Just a few hours northeast of Paris, you’ll find the sweeping, lush vineyards of Champagne, best known for its sparkling white wine production that bears the region’s name. The 86 000 acres of rolling hills and vineyards produce primarily Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, all three of which are cultivated in a magical process to produce the liquid gold. Listen out for the decadent sounds of popping corks, bubbles fizzing and clinking glasses echoing throughout the province.
Reims and Epernay are the two commercial centres and major towns of Champagne. While Reims is considered as the principal Champagne tasting town, Epernay, just 25km south of Reims, is in fact home to a larger number of wineries (including the giants of the industry, Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouët) and is situated right in the heart of the lavish vineyards.
Spend your time here visiting stylish cities along the Champagne Routes which wind their way through villages to family-run cellars and vineyards. Make sure to see Reims and its 13th-century cathedral, one of the great Gothic cathedrals of northern France and a UNESCO world heritage site where the kings of France were once crowned. The hilltop town of Langres in the south of the region is also a must see. Dubbed the “Carcassonne of the North”, Langres’ historic stone buildings are enclosed within ramparts and mostly date from the 13th and 17th centuries, although parts are Roman.
When to go
The best times to visit to make the most of the region are in May and June and September and October. Temperatures in the middle of summer, July and August, can be too hot for comfort, but unlike other parts of France, you won't find Champagne as crowded during this period. If you want to enjoy the region and its vineyards at their prettiest, then visit between May and October.
What to do
- Visit Champagne cellars
- Tour Reims cathedral, Reims: one of the finest mediaeval cathedrals in France
- See Lac du Der, the biggest reservoir in Europe
- Take a trip to Langres, the Carcassonne of the North