Reims is one of the top destinations to visit in Champagne. It is a mere 90 minute train ride from the Paris Gare de L'Est train station, or 45 minutes by the fast TGV train, and there are a dozen plus trains daily. There is a bus station, car rental, bicycle rental, and more.
It is easy to get around - no car necessary, the most impressive Champagne Houses tours are there, there is plenty of nightlife, restaurants, places to eat, and things to see and do apart from Champagne, the wine. For a first time or quick trip to Champagne, it is ideal, and also nearly essential on a longer trip.
The city center is easy to walk around and buses are convenient and inexpensive for venturing further out. Taxis are also available but do not drive the streets like in many other cities looking for fares; you need to book them.
First, let's mention the Champagne Houses in Reims. The most impressive of all are in Reims, dug out of deep chalk deposits by the Romans 2000 years ago. Some go on for miles, have elevators, transportation such as trains or even go karts, impressive carvings in the walls, and much more. Top choices to visit include Piper-Heidsieck, Pommery, and Charles Heidsieck. Even if you are not interested in or like to drink Champagne, it's still worth visiting one for sure. And for fans like me, visiting 2 or 3 day is more than enough per day. Make reservations ahead of time and bring warm clothes as it's always cool in the former chalk mines.
Reims is known for plenty of nightlife. There are places all around the town, but the center, Drouet d'Erlon, is surrounded by cafes and pubs.
Lonely Planet, whose travel guides have helped me in dozens of countries ranging from 3rd world to 1st world, lists the following as the top five places:
● Café du Palais, and old time and very funky
● Hall Place, a trendy Champagne bar
● Waïda, a tearoom and confectioner right in Drouet d'Erlon.
● Le Tigre, a bar and disco that has live music Friday and Saturday except in the summer
● Le Lesbigays Café, an informal bar that caters to, well, you guessed it
You will not have a problem finding places to eat and drink. I usually wander around aimlessly, and also go on local advice.
A few places to go see include:
The extremely impressive and Gothic masterpiece, Cathedrale Notre Dame in Reims. It's construction began in 1211 and took a good hundred years to complete. If you are feeling energetic you climb the tower and get great 360 degree views all around, and if not energetic there are plenty of impressive sights there including stained glass windows, a statue of Joan of Arc and more.
The Palace of Tau, next door, formerly the palace and residence of the Archbishop of Reims, built in 1690 and now a museum. It has some impressive objects from the Cathedrale Notre Dame, including tapestries, liturgical objects and statues.
The Mars Gate ,or "Porte de Mars" in French, the only remaining city gate to the Roman city of Durocortorum, an arch, 108 feet in length by 43 feet high. It served as a gate until 1544.
Basilique St Rémi, the oldest church in Reims and a wonderful example of an early Romanesque church with various parts from early to late Gothic. It's construction was started in 1005 and completed in 1049, although the Gothic vaulted roof was added about 100 years later. The tomb of Saint Remi is contained there, and next door is the Musée St-Remi, a historical museum.
Some other museums to consider are the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Arts) which is in an 18th century abbey and has a large collection of paintings, sculptures, and more, the Musee de la Reddition (Surrender Museum) where the Germans surrendered to General Dwight Eisenhower and the original Allied battle plans are still on the walls, and also the Automobile Museum which has a collection of cars and toy cars. Reims was once the site of a Le Mans style 24 hour endurance race.
There is plenty more to do and see in Reims. For more ideas, visit the Reims Office of Tourism.