By Briana Seftel
Champagne...the drink of choice when people around the world want to celebrate. But have you ever wondered where this effervescent drink actually comes from? In northeast France, you'll find the UNESCO-protected region of Champagne, where hundreds of prestigious houses produce the finest - and only - champagne in the world.
Reached easily by train or car from Paris, Champagne makes a wonderful getaway for the gourmand. Planning a trip around its three main cities - Reims, Épernay and Troyes - is the ideal way to get a taste of the region and its famous bubbly. Read all about the "three pearls" and discover this region of France without moderation.
The largest city in France’s Champagne region, Reims is likely to be your first stop on a tour of the area. As well as being a cultural hub of northeastern France, it's also the city where French kings were crowned for more than 1,000 years, giving it the name "Coronation City." Check out the famous Gothic cathedral, stroll the walkable city center and discover the city's WWII history - it was here that Germany conceded defeat on May 7, 1945.
- Notre-Dame Cathedral
- Palais du Tau
- Porte de Mars
- Musée de la Reddition (Museum of the Surrender)
- Musée des Beaux Arts
- Place Royale
- Place du Forum
Getting there: Take the 45-minute high-speed TGV train from Gare de l'Est in Paris to Reims-Centre. Once you arrive, either head off on foot or take the Citadine bus or tramway into the old part of town. You can also opt to drive approximately 2 hours from Paris.
The self-proclaimed capital of Champagne, Épernay is the place to sample the best French champagne. The compact town has not only 68 miles of underground cellars, but also an Avenue of Champagne with the who’s who of champagne houses like Moët et Chandon, De Castellane and Mercier. Don't leave without taking a photo in front of the giant cork!
- Avenue de Champagne
- Underground cellars
- City Hall
- Gabrielle Dorziat Theatre
- Notre-Dame Church
Getting there: Take the TER regional train or TGV train from Gare de l'Est to Épernay. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes and will leave you in town. Driving takes about 2 hours from Paris.
Troyes is undoubtedly the hidden gem of Champagne. With its medieval center filled with colorful timber-framed houses and Gothic churches, Troyes will have you wondering why you've never heard of this beautiful place. While the town doesn't have any champagne houses, it is famous for its factory outlets and tasty andouillette sausage.
- Museum of Modern Art
- Troyes Cathedral
- Cathedral of St-Pierre-et-St Paul
- Museum of Tools and Trade
Getting there: Take the TGV train from Gare de l'Est to Troyes, which will take about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Driving takes approximately 2 hours from Paris.
Champagne houses to visit
Visiting a champagne house is a must, not just to taste some of the finest product straight from the source, but to learn the history behind some of the most prestigious companies. Make sure you plan ahead and book a tour in advance. Below are some of the most well-known houses to start your planning!
Moët & Chandon: Home to the largest cellars in the region, Moët & Chandon is the creme de la creme of champagne. 20 Avenue de Champagne, 51200 Épernay
G.H. MUMM: Drink the same champagne as Abraham Lincoln did in 1831 -MUMM was the first to export champagne to the U.S. 34 Rue du Champ de Mars, 51100 Reims
Ruinart: Dating back to 1729, Ruinart was the first house to be established in Champagne. 4 Rue de Crayères, 51100 Reims
Veuve Clicquot: Follow in the footsteps of Madame Clicquot, who inherited the house at age 27 after her husband's death. 1 Place des Droits de l’Homme, 51100 Reims
Taittinger: Visit Taittinger's cellars that date back to the 4th century! 9 Place Saint-Nicaise 51100, Reims
Helpful Champagne terms:
- AOC: Appellation d'origine controlee (label of guaranteed origin)
- Blanc de Blancs: Champagne made exclusively from white grapes
- Les Crayères: Chalk cellars used to store champagne
- Cru: A wine-producing town in Champagne
- Foudre: Very large capacity barrel used to store champagne and give it certain characteristic aromas
- Rosé D'Assemblage: Rosé champagne obtained by blending clear white wine (before the secondary fermentation in the bottle) and red wine (itself produced by maceration
- Sabrer le champagne: To open a champagne bottle by lifting off the neck with a sword or metal blade.