Last Updated on 15th March 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Located in northeastern France, one of the most famous regions in the entirety of l’Hexagone is Champagne, which is eponymous with the sparkling wine that originates from the region. Here’s your guide to the best things to do in Champagne, as well as what to know before you go.
If you’re planning your own Champagne road trip, be sure to check out our suggested Champagne itinerary.
- Introducing Champagne
- Regions of Champagne
- Is there a town called Champagne?
- When is the best time to visit Champagne?
- Best things to do in Champagne
- Go Champagne tasting
- Discover local food
- Visit Reims
- Walk through the Faux de Verzy
- Visit Epernay
- See the Phare de Verzenay
- See the final resting place of Dom Perignon in Hautvillers
- Discover the small towns and villages of Champagne
- The sites of the War of 1914-18
- The castle of Sedan
- Beaches of Lake Der
Champagne is one of those French regions you won’t want to miss if you love food, culture, and history. Easy to reach from Paris (I recommend renting a car to explore the region), the Champagne Houses, Hillsides, and Wine Cellars are of such historic importance that they were awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015.
Regions of Champagne
Champagne has five main regions, which are sometimes referred to as zones:
Montagne de Reims focuses on pinot noir. Many of the full-bodied Champagnes produced here are intended to be left to age. The closest big city is Reims.
Vallée de la Marne is more focused on pinot-meunier. Pinot meunier is usually blended with other grapes, such as pinot noir to make blanc des noirs. The closest big city is Epernay.
Côte des Blancs focuses solely on chardonnay-based Champagne and is also close to Epernay. This is typically where blanc de blancs Champagne comes from, hence the name.
Aube is close to Troyes and it’s in this area that grapes mostly for non-vintage Champagne are largely grown.
Côte de Sézanne is a newer region which is also close to Troyes and specialises in chardonnay-focused vineyards.
Is there a town called Champagne?
Contrary to popular belief, there is no town called Champagne. Champagne is the name of the historic French region in Northeastern France and is also the name of the sparkling wine that is produced there.
When is the best time to visit Champagne?
Although you can visit the Champagne region during any time of the year, the best time to head out on a trip is undoubtedly in October when the leaves of the vines have transformed into beautiful golden shades.
If you visit in the winter or early spring (up until around April) then the vines won’t have any leaves, which is certainly less aesthetically pleasing! Overall, the best time to visit for sunny weather is between May and September.
Best things to do in Champagne
Go Champagne tasting
Of course, the number one reason many people choose to visit the region of Champagne is to taste the famed tipple itself. There are a number of ways to go Champagne tasting; you can go on a guided tour, you can turn up at one of the vineyards which do open session tastings, or you can head to a historic house.
My personal favourite when it comes to Champagne tasting is to head to the small village of Bouzy (pronounced boozy- yes, you read that correctly!) and try a few of the different Champagne houses in this Grand Cru town.
Most of the Champagne Houses will waive the tasting fee if you buy a certain number of bottles. Please note that most Champagne houses (across all of Champagne) are closed between 12 and 2 PM for lunch so don’t try and visit at these times!
Discover local food
Of course, Champagne isn’t the only delicious product to have originated in the Champagne region. One particular sweet of note is the Biscuit rose de Reims. This cookie was alleged to have been created in 1690 by a baker who wanted to utilise the heat in the bread oven between two batches.
The cookie was cooked twice and it’s thought that this creation was he origin of the word biscuit (bis-cuit means twice cooked in French). Fans of the biscuit are said to have included King Charles X, Leopold II of Belgium, and the Marquise de Polignac.
One of the largest cities in Champagne is Reims, a delightful settlement centred around a Gothic cathedral grand enough to rival that of Notre Dame de Paris. Stunning, and the place where no less than twenty-five French monarchs were crowned King of France, today the Cathedral is a must-see.
Nearby, there are plenty of attractions to occupy yourself with over the course of several hours. As well as wandering the cobbled and historic streets, you can have a drink in the historic Café du Palais or visit the art-deco Carnegie Library.
Walk through the Faux de Verzy
One of the most unusual and unique things to do in the historic French region of Champagne is to visit the Faux de Verzy (forest of Verzy), an enchanting and magical forest that boasts just under a thousand unique dwarf beech trees.
Local legend suggests that the Faux de Verzy is haunted, and honestly a wander through this forest makes you feel as if it just might be! Whatever the case, no one quite knows how the dwarf trees came to be, though the most popular theory is that they were caused by some kind of genetic mutation.
One of the largest towns in the Champagne region is Epernay, a typically French town with a difference. After all, it is here where many of the most prestigious Champagne houses have their headquarters.
Most of these lie along the aptly named Avenue de Champagne. Both sides of this wide boulevard, which stretches 1 km in length, are lined with historic houses that house iconic Champagne brands.
Underground, there are 100 km worth of cellars in which millions of bottles of Champagne are stored. Thanks to the fact that they’re carved out of chalk and are underground, they maintain a constant temperature of 9-12°C throughout the year.
See the Phare de Verzenay
In a land where Champagne Houses number in their hundreds and seas of vineyards can be spied in every direction, some entrepreneurial vintners have gone above and beyond so as to attract clientele to their Champagne Houses.
One such example of this is the Phare de Verzenay (Verzenay lighthouse), which towers above the town of Verzenay and has since been transformed into a museum.
One of the coolest things to do at the lighthouse is to climb to the top, where you can admire a sea of vineyards stretching out below as far as the eye can see.
See the final resting place of Dom Perignon in Hautvillers
Hautvillers is located in the South of the Montagne de Reims, a regional natural park which is where most vineyards that produce Champagne are located. It was here, in this sleepy little town, that Dom Pérignon aided in the development of the sparkling wine that is known globally as Champagne.
One of the highlights of the Abbey in Hautvillers is that it is the final resting place of Dom Pérignon (1639 – 1715), who is widely regarded to be one of the greatest pioneers of the Champagne making process that has given us the beloved sparkling wine as we know it today.
Discover the small towns and villages of Champagne
From little specks of towns surrounded by swathes of world-famous vineyards to medieval cities which were once some of the most important settlements in Europe, Champagne has no shortage of destinations to impress even the most discerning of visitors.
Most small villages have little by way of attractions and the charm of the place simply lies in seeing its architecture, admiring its church, and soaking up the surrounding Champagne countryside (which is typically filled with vineyards).
Some of my favourite small villages in Champagne include Fontaine sur Ay (this is actually where we based ourselves for two weekend trips to Champagne), Boursault (there is a winery in the former Château de Boursault which you can visit), and Chigny les Roses.
Those who are interested in unique geological formations should check out Roc-la-Tour, which sits on the heights of Monthermé and offers spectacular views of the surrounding Ardennes landscape. Parking is quite close to the dual rock formation and it’s not normally too busy!
The sites of the War of 1914-18
Due to its location in eastern France, there’s no shortage of former WWI battlefields, museums, and monuments scattered across the region. One of the most famous is the memorial at Mondemont which commemorates the Battle of the Marne.
The castle of Sedan
The largest fortified medieval castle in Europe can be found in Champagne in the form of Sedan. This castle was constructed in the 15th-century and spans an impressive area of 35,000 square metres over seven floors. Today, you can visit for a fee.
Beaches of Lake Der
If you want to relax during the summer months, then you can head to Lake Der, where there are six beaches on the largest artificial lake in Europe. The beaches themselves are fine sand, which are obviously perfect for relaxing!
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A Francophile at heart, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She splits her time between Paris and London and travels as much as she can! Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.