Top 10 Best Things to Do in Champagne

Champagne Vineyards

Champagne is a region of exquisite landscapes, extraordinary heritage, and exceptional cuisine. Known for being the region of origin for the sparkling wine of the same name, Champagne has so much to explore beyond a glass of carbonated wine.

With so much to see and do, it can be hard to choose what to squeeze into your itinerary, so we’ve listed our top 10 best things to do in Champagne. We plan to make your planning easy, so you can focus on the experience!

1. Visit Épernay and its Unmissable Avenue de Champagne

Perhaps you’ve heard of the grandeur of the Champs-Élysées in Paris thanks to its architectural history and of course its luxury fashion brands and perfumeries, but did you know that the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay is one of the most expensive streets in the world? Home to many of the most famous and exclusive champagne producers in France such as Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouët, the Avenue de Champagne is worth a visit, even if it’s just to raise a glass in this exquisite setting!

With 68 miles of wine cellars beneath your feet, the Avenue de Champagne is quite unlike any other place you’ll find in Europe. A tour of its chalk cellars will reveal many millions of bottles of vintage champagne just waiting to be sold. Explore the world-famous shops of Moët & Chandon, De Castellane, and Mercier, or the smaller boutiques such as Frerejean Frères or Maison Pannier to take home a very special gift from your vacation in the Champagne region.

Moet & Chandon on the Avenue de Epernay, Champagne

2. Reims Cathedral of Notre Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims)

Famed for its Gothic façade and connection to French royalty, the Reims Cathedral of Notre Dame has played a pivotal role in French history from the 5th century to the present day. Baring witness to the coronations of no less than 33 Kings of France, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims has seen much prestige. Rumour has it that champagne was consumed in Reims after each of the coronations, and that gave the wine its status as a celebratory drink for special occasions.

Reims Cathedral was transformed into a Gothic masterpiece in the 13th century, with new rose-stained glass windows, a western façade and detailed galleries added. It is now thought to be the finest example of medieval Gothic architecture in the world, and is a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly destroyed in the First World War, it has been fully restored to its former glory and it well worth a visit if you’re visiting the Champagne region in France

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims

3. The Petite Town of Hautvillers

You may be familiar with the term ‘Cradle of Life’, but what about the ‘Cradle of Champagne’? On your trip to the Champagne region, be sure to visit Hautvillers, which played a monumental role in the story of champagne. Now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was in this charming village that champagne became the carbonated wine that we know today! Formerly a white still wine, champagne transitioned from a still to sparkling wine in Hautvillers under the direction of Dom Pérignon.

Known internationally as ‘The Father of Champagne’, Dom Pérignon was a monk at Hautvillers Abbey. The abbey was able to sustain itself by cultivating vineyards and producing wines. As the cellar master there, Dom Pérignon studied the processes used to make champagne and perfected the combination of grapes used to make it. He refined the second fermentation process, championed the pinot noir grape, and was responsible for the development of hemp corks! Visitors can see the vineyards and part of the restored abbey, both of which are under the care of Moët & Chandon.


4. The Famous Moët & Chandon Champagne Cellars (Les Caves Moët & Chandon)

When visiting Champagne in France, you must experience one of the most respected champagne houses in the business. The Moët & Chandon vineyards are located at the very heart of the Champagne region and extend for 2,840 acres across rich, chalky soils. Beneath the vineyards, 28 kilometres of caves store ageing bottles of champagne and a Cellar Master waits to share his secrets with you!

It’s only fitting that the most extensive wine estates in Champagne should produce so many excellent wines; over 50% of champagnes by Moët & Chandon are grand crus and 25% are premier crus. Learn how the delicious flavours of champagne is created by combining pinot noir, pinot Meunier and chardonnay grapes. On a visit to the famous champagne cellars, an expert winemaker tells you the 300-year-old story of how Moët & Chandon champagne is made, and the sommeliers will then share a vintage tasting with you.

Moet & Chandon bottle

5. Abbey of Saint-Remi (Abbaye Saint-Rémi)

The Abbey of Saint-Remi is a gem within the crown of Reims. Named after the Bishop of Reims who baptised the very first King of France, what remains of the abbey dates to the 11th century. The beautiful basilica which once formed part of the abbey still contains the final resting place of Saint Remi.

Visitors can enjoy its Romanesque architecture and learn about its history as a place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. Now with its own museum, the abbey has sculptures and architecture in the Romanesque and Gothic styles. With 12th century-stained glass windows and collections from prehistoric Reims to the 16th century, there is plenty to see in the Basilica and museum. Now on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Abbey of Saint-Remi offers a fascinating insight into the history of Reims.

