Reims is a renowned French “City of Art and History,” famous for the myriad cultural heritage it has. Back in time, it was in Reims that the French monarchs were crowned. Hence, it is also called the “Coronation City.”
Four UNESCO World Heritage sites are actually in Reims. Because of these and the things Reims is famous for, it’s easy to assume that Reims is a place to be. Not to mention its proximity to Paris, only a 45-minute train ride in between.
But is Reims really worth it? Why exactly should everyone visit Reims? What are the reasons to visit Reims? If you think about these, worry no more! This blog will tell you why.
Is Reims Worth Visiting
The truth is, we all have our own preferences when it comes to travel destinations. Some prefer adventure, others like museums, and many desire beach getaways.
Undoubtedly, Reims is not a place for everyone. But if you ask me if Reims is worth visiting? Here’s my opinion:
Yes! Reims is worth visiting if you love tasting wines, stumbling upon cultural heritage sites, and beholding architectural marvels. Reims’ four UNESCO sites are some of its compelling reasons to visit. Also, there are many artworks you can discover and activities to do in Reims, especially in enotourism.
Enotourism, in a nutshell, is a kind of tourism that focuses on visiting wineries, touring a vineyard, and tasting wines. Reims has lots of enotourism experiences as it is one of the centers of production of Champagne wines.
With the wines and the historical and cultural attractions in Reims, I think Reims can be great for couples. Particularly to those couples looking for a unique and slightly off-the-beaten-path romantic getaway not too far from Paris.
Reims offers a mixed country-city vibe, and it should tell the difference.
Indeed, the French capital is definitely beautiful. It’s the “holy grail” destination for long-awaited “perfect” dates and “intimate” honeymoons. However, at the same time, Reims should be a cheaper alternative.
Reims can also be an enjoyable destination for museum lovers, art & architecture appreciators, and history enthusiasts. But if you’re planning to conduct a long trip to eastern France, Reims is one of the unmissable places on the list.
It’s unfair to describe if Reims is worth a visit or not with just a few paragraphs. This is why I wrote the 10 reasons to visit Reims. They will help you decide if Reims is for you or not.
10 Reasons to Visit Reims
For the people (like me) who love watching movies about kings, empires, medieval fantasy, etc., Europe is perhaps the ultimate place to visit. With real-life castles, beautiful churches, and elegant palaces everywhere on the continent… for sure, Europe is!
If you’re one of us, I bet you have fantasized about yourself in the movie, too, at least once. Right?
Yes? If that is so, you have a reason to visit Reims as early as now. Let Reims’ Notre-Dame Cathedral give you a clue:
Later you will know exactly why.
However, if you’re not one of us, here is the list summary of the things about Reims that can be your reasons to visit Reims:
- Notre Dame Cathedral (Visit a UNESCO Heritage site)
- Palais du Tau (Visit a UNESCO Heritage site)
- Old Saint Remi Abbey (Visit a UNESCO Heritage site)
- Reims’ Champagne Region (Visit a UNESCO Heritage site)
- Wine Tasting and Excursions (Experience Heritage)
- Museum of Fine Arts (Appreciate art)
- Art Deco Buildings (Appreciate architecture)
- Porte Mars (Discover a 1700-year-old Gallo-Roman Remains)
- Foujita Chapel (Have a unique discovery)
- Les Faux de Verzy (Visit an enchanting forest)
Reason 1. Notre Dame Cathedral
Awe – it’s one of the best feelings you can get from traveling. This is the feeling scientifically proven beneficial to our overall well-being. It improves our mood, health, and so on.
In Reims, awe is surely what you will feel when seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral. In all of France, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is among the most impressive churches you can find.
For me, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is more beautiful than Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. The flying buttresses, intricate spires, exquisite rose windows, elaborate facade, and ornate portals of Reims Cathedral have beauty beyond words.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is a reason to visit Reims not only because of its awe-inspiring appearance. This 12th-century cathedral is also undoubtedly the most historical church in France.
For more than 500 years, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims hosted the coronation of the French kings. The last ceremony was during Charles X’s ascension in 1825.
The sheer beauty of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims alone can stimulate the visitor’s imagination to picture the coronation ceremonies that happened in it. No wonder why Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is actually a gigantic structure, especially during the time it was built. Its two towers soar at 82 meters (266 feet) and they dominate the city’s skyline even now.
Do not forget to come inside Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims when you visit Reims. The stained glass of the apse and the rose windows burst in colors, so good to see.
