As the gateway to the Champagne region of France, i.e. the only place in the world that’s allowed to produce the renowned sparkling tipple, Reims is a must-see for any Francophile who wishes to explore l’Hexagone in greater depth. Here’s your ultimate guide to the best of hidden gems and secret spots in Reims you’ll want to visit next time you’re in Champagne…
Champagne Stained Glass Window in Reims Cathedral
If you visit just one monument in Reims, make it the imposing Gothic Cathedral in the very heart of the city centre. Constructed over eight centuries ago, Reims Cathedral is one of the most important ecclesiastical buildings in France owing to the fact that some twenty-five French kings were coronated there.
Though the building was badly damaged during WWI, it was duly repaired, in part thanks to generous donations from the Rockefellers. Today, the Cathedral has well and truly been restored to its former glory and boasts several Rose Windows and even a stained glass piece by Marc Chagall.
But perhaps my favourite stained glass window of all is that which is to be found to the right-hand side of the altar when entering the church. After all, the intricate piece was created in the mid-twentieth century, displays various aspects of Champagne creation, and is created after the style of Medieval stained glass windows.
Champagne Jacquart Mosaic
Situated not far from the town hall, the Jacquart mosaic illustrates the many (and pretty complicated) steps of the Champagne making process. Once upon a time, these wine cellars belonged to Mumm. Today, they’re owned and used by the Jacquart Champagne House.
Located in the square directly in front of the Musée Le Vergeur, the Cryptoportique is an underground set of tunnels that dates all the way back to Roman times. You see, beneath the top layer of soil, the ground is comprised entirely of chalk, a soft substance that lends itself to creating tunnels and subterranean spaces.
As far back as the first few centuries CE, humans were already making use of the chalky landscape beneath Reims, quarrying the chalk for building and for storing goods. During WWI, residents of the city sought refuge from the heavy artillery fire and cellars which are now used to store champagne would have been used as hospitals, schools, and sleeping quarters.
The Cryptoportique in Reims is one of only five such surviving structures from the Ancient World. Constructed by the Romans and partly underground, the space would have been used as storage. Likely constructed between the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, today you can wander around the exposed space and imagine what it must have been like in times gone by.
Le Jardin du Museée Le Vergeur
Completely free to visit, the secret oasis of calm that is the Vergeur Garden is to be found right next to the Vergeur museum and is named for the 16th-century bourgeois Nicolas Le Vergeur. Home to a wide variety of plants, stunning ruins, and crumbling walls, a wander through the perfectly manicured hedges is the perfect way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Café du Palais
Though not so much of a secret spot in Reims quite as much as some of the other entries within this article, there’s no denying that drinking a coffee or chocolat chaud, set against the backdrop of Café du Palais is the perfect Reims experience.
The coffee shop lies in the shadow of Reims Cathedral and has been family operated since the 1930s. Today, the historic café serves lunch on a daily basis and dinner during some days of the week. Step inside at any given moment and you can expect friendly service, not to mention the chance to marvel at the family’s personal art collection, which adorns the walls and ceilings of the eatery.
La Belle Image Bookshop
Set a little way outside of the historic city centre, one of the most beautiful bookshops in Reims is that of La Belle Image. Independent and full of shelves stacked from floor to ceiling with books ranging from fiction to coffee table books, you’ll find it hard to visit and not leave with a souvenir or two!
Médiathèque Jean Falala top floor view
Free to visit, the top floor of the Jean Falala library is a modern masterpiece of glass and steel construction. Overlooking Reims Cathedral square, readers and those studying alike are treated to unparalleled views of the immense Gothic building come rain or shine! As such, if you’re looking for one of the most unusual places to enjoy a view of Reims Cathedral, be sure to visit Médiathèque Jean Falala.
Salle de Lecture (Readers Room), Carnegie Library
Steps away from the Cathedral, the Carnegie Library dates back to just after the First World War and was constructed using funds given by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (other Carnegie libraries include one in Leuven and another in Belgrade).
Built-in the Art Deco style, regular free-to-visit and ever-changing exhibitions are held in a small room throughout the year. And, if you ask nicely enough at reception, you may just be granted the chance to peek inside the ‘Salle de Lecture’.
Porte de Mars, Roman Triumphal Arch
If you’re arriving in Reims as a day trip from Paris, or indeed for a longer stint, then no doubt you’ll be unable to miss the Roman Triumphal arch that stands on the fringes of the historic city centre. Well-preserved, the arch is a staggering 32 metres long and 13 metres high.
After all, before many centuries before the Arc de Triomphe and at a time when Reims was the thriving Roman town of Durocortorum, it was here where the widest arch in the Roman world was constructed during the third century. Of all the secret spots in Reims, this is easily one of my favourites!