enjoyed visiting Champagne Mercier. They offer a unique experience on a train journey through their cellars, and the tasting and tour prices are very good value. To have the full champagne experience, I would complement this with a visit to either Moet et Chandon or Perrier Jouet.
Next time you visit Champagne, you can visit the tasting rooms of some of the smaller houses.
NB: Moet et Chandon is the home of Dom Perignon.
NB: The three most common grapes in champagne are pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.
When To Visit the Champagne Region
When planning your visit to Champagne, France, consider the time of the year and the region’s seasonal variation. One of the best times to visit is during the autumn months of September and October, when the grape harvest takes place and the vineyards are at their most beautiful. The weather is generally mild, allowing for comfortable exploration of the region during this time.
As November approaches, remember that the weather will gradually become cooler. Packing a sweater or two is advisable, as temperatures may require some layering. Despite the cooler temperatures, November can be a pleasant time to visit, thanks to fewer crowds and a more relaxed atmosphere.
Here are a few considerations to help you plan your trip:
- Weather: In October and November, expect mild to cool temperatures, making it advisable to bring appropriate clothing, such as sweaters, scarves, and light jackets.
- Grape Harvest: Visiting during the harvest season (September and October) allows for a unique and picturesque experience, with vibrant colors and bustling vineyards.
- Crowd Levels: Fewer tourists visit during the autumn months, ensuring a more pleasant and less crowded experience overall when touring the region.
How Long Should I Spend in Champagne?
It is a good idea to spend at least two nights in Champagne. Even the keenest champagne taster will struggle to visit more than three champagne houses in a day and personally I prefer keeping it to two champagne houses per day.
Visiting Champagne France in Conclusion
Visiting Champagne, France, is a memorable experience. With proper planning and organization, you can focus on enjoying the beautiful vineyards and sampling the delightful beverages.
Why not familiarize yourself with the Champagne production method to enhance your appreciation for the region’s famous beverage? Understanding the step-by-step process of producing Champagne can make your wine-tasting activities more insightful and enjoyable.
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