Visitors can also climb to the roofdeck of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. It should give you a breathtaking perspective of the cathedral’s upper architectural details.Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is open everyday, usually from 7:30 am until 7:30 pm. The entry fee is 8 EUR/adult.
If you’re in search of historically religious places, one you should check is Avignon. It was once the home of the popes and the place where they resided is the largest gothic palace you can find in Europe.
Reason 2. Palais du Tau
Just beside Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims liés Palais du Tau, the second UNESCO Heritage site and reason to visit Reims. Similar to the cathedral beside it, Palais du Tau became a UNESCO site for its significance relating to the monarch’s coronation.
The history of Palais du Tau stretches back to the 6th century when it was still a Gallo-Roman villa. Later on, in the middle ages, it was transformed into a palace where the archbishop of Reims resided.
It was also in Palais du Tau that the French kings stayed before their coronation. Imagine the kings getting dressed up here, nervous and excited for their ascension to their throne!
Of course, events such as the coronation do not end without the food served. Palais du Tau is also where the new king and his subjects enjoyed a sumptuous banquet after his first moments being the ruler of France.
To be in such a historical place as Palais du Tau is a privilege. But, what really makes Palais du Tau a reason to visit Reims are the items exhibited in the palace.
Palais du Tau houses treasures from the past, like the marvelous 15th-century tapestries about the “Mighty King Clovis,” “Song of Songs,” the “Life of the Virgin,” and more. They’re like portals to the medieval ages, telling stories of the deep faith of the French people back in the day.
But, what should really impress you very much are the royal treasury artifacts you can find in Palais du Tau. They’re a few of the most unique and most precious objects in France – definitely a reason to visit Reims.
One of them is even more than a thousand years old now! It’s Charlemagne’s talisman from the 9th century. Its age and jewels should make anyone a millionaire if they sell it.
There is also the chalice of Saint Remi from the 12th century. Its glittering stones, golden appearance, and even the little details depict it as one of the “most royal spectacles” you can ever discover.
I think the most important of them all is the “Holy Flask.” I consider it also the most historical for it contains the holy oil used in anointing the new kings.
The last time I checked the official website of Palais du Tau, the admission fee was 8 EUR/adult (free for 18 and below). It is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9:45 am to 6:15 pm from June 16 to September 8; 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from September 9 to May 5.
Palais du Tau is closed during lunchtime (12:30 pm to 2:00 pm). Come 30 minutes before evening and lunch closing time.
Reason 3. Old Saint Remi Abbey
With a cathedral that dates back to the 11th century and its art museum, Saint Remi Abbey is definitely the attraction in Reims that embodies the character of the city. Reims is a city of art and history, remember?
Saint Remi Abbey is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, like the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims and Palais du Tau. And if you will ask me if it is a reason to visit Reims, it’s a yes. That is especially true if you’re interested in architecture, art, and history.
Cathedral of Saint Remi
Although Saint Remi Abbey isn’t as spectacular as the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, we can still consider it an architectural marvel. The Cathedral of Saint Remi is actually the largest Romanesque cathedral in northern France, and it’s something worth seeing.
The Cathedral of Saint Remi manifested mostly Romanesque style during its consecration back in 1049. However, improvements were made in the following centuries, adding more architectural features, mostly in the Gothic style.
Today, we can see the Cathedral with a mix of architectural styles as the result of those improvements. The perfect proportions of the vaults, the lighting effects, and the kaleidoscopic rose & stained glass windows will compel you in a good way to take photos.
What makes a visit to the Cathedral of Saint Remi worth it is the tomb of Saint Remi inside the cathedral. Elaborated with sculptures and relief decorations, It’s one of the most beautiful tombs I’ve ever seen.
By the way, Saint Remi is the patron saint of Reims and he became an archbishop at the very early age of 22. He is the one who baptized the first king of France, King Clovis. Apparently, he is the reason why his cathedral holds a very historical value.
To visit the tomb of Saint Remi is to feel deep solemnity and awe. The tomb is located in the area behind the altar. And an array of stained glass windows, bursting with colors, surrounds the area. It’s probably one of the “holiest” spectacles in France!
If you visit, don’t miss going to Place Lenoncourt to see the south facade of the Cathedral of Saint Remi. There you’ll see an ornate portal with a tympanum heavily adorned by gothic elements.
And if you have plans to stay in Reims for a night on a Friday, you may want to see the Cathedral of Saint Remi from 10:45 pm to 11:00. There is a light show on the facade of the church you can watch for free.
