Dominated by one of Europe's most beautiful Gothic cathedrals, Reims is a compact French jewel, offering atmospheric cafes, superb food, and some of the best Champagne you will ever taste.
The star of the show in Reims is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims, historically the place where French kings were crowned. Check out the Chagall stained glass windows, and soak up the serene, awe-inspiring atmosphere.
Toast your vacation in style in the home of Veuve Clicquot or visit Champagne houses run by iconic names like Mumm or Taittinger.
Reims is packed with museums, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims (with a fantastic collection of 19th-century French works) and the Museum of the Surrender.
Accompany your Champagne with gourmet cuisine at acclaimed restaurants like the Art Deco La Brasserie du Boulingrin or up-and-coming seafood spots like Le Bocal.
There's always something going on in Reims, from Christmas fairs to the Reims Vintage Car Show and May's magical Johan Festival, dedicated to medieval history.
Reims Cathedral could lay claim to being the birthplace of France, as it was there in the 5th century that Clovis, ruler of the Franks, accepted Christianity. After that the cathedral became a regular spot for crowning and marrying monarchs, including Louis XVI, who lost his head in the revolution. Nowadays, the building reflects its regal past, with splendid statues of ancient kings, a soaring nave, spectacular tapestries, and famous stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. It's a truly breathtaking sight.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this is an exquisite palace, which was once home to the Archbishop of Reims - crowner of kings. Located more or less right next to the cathedral, it has a classically Baroque appearance, befitting the place where monarchs rested before their coronations. Now, visitors can walk in the hallways where kings-to-be contemplated their responsibilities, and also see a fabulous collection of tapestries, gold chalices and statues. The two attractions complement each other brilliantly.
Just down the road from the cathedral and the Palace of Tau, the Musée des Beaux-Arts offers up a cornucopia of creative riches. Started in the 1790s, and initially stocked from the collections of local nobles, the museum now spans over 500 years of European art, featuring engravings, sketches, sculptures and, of course, plenty of watercolors and oil paintings. Big names abound, from Cranach the Elder, through to David, Courbet, Monet, and Matisse as the exhibition leads visitors through centuries of artistic genius.
Another holy site in French history, the Basilique Saint-Remi is revered for holding the bones of Saint Remi (hence the name), the intrepid bishop who persuaded Clovis to convert to Christianity, securing France for Catholicism. These days, the basilica is protected by UNESCO, and is a Gothic masterpiece. You can soak up the tranquility as you sit in the transept, or gaze at the 900-year-old stained glass windows. And, if you time your visit well, there are regular music and light shows on summer evenings which feature the magnificent Cattiaux grand organ. It's hard to envision a more magical way to spend an evening.
When you've seen the basilicas, cathedrals and palaces of Reims, the Musée-Hôtel le Vergeur offers something much more humble, but just as absorbing. This museum is housed in a restored 13th century home, which is part of the charm. However, what really astounds visitors is the art collection on display. The museum is home to a dazzling collection of works by Albrecht Dürer, as well as Renaissance furnishings, and exhibits showing scenes from the 19th century. Located just to the north of the city center, it's well worth the short walk, particularly on sunny days when the gardens are sublime.
Reims has something to enjoy at all times of year, with museums and markets to enjoy whenever you visit. Why not pick a festival that interests you and schedule your trip then?
For visitors from North America, the easiest option is to fly into Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport, before hopping on a high speed TGV train (30 minutes, tickets from EUR20).
Reims has superb rail connections to Paris, and the journey can take as little as 40 minutes (from Paris Est station).
From Paris, take the A4 straight to Reims. From Lille, take the A1 to Arras, then the A26.
Eurolines runs daily buses from Paris to Reims, which take just under 2 hours to reach their destination and cost around EUR10.
Reims has some magnificent luxury hotels, including the Best Western Plus Hôtel de la Paix and the Grand Hôtel des Templiers.
Centre-Ville - home to Reims' fabulous cathedral and most of the best restaurants, Centre-Ville is where most tourists start their exploration of Reims.
Coutures - just southeast of the city center, Coutures is a relaxed neighborhood where the main attraction is the engaging Automobile Museum.
Saint-Remi - Champagne central. Saint-Remi is the place to go to sample the latest masterpieces from Taittinger or Veuve Cliquot.
The buses in Reims are reliable and cheap, at just EUR1 per journey. You can also purchase 10 tickets for EUR8.60.
You will need to book taxis in advance via the web, phone, or your concierge, and expect to pay a rate of around EUR2 per mile.
Car rental options in Reims include Sixt and Europcar. Rates should be around EUR15 per day for smaller vehicles.
The best place to shop in Reims is Galeries Lafayette - the town's largest department store. There are also some wonderful artisanal stores, like the antiques market La Boutique and Lancel, heaven for those who love designer accessories.
Carrefour is the main supermarket in Reims, with branches all over the city. As an indication of prices, expect to pay around EUR3 for 12 eggs.
Le Bocal is an exceptional seafood restaurant, Le Millénaire is a Michelin-starred traditional eatery, while Philippe Mille whips up gorgeous dishes in opulent surroundings at Les Crayères. Prices vary by establishment, but a good meal should cost around EUR20-40.