Champagne Three Ways
For the last three years, I’ve visited Paris for the week of Thanksgiving. Each year, I took the train to Reims in the Champagne region. Whether you’re traveling solo or with a group, here are suggested itineraries for a bubbly day trip.
A Self-Guided Day in Reims
7:58am: Take the early TGV train from Paris Est to Reims. There’s usually a departure that gets into Reims just before 9am. This means you can begin champagne tastings by 10am! I walked from the train station to Pommery because I am absurdly cheap about cabs sometimes (it’s an odd behavior I don’t really understand). It’s about a 30 minute walk, so you can do it, but also a cab is fine too. The last time I took this train ride (2018), it was 27 euro for a roundtrip ticket in first class.
9:45am: First champagne tasting at Pommery. A tour of the caves plus one glass of champagne is 22 euro. They have other tour options, but I’ve enjoyed this one the two times I’ve gone. Pommery’s caves are my personal favorite in Reims, not to be missed. The caves were dug out by Romans to mine chalk and are a perfect temperature to age champagne. Buy tickets in advance.
11:45am: Second champagne tasting at Taittinger, also includes a tour of the caves. At both Pommery and Taittinger you’ll get a good explanation of how champagne is made, and come away with a much greater appreciation for the cost of a bottle. Buy tickets in advance.
1:00pm: Lunch at Brasserie du Boulingrin because it’s time for food. A word to the wise, if you don’t speak French (I don’t), “tete de veau” means “veal head” so when the waitress says “are you sure that’s what you want” you should say “obviously not give me something else” rather than letting your pride win. Anyway, once I ate veal head and survived, but it wasn’t my favorite.
2:00pm: Take a short break from champagne to tour the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Reims. Get here during daylight. The sun shining through the stained glass is a religious experience in itself.
3:00pm: Continue break to visit the Musée de la Reddition (Museum of the Surrender). It served as Eisenhower’s HQ during the end of World War II and is where the Allies received the surrender from the Third Reich. It’s a small museum but worth the visit. 3 euro to enter.
4:00pm: Final champagne tasting at Charles de Cazanove. I did not do a tour here, just a tasting.
5:00pm: If you’re like me and go the week of Thanksgiving or later, the Reims Christmas market may be open. It sits in the shadow of the Cathedrale Notre Dame and has warm, alcoholic beverages, champagne tents (of course), food, and fun shopping.
6:00pm: Time to eat again. Le Cafe de Reims is my favorite spot because their croque monsieur is the best one I’ve found in France so far. Should you want more champagne (you do), they have it. And best of all, it’s only a few short blocks from the train station.
7:45pm: Take the train back to Paris.
I followed a similar schedule to the above when I did a self-guided day in Reims with friends. We cabbed from the train station to our first champagne house though, because other people aren’t as crazy about walking as me. Here’s a slightly different variation on the schedule.
7:58am: Whether traveling alone or with friends, take the early train! More time for champagne!
10:00am: Champagne tasting at G.H. Martel. This was a tasting only, no tour. We had three glasses of champagne for 15 euro. Or was it four glasses? Who can remember? We were drunk at 11am.
11:30am: Short walk to a champagne tour and tasting at Pommery.
1:00pm: Things started to go wrong. First, there were no ubers in Reims. Second, it took the cab 15-20 minutes to come pick us up because they all wait at the train station. Third, we had made a lunch reservation at a nice place, Cafe de la Paix, and were going to be late. Fourth, we stupidly ordered multi-course lunches and this is France where things are slow. So we had to be those Americans and hound the waiter for the check so we could make it to our final tasting on time.
3:00pm: Tour and tasting at Veuve Clicquot. Although I love the caves at Pommery, the story of the Widow Clicquot is my favorite. Also, their branding is on point. We all left with all of the bottles.
5:00pm: Christmas market, Cathedrale Notre Dame, shopping, Cafe de Reims.
7:45pm: Train back to Paris.
A Guided Tour of Reims and Epernay
Should you like to leave the planning and transportation to someone else, I highly recommend France Intense France Bubbles tours. They offer one day and multi-day trips. A group of five of us took the one day Reims and Epernay trip. We toured Taittinger and Moet & Chandon (maker of Dom Perignon). The guide picks you up in front of the train station at 9:30am, so you still take the same early train out of Paris.
The bonus on this tour is you also get to see Epernay, where you get time for lunch on your own (we tried Le Sardaigne for Italian food) and can visit a champagne tasting bar, should you be so inclined. Warning: if you opt for a tasting at the champagne bar and then go to Moet & Chandon, you will spend a lot in the shop at Moet.
Ready to go?
Oui.sncf to book train tickets from Paris to Reims
France Intense France Bubbles - tour option if you don’t want to make your own schedule
If you do opt for booking on your own, I’d recommend thinking about which champagne houses you want to visit, checking the times they have tours on the day you plan to go, and then arranging a schedule that works for you. Also, pay attention to the language offerings of the tours.
Pommery champagne house
Taittinger champagne house
Charles de Cazanove champagne house
G.H. Martel champagne house
Veuve Clicquot champagne house
Moet & Chandon champagne house (Epernay)
Food and other sights in Reims
Le Sardaigne (Epernay)
Check out my blog post on flying with wine for tips on getting home with your champagne.