Reims is the largest city that can be found in France’s northern Champagne region. For those who might be wondering about the name of this region, it is indeed famous for the sparkling white wine that shares its name. Sipping on and learning about high quality bubbly at one of the city’s champagne houses or wineries isn’t the only reason to visit Reims, however. The city is well-known for its beautiful Gothic cathedral, and many tourists make it a point to visit the Palace of Tau and the Saint Remi Basilica. Some very tempting dining opportunities also await in Reims France, and the shopping isn’t too shabby either.
Reims France has quite an interesting history. Some say the city is where the French nation was born around the year 500 AD. Before then, it was conquered by Julius Caesar and became an important Roman city. French kings went to be crowned at Reims for centuries, and this certainly figures among the city’s historical highlights. It is also interesting to note that such famous people as Pope Stephen II, Charlemagne and Joan of Arc can be counted among Reim’s past visitors. As is true of so many other cities around Europe, Reims often found itself caught up in conflicts and battles. For example, the city was ceded to England by the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, but the English were expelled by French patriots not long after. During World War I and World War II, Reims suffered its fair share of damage. Of particular note is the severe damage caused to the cathedral during World War I. Thankfully, the cathedral has been restored to its former glory.
In addition to the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, prominent tourist attractions in Reims France include the Saint Remi Basilica and the Palace of Tau. The Saint Remi Basilica dates back to the year 1007 AD, which makes it the oldest church in the city. Additions were made after the original church had been completed in the 11th century, and because of the damage that it suffered during World War I, the complex had to be significantly restored over a 40-year period in the 1900s. The Saint Remi Basilica has been classified as a historical monument and has been specifically credited with being important to the both the history of art and the history of France. As for the Palace of Tau, it was originally built between 1498 and 1509 and had to be partly rebuilt in the late 1600's. For many years, the main role of this stone mansion behind the cathedral was that of a residence for the city’s bishops. It also served as a temporary residence for the French kings who came to be coronated at Reims. In 1972, the Palace of Tau became a museum. Among the things that are on display there are holy relics that are associated with the city.
The Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral is one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. Similar in appearance to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the Amiens Cathedral, it is a Gothic masterpiece that is easy to appreciate both inside and out. The Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral was built on the site of a church that burned down in 1211. For much of its life, it would serve as a sanctuary where French kings were crowned. The first king to be crowned there was Louis the Pious. This occurred way back in 815. Hundreds of years prior to this in 496, Clovis was baptized at the cathedral by St. Remi. St. Remi was a bishop of the city and Clovis was the king of the Franks. The last French king to be crowned at the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral was Charles X in 1825. The cathedral is open daily and admission is free.
Whether you are planning on spending an extended amount of time in Reims or you are just passing through on your way to Paris or elsewhere, the city offers a healthy number of lodging choices. Paris, by the way, is about 90 miles west of Reims, so visits to both cities are easy to handle during a France vacation. Among the hotels of choice in Reims are the stately Chateau Les Crayeres (pictured) and the lovely L’Assiette Champenoise. More affordable, yet still very comfortable, are the Suite Novotel Reims Centre, the Best Western Hotel de la Paix and the Hotel Azur. Plenty of other Reims hotels offer cheaper accommodations if that is the aim. Examples include Balladins Reims La Neuvillette and the Campanile Reims Murigny.
Top image: Christophe Goessen (flickr)