Reims was founded by the ancient Gauls and like a number of historic French towns and cities, has a long and varied history, having great significance during the time of the Roman Empire. It was also where the country’s successive monarchs were traditionally crowned and the cathedral in which this took place, though it suffered damage from Germany during the First World War, remains a popular attraction. These days, certainly among wine lovers, it’s perhaps best known as France’s Champagne capital, ensuring its status as a must-visit for fans of viticulture the world over. Celebratory drinks aside, it’s certainly worth raising a glass to Reims’ fantastic faith-based architecture during your visit and indeed, exploring it during a stroll through the streets.
The main landmark in the city is undoubtedly its famous cathedral, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Reims, with its beautiful twin towers and hugely ornate façade. It’s architecturally stunning from the outside a Gothic tour-de-force worthy of its UNESCO World Heritage Site status along with the city’s other architectural treasures, the Palace of Tau and the Basilica of Saint-Remi. There is an impressive statue collection inside, not to mention a number of beautiful stained glass works and your tour will take you right along the cathedral’s roof tops and up one of its lofty towers.
The aforementioned Basilica of Saint Remi is the city’s other main architectural attraction and located not too far away from the cathedral, should you wish to visit both. It’s naturally quieter but not a lot smaller and is dedicated to the city’s patron saint. The oldest parts of this structure date back to the 11th century, though more additions were made throughout subsequent centuries, and features some stunning interiors, notably its soaring arches. The accompanying abbey of the same name sits adjacent to the cathedral and though it never re-opened following its closure during the French Revolution, it now functions as a museum and is home to some stunning exhibits such as tapestries, sculpture and glasswork.
The Palace du Tau meanwhile, was once the home of the city’s bishops over the years and was where monarchs-to-be resided before their coronation in the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It’s home to a fascinating treasury, where you’ll find the Holy Ampula which dates back to the fifth century, the Talisman of Charlemagne and some of the cathedral’s original statues. More of the city’s treasures and the legacy of its wartime role can be explored with visits to the Historical Museum, Museum of the Surrender and the Hotel Le Vergeur – one of the few remaining buildings left after the ravages of the First World War.
It would of course be rude not to sample a glass of Champagne while in Reims and Place d’Erlon offers a great choice of establishments in which you can do just that.