Just beside the cathedral, in the former main abbey, lies Musée Saint-Remi. It is an art museum, but you can also find military and archeological artifacts. Come visit if you want to learn about the history of the Reims.
Basically, the museum will take you on a journey that goes back in time as early as the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, through the Gallic civilizations, up to the middle ages in Reims. Collections in the museum range from furniture to jewelry, weapons, glasswork, medieval sculpture, and other crafts.
There is no admission fee to enter the Cathedral of Saint Remi, but if you want to see the museum, it’s 5 EUR/Adult.
According to the tourism office of Reims, the museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. There’s a lunch break from 12:00 pm until 2:00 pm.
Reason 4. Reims’ Champagne Region
For almost 25 years, there were only 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Reims (or you can visit from Reims). In 2015, the Champagne Hillsides, Houses, and Cellars were added to the list, and it is another reason to visit Reims!
Before I made this post, I’m already familiar with champagne. Yes, It’s a sparkling wine served as a welcome drink at different events. As far as I know, champagnes differ from other wines for the unique methods used in making them.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but I honestly did not know that Champagne was actually a place in France. *Laughing at myself* However, I was not surprised that it is in Champagne that the champagne wines are made, hence its name.
By the way, where is Champagne? It is a wine-making region in northeastern France, in which Reims is one of the commercial centers. The Champagne region is located southeast of Reims, only 30 minutes away from the city center by car.
Champagne Region isn’t the only wine-making region recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Lavaux region in Switzerland (between Geneva and Montreux) is another.
And if you compare Champagne to other wine regions, you’ll find Champagne hillsides, houses, and cellars aren’t totally unique. What makes them a reason to visit Reims is the heritage and knowledge of the people who made the champagne production method into a benchmark method.
The heritage preserved and encompassed by the UNESCO status is extensive and can be seen in several properties in the Champagne region. This is why Champagne Hillsides, Houses, and Cellars are grouped into representatives ensembles:
- Saint-Nicaise hill
- Avenue de Champagne
- Historic slopes
Overall, the ensembles cover 1,100 hectares of land in the Marne département in the Champagne-Ardenne Region. There, you’ll find the complete representation of the champagne production chain, from the vineyards to the cellars.
Discover the actual press houses, and visit wine growers’ houses, cooperatives, and Champagne houses. In exploring the area, you can also pass by eye-catching aristocratic Château des Crayères and la Villa Demoiselle, which are the home of the managers of Champagne houses.
There is a lot to see, discover and learn! Since Champagne Hillsides, Houses and Cellars are relatively new attractions, it can be the “unique” trip you can have in visiting France.
Reason 5. Wine Tasting and Excursions
Previously, we learned that Reims is one of the commercial districts of the Champagne wine-making region. This is why the city specializes in enotourism, which is another reason to visit Reims. It is where you “live sparkling moments!”
There must be a reason why champagne became popular worldwide, right? If you want to know why then you have to go to Reims and explore this culture-packed place.
The main course of enotourism in Reims is, of course, Champagne’s hillsides, houses, and cellars – the UNESCO. There are many ways you can explore the area. You can do it on your own, but don’t worry if you can’t.
The locals and businesses in the area have prepared extraordinary trips and you have plenty to choose from. You can book a tour/guide from the tourism website of Reims or you can use the links you can find later.
But, basically, Reims’ enotourism isn’t just stumbling upon vineyards and tasting wines. Indeed, they are included in most of the tours but the main experiences vary and could be very fun!
From visiting champagne bars to champagne houses and cellars – you can try. Visitors can also personally meet the winegrower masters, or be winegrowers themselves for a day. Simply, guests can be a grape-picker for a day, too.
Instagrammers should not miss Verzenay Lighthouse because the lighthouse and the surrounding vineyards are just perfect for a like-generating photo! The thing is, it’s not only for photo-ops. The lighthouse houses a high-tech audiovisual and scenographic system to give you insights into the world of wine-making.
Then, if you really want to have a unique tour of the surrounding vineyards (Epernay), try the vintage tour company. With their help, you can visit Epernay, the capital city of the Champagne region, from Reims, using a preserved French vehicle from the ’80s.
There will be stops in the most picturesque parts of the vineyard. And there, while enjoying a scenic view, you’ll do one of the most memorable “cheers” of your life! What a beautiful experience of the French countryside.
Reason 6. Museum of Fine Arts
Given the title a “city of Arts and History,” Reims exerts high efforts in preserving French heritage in itself. It does not only include the UNESCO Heritage Sites but also artworks and masterpieces.
