There is a lot more to Reims that just Champagne

Champagne, the drink, has an undeniable charm, partly due to some imaginative marketing over the years. The city of Reims (or Rheims), is the heart of the champagne region in France and has its own charm, only part of which has anything to do with the fizzy, intoxicating beverage.

Reims is an city that rebuilt itself to a large extent after the destruction of World Wars I and II, so much of its original architecture has been replaced with the Art Deco of the 1920’s. The town centre is delightful for strolling around and soaking up the cheerful atmosphere, with of all sorts of shops, cafes and other entertainment.

However, much has been restored to its former grandeur, including the cathedral. Notre-Dame de Reims was completed in the 13th century, severely damaged during both world wars, and carefully reconstructed so that it remains a gloriously harmonious edifice and one of Europe’s most beautiful buildings from the Middle Ages. Reims Cathedral has been the traditional coronation site for the kings of France for hundreds of years.

You will probably want to visit one or more of the museums on offer; the Salle de Redition, inside the Musee de Redition, is the very spot where Germany’s final surrender at the end of World War II was signed. The table and chairs that were in place are still in place, and it is one of the memorable sites in history. The Musee des Beaux-Arts is a wonderful collection of the finest in French art.

The topper, so to speak, is still and always champagne. Whether you like to drink it or not, you can’t help but be fascinated by the process. Reims is home to some of the most famous names in champagne, and most houses offer a tour and usually a tasting. At Pommery, for example, you’ll descend 101 steps to the amazing 18 kilometres of cellars carved out of the old Roman chalk mines. The walls are covered in bas-relief artwork and more than 25 million bottles of bubbly are stored here.