St Remi - Canal Holidays in France

6. Cycle or Walk the Beautiful Riverbanks of the Marne

Flowing through the rural landscapes of the Champagne region, the River Marne eventually joins the Seine just outside of Paris. With a total length of 514 kilometres, the Marne is a historic waterway that passes through acres of vineyards, abbeys, and historic areas in the North of France.

The River Marne is fascinating for those that love waterways, because so much of the river has been turned into stretches of canal that are punctuated with locks. It also opens into the Canal latéral à la Marne. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a spot of cycling, an energetic hike or a gentle walk, there’s plenty to be seen along the Marne. Cycle or walk along the towpaths when you barge with European Waterways aboard the Ultra Deluxe hotel barge Kir Royale or the Deluxe Panache, and perhaps hike some of the valleys to see extraordinary scenery, beautiful wildlife, and iconic landmarks.

Towpath cycling in Champagne

7. Belleau Wood and the Château-Thierry American Monument

Walk amongst the memorial grounds at Belleau Wood and experience the sombre silence where the horrific events of 1918 took place. Marking the exact location of a notorious World War 1 battle, Belleau Wood is now a pretty and peaceful place, and the events of that fateful year are a distant memory. Visitors can pay their respects and learn about the events of the Battle of Belleau Wood.

Fought between American Marines and German forces, The Battle of Belleau Wood is where 3,000 soldiers lost their lives. Just a stone’s throw away, the war graves at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery cover some 42.5 acres of nearby ground, putting into perspective the overwhelming sense of loss. A short drive from the wood is the Château-Thierry American Monument, erected to memorialise the soldiers who died during this devastating battle in Champagne, France.

Chateau-Thierry American Monument

8. Visit a Family-run Champagne House, such as Frerejean Frères

The small, family run vineyard of Frerejean Frères is well worth a visit if you value sustainability and creativity. Known for their craft champagnes, they champion small-scale production methods that care for the land. Preparing small batches of grand crus and premier crus, Frerejean Frères champagne is a fusion of inspiration and modern luxury that brings a taste of the extraordinary to your table.

A visit to the Frerejean Frères vineyards will reveal some of the processes they use to craft such special champagne. Growing their vines in the Côte des Blancs means that the chardonnay grapes take on a mineral flavour which reflects the chalky soil. With 30 years of experience in crafting excellent champagnes, the traditional approach to farming the land requires intensive labour, and grapes are hand-selected. Aged in the cellars for between 6 and 12 years, only the very best champagnes reach the market! Enjoy a cellar tour and tasting to experience the family-run business of Frerejean Frères for yourself.

Champagne bottles at Frerejean Freres

9. Discover Regional Delicacies

Champagne isn’t the only thing you can savour the taste of whilst you’re in the region, there are plenty of regional delicacies visitors can enjoy. Savoury dishes include Agneau à la Champenoise, which is lamb shoulder, stuffed and accompanied by tomatoes. Game and seafood are also popular to pair with the area’s excellent champagnes.

Cheese lovers shouldn’t miss an opportunity to taste the 18th century cheese, Langres, and the 14th century cheese, Chaource. Often served with a glass of sparkling champagne, Chaource is a soft cheese with a fine, creamy flavour that melts onto the palate. Spread yours on a crusty baguette for the authentic French experience! If you have a sweeter tooth, then make sure you try the biscuit rose de Reims – a pink, soft biscuit that pairs perfectly with champagne.

10. Experience a Luxury Hotel Barge Cruise

Enjoy everything in this list and so much more when you cruise with European Waterways aboard hotel barges Kir Royale and Panache. Gliding along the Marne and the Canal latéral à la Marne, you’ll have an abundance of opportunities to learn about the curiosities of champagne. You’ll visit the vineyards, enjoy tastings and see the iconic places in of the region.

Cruise the Champagne region at the height of summer to witness the journey of the grapes during their annual harvest. In the spring months, the buds begin to bloom and you’ll have the opportunity to experience the magnificence of new growth. Book a luxury barge cruise in the autumn to see the plethora of colours in the vineyards, forests and lining the river banks – and perhaps sample the year’s offerings. Seeing the valleys of Champagne doesn’t get more luxurious than staying aboard a hotel barge!

Hotel barge Kir Royale new for 2024!

Book your Champagne Cruise with European Waterways

If you love the idea of experiencing all things Champagne, France really is the place to visit. If our talks of history, culture and grapes have tickled your tastebuds for a decadent Champagne cruise, then reach out today to order a free copy of our brochure or speak to one of our friendly Cruise Team via our Contact Form.

You’ll be offered the full French experience, complete with daily private excursions including opulent wine tastings, your own onboard master chef, and memorable experiences to take home with you.

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