Although the artworks in Reims are not as notable as those in Paris, they are still a factor that can make your trip worth it. There are several museums in Reims, but the Museum of Fine Arts is the one which can be enough to be a reason to visit Reims.
From what I have discovered, the Museum of Fine Arts in Reims covers all the main European art movements from the 16th to 20th centuries. They are even presented in Chronological order, giving visitors insights into how the age of human civilization affected the artistic minds of the people.
This feature of the museum, with the 20,000+ artworks in it, for me, makes it a worthwhile destination in northern/eastern France.
The masterpieces and artworks inside the Museum of Fine Arts in Reims range from paintings to sculptures, drawings to engravings, objets d’art to antique furniture. The artworks were made not only by the French but also by some Dutch and Flemish artists, too.
Reason 7. Art Deco Buildings
It’s true that we can still see in person the stunning, preserved heritage sites in Reims. But did you know, that Reims is located in a region ravaged by tanks and bombs decades ago during the World Wars?
These conflicts almost razed Reims to the ground, and nearly 85% of the buildings were destroyed. The entire heritage in Reims was on the brink of disappearance. Even the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims was damaged.
From the ashes, the city was rebuilt. However, it was built with a newborn architecture, a style that originated in France – the Arts Décoratifs. Simply, Art Deco.
Years after Reims rose from the destruction of the war, people called Reims the Art Deco capital of France. Now, Reims has famous Art Deco buildings, and appreciating them can be a reason to visit Reims.
Art Deco buildings are already everywhere. But, in Reims, we can find some quintessence of this architectural style. By the way, if you aren’t familiar with Art Deco, here’s how Britannica defines this style:
“The characteristic features of Art Deco reflect admiration for the modernity of the machine and for the inherent design qualities of machine-made objects—e.g., relative simplicity, planarity, symmetry, and unvaried repetition of elements. Art Deco objects often showcase simple, clean shapes, usually with a “streamlined” look; ornament that is geometric or stylized from representational forms such as florals, animals, and sun rays; and use of man-made substances, including plastics, vita-glass, and reinforced concrete, often combined with such natural materials as jade, silver, ivory, and chrome.”
If you will be visiting Reims for Art Deco, the two famous Art Deco buildings you can visit are the Bibliothèque Carnegie (Carnegie Library of Reims) and Les Halles du Boulingrin (Market).
There are many other buildings in Reims manifesting Art Deco style. You can find most of them along Boulevard Foch and Cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet. But if there’s one you should see, it’s the Carnegie Library of Reims.
The Carnegie Library, dating back to the 1920s, is undoubtedly the epitome of the elegance of Art Deco architecture in Reims. It is the main library of Reims and one of the buildings in the city included in the French Inventory of Historical Monuments.
When you visit, and before you reach the gate of Carnegie Library, it will seem like it’s only an ordinary building. But, by the time you get closer, you’ll notice the details.
Just before you enter the door, you should see its windows with eye-catching circular designs and beautiful mosaic patterns running above the entrance. Come inside, and a vibrant chandelier in Art Deco style will welcome you.
Have some quiet time in the reading room while admiring its exquisite windows. These windows and the huge glass roof made by Jacques Gruber should give you this “temple” feel. Most probably, you will because the architect of the Carnegie Library, Max Sainsaulieu, designed the library as a temple dedicated to knowledge.
Bibliothèque Carnegie is open Tuesday to Saturday:
- On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, it is open from 10:00 am until 7:00 pm (1:00 pm to 2:00 pm lunch break)
- On Thursdays, it opens at 2:00 pm and closes at 7:00 pm.
Reason 8. Porte Mars
In the previous section, we learned that Reims was nearly razed to the ground during the great war. Even though that happened, not all heritage of the city was destroyed by bombs and tanks.
Some have survived, were repaired, and are now being meticulously preserved. The UNESCO heritage sites are the best examples. But, did you know there’s a monument in Reims that withstood the test of time, longer than Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims did?
This heritage in Reims is called Porte Mars. It’s an ancient Roman triumphal arch dating back to the 3rd century. It’s one fascinating discovery that makes Reims even more worth visiting, especially for architecture enthusiasts.
Porte Mars is impressively 13 meters high and 32 meters long. These specifications suggest that Porte Mars is one of the widest arches ever built during/in the Roman world. Although it looks crumbling already, it’s hard to deny how beautiful it was, mainly with its adornments.
