Do you love driving in France? I do. Of course the cities are busy, but get on the autoroute and generally you fly along, enjoying the countryside. Bliss after our clogged motorways.
Take a long weekend off and you could head for the Champagne region as we did. It was our first crossing using the Eurotunnel and we were seriously impressed. Giving ourselves plenty of time in case the infamous M25 was slow going, we arrived way before our set train time. We were waved through. Subject to availability you can travel two hours before or after your chosen time.
You might think that the carriages you drive in to are claustrophobic. Not at all. The carriages are light and airy. You can get out and stretch your legs. After 35 minutes, your through and as customs were passed through on the English side, you are straight on the motorway. We had 2 1/2 hours to drive.
Our focus was food and drink naturally so we planned ahead. Reims is a compact city. Astonishingly, after the First World War just 60 houses remained. So 400 architects were engaged to create the new city with very few constraints. Now the roads are wide and reminiscent of Paris with touches of art deco too. It’s an easy place to get around – we walked to most of our destinations.
We spent 3 days in Reims. Here are our Top 7 things to do
Top 7 Tips for a long weekend in Reims
Book a Champagne Tour
There are so many tours to choose from from the big brands to smaller crus. Unless you are a big fan of one particular brand, decide what type of tour you’d like. An intimate tour with a small group? Or an in depth tasting session? Or something in between.
We chose to head out of town to Pouilly Jacquemart. This brand mainly supplies restaurants rather than direct to the public and buys in most of its grapes from the surrounding area. We toured with just 4 other people and revelled in descending way down underground through tunnels where vintage champagne is stored in an unusual way – upside down. We adored the taste of the champagne which has a very small amount of sugar added per litre (less than 6 g) – some champagne can have as much as 43 g added.
Eat the city
Possibly our best restaurant lunch ever? Racine, Reims
We had one meal at Racine which was simply one of the best meals we have ever eaten. How did we find it? A combination of the restaurant section of ViaMichelin.com (which is always a good starting point), reviews on Trip Advisor and local blogger recommendations.
If you’d like to try Michelin starred dining, consider taking lunch as we did. For a very reasonable 45 euros we had a stunning Japanese inspired menu. Chef Kazuyuki Tanaka is from Japan – his childhood dream was to have a French restaurant.
You can see right into the kitchen from inside and from the street. The room is very cool and calm.
The food is so tasty. The flavours are distinct and varied. One dish included carrots 5 ways which were astonishing. We’d definitely drive the 800 miles to eat there again!
Sleep in the city
There’s nothing like being centrally located when you are visiting for a short time. We picked one from many available on Airbnb and discovered a gem. We stayed in what was a renovated studio in a garden full of flowers (and hens). Madame brought us breakfast from the local bakery and an egg or two from the hens. We were no more than 10 minutes from the Cathedral and central area.
Parking is Reims is tight but feasible. There is a parking app you can download and use. Parking is inexpensive and multi storey car parks also offer the first hour free.
Take a (food) tour
Pink biscuits at every turn
The tourist office offers a wide range of walking tours. Located near the Cathedral (which is truly awe inspiring), it’s easy to find an English speaking tour. We joined the food tour which lasted about 2.5 hours and cost 15 euros. We discovered cheese, ham and locally made “pink almondbiscuits” and finished with a glass of champagne back at the tourist office. On the way we learnt a little bit of history about the city.
Visit a market
Reims has a market for every day of the week. There’s the indoor market at Halles Boulingrin and many others across the town. We spent Sunday morning at one market before heading home. It was far more fun doing the week’s shop at the market than a usual shop! It was asparagus season but no green asparagus anywhere just white.
Drink in the View
We were very lucky with the weather and lazed over coffee on the central boulevard watching the world and people go by. Very relaxing. There are also some lovely parks and garden where you can linger or follow the Art Deco trail to view some fabulous buildings.
Fabulous architecture in Reims – the cathedral is awe inspiring!
On the night we’d arrived, we were early and hadn’t booked anywhere to eat. We set off to read menus and hope for the best. We discovered the wonderful Le Crypto (it is near a roman crypt) and managed to get a table. It was before 7 pm.
It was a very welcoming place both the look and feel and the friendly staff. Frederic Dupont (formerly of 3 Michelin star “Le Millénaire” has created an enticing menu menu. Unfussy with great flavours and a reasonable price. We later realised just how lucky we were, people were queuing out the door!
Find out More
We highly recommend Reims for a long weekend. It is so easy to get to and easy to get around. The standard of food is exceptional. the architecture fascinating. Just plan ahead!