The details of Porte Mars include the beautiful relief sculptures depicting angels, symbols, flowers, and faces of the Roman emperors (I think). By its appearance, it will transport your imagination back to classical times.
You can find Porte Mars in a lovely park in Reims, southeast of the train station. In the park, you’ll also find the landmark of Reims, where you can take photos/selfies as your photo souvenir.
Reason 9. Foujita Chapel
Honestly, the attractions in Reims aren’t that so special if we talk about their physical appearance. All around France, there are landmarks similar to what Reims has.
The thing that makes the attractions in Reims stand out is the historical significance embedded in them. Of course, their splendid appearance is a factor too! However, if Reims has one very unique attraction, it has to be Foujita Chapel.
Foujita Chapel (or Our Lady of Peace Chapel) is another French historical monument in Reims. It’s not as elegant as Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims but what’s inside is a gem nowhere else to be found.
Of all the attractions I mentioned above, Foujita Chapel is the only one, not totally European. Based on the name of the chapel, I believe you already know where the chapel’s builder came from – in Japan.
The complete name of the person who built Foujita Chapel (or Our Lady of Peace Chapel) is Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita. He is a French-Japanese artist who applied Japanese ink techniques to western-style paintings.
He was an international artist who has been to Latin America, France, and Japan. He even met several other artists in his life and became friends with Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse.
On his last return to France in 1959, he became a French citizen and was baptized into Catholicism in Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. In Reims, he spent his remaining years and finished his last major masterpiece, the Foujita Chapel.
From the reliefs to stained glass windows, iron works, and sculptures – all were in Foujita’s vision/plan. The most impressive part of his creation is the frescoes, which ultimately made the chapel famous.
I’ve seen many frescoes of many European palaces and churches but the one in Foujita Chapel is just exceptionally uncommon and remarkable. I’m not being racist, but you can clearly see the influence of Japanese art style in the eyes and mustaches of the characters in the murals.
The murals in the Foujita Chapel depict biblical scenes, daily lives around Reims with the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and more. Foujita even has his own version of the Last Supper in his chapel.
Definitely, Foujita Chapel is a reason to visit Reims, and you better not miss it on your trip to France if you love art!
According to the official website of Reims Museums, you can visit Foujita Chapel with the Museum of Fine Arts for only 5 EUR/adult. It is open daily (closed on Tuesdays) from May 2 to September 30, from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm (closed from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm lunch break).
Reason 10. Les Faux de Verzy
As I love discovering historical places, I find Reims pretty interesting and worth visiting. Of course, that’s because of the reasons to visit Reims I mentioned previously. However, I do love nature too.
Believe it or not, there’s something in Reims for nature lovers to visit for. But, nope, it’s not about wines, and scenic, vast vineyards. It’s about an enchanting forest located in Verzy, approximately a 25-minute drive (21 kilometers) from Reims city center.
The forest of Verzy (Faux de Verzy national forest) has nearly a thousand of the spookiest trees you’ll ever see. Dwarf beeches are what these trees are called, and it’s here in the forest of Verzy that they’re found most concentrated.
Did you know? More than 1000 dwarf beeches are in the forest of Verzy. This is why the Faux de Verzy national forest is regarded as the world’s principal reserve of dwarf beeches.
Dwarf beeches look spooky because of their peculiar appearance. They have twisted (often mossy) branches that seem enchanted. These trees are like what you can see in fantasy movies – the ones surrounding the castle or home of a wicked sorcerer.
Although they look spooky and they seem that they’ll move anytime to grab you in them, I find these trees a wonder in nature. When you take a photo, it seems they always have some kind of fairytale story to tell.
These dwarf beeches have been under protection for decades. Their roots are delicate so when you come to the forest, you’ll find them inside the fences. There are also dedicated paths for visitors.
You can learn about the dwarf beeches as you explore the Faux de Verzy national forest. Explanatory boards are everywhere, and they also explain the importance of protecting the natural heritage. You can install the application “En forêt de Verzy” on your smartphone for a more insightful tour of the forest.
The forest of Verzy is 57 hectares wide. It has a hiking trail/path for the handicapped that can be finished within 2 hours of strolling. Better not to forget to bring comfortable footwear when coming to Reims!
Dwarf trees appear spectacular and different every season. This is why there is no best time to visit the Faux de Verzy national forest. But my personal choice is autumn for the fall foliage.
You can visit the Faux de Verzy national forest anytime because it is open all year. Also, there’s no admission fee! All you have to do is to have fun with nature and spend a restorative time with the spectacular trees everywhere.