20 Top-Rated Attractions & Places to Visit in Champagne
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The Champagne region is a dreamy countryside of vine-covered rolling hills, idyllic valleys, and pristine woodlands. Steeped in history, the landscape is graced with ancient towns, castles, and serene abbeys. The impressive cultural heritage comes, in part, from the legacy of the Counts of Champagne and the region's prosperous trade during the Middle Ages.
Champagne boasts six cities listed as Villes d'Art et Histoire (Cities of Art and History), as well as five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Champagne region also has links to the famous French leaders Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle.
Plan your vacation in this picturesque region of France. Learn about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Champagne.
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The historic city of Reims is famed for its glorious 13th-century cathedral. This magnificent landmark was used for the coronation ceremonies of France's kings, beginning in 1223 with Louis VIII. The most celebrated event was the coronation of Charles VII who was escorted here by Joan of Arc on July 17, 1429. The last king of France to be crowned at the Reims cathedral was Charles X in 1825.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims is a masterpiece of High Gothic architecture with rich sculptural decoration. The immensely proportioned interior has a harmonious unity of form and an atmosphere of solemnity. Most of the original stained-glass windows have been lost, however there are six stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall.
Reims has been awarded the title of Ville d'Art et d'Histoire (City of Art and History), because of its remarkable cathedral and other cultural sites. The UNESCO-listed Palais du Tau is an exquisite 17th-century Neoclassical palace that was formerly the residence of archbishops. The palace now houses a museum of the cathedral's treasury items.
In the UNESCO-listed former Abbey of Saint-Remi, the Musée Saint-Remi displays an exceptional collection of archaeology, art, and military history. The city's most prestigious art collection is housed at the Musée des Beaux Arts (closed for renovations through 2023). Exhibits cover five centuries of European art, from the Renaissance era through the Art Deco period.
Evidence of the town's ancient heritage is the Porte de Mars, a 3rd-century Roman triumphal arch found at the Place de la République.
Reims is one of the top day trips from Paris, an easy 45-minute trip by high-speed train.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Reims
The historic capital of the Champagne region, Troyes has a charming old town (Vieux Troyes), which reveals its rich heritage. Perfectly preserved half-timbered houses (from the medieval and Renaissance periods) are found throughout the town. Wonderful examples of half-timbered houses are on the Rue Klébert, the Rue Emile Zola, and the Ruelle des Chats.
Listed as a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire, Troyes has many outstanding monuments, such as the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, founded in 1208. This extravagant Gothic cathedral is adorned with an exquisite rose window and a richly decorated "Beau Portail" doorway.
After visiting the cathedral, tourists can explore two nearby museums. The Musée Saint-Loup (museum of archeology and fine arts) displays masterpieces of European painting from the 14th to 19th centuries
The Musée d'Art Moderne has an excellent collection of modern art from 1850 to 1960 including works by Bonnard, Degas, Matisse, Modigliani, Picasso, Seurat, and Vuillard.
Other must-see sites include the 12th- to 13th-century Eglise Sainte-Madeleine, which is renowned for its precious rood screen, and the Eglise Saint-Urbain, which has a dazzling Gothic interior illuminated by colorful stained-glass windows.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Troyes
Full of old-world character, Châlons-en-Champagne is a delightful mix of historic churches, half-timbered houses, and lush gardens. This Ville d'Art et d'Histoire boasts remarkable monuments.
The 12th- to 13th-century Collégiale Notre-Dame-en-Vaux is a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site with the largest set of bells in Europe and stunning 16th-century stained-glass windows.
Also not-to-be-missed, the 13th-century Cathédrale Saint-Etienne has an awe-inspiring Gothic interior, which offers a sense of grandeur and harmony. Châlons-en-Champagne's oldest church is the Eglise Saint-Jean, which dates to the 11th century.
The museums of Châlons-en-Champagne also give a sense of the city's rich cultural heritage. The Musée du Cloître de Notre-Dame-en-Vaux has a collection of sculptures, columns, and capitals from the cloister. The Musée des Beaux-Arts et d'Archéologie has a fabulous collection of 15th- to 20th-century paintings
The Musée Garinet presents an exquisite collection of decorative arts in a lovely historic house. The house once belonged to a wealthy art collector.
A worthwhile detour (eight kilometers away) is the UNESCO-listed Basilique de Notre-Dame de l'Epine, a marvel of Gothic architecture with an amazing variety of gargoyles on the exterior.
This walled medieval town stands on the edge of a plateau overlooking a verdant landscape. Langres' well-preserved fortifications extend for more than three kilometers, with soaring towers that create a formidable impression from afar. Tourists can walk along the ramparts to admire views of the Marne Valley and the foothills of the Vosges Mountains.
Langres is another Ville d'Art et d'Histoire. The city's history dates back to antiquity, and the Gallo-Roman gate within the old walls is a testimony to this heritage. The town also features historic churches, elegant Renaissance houses, winding medieval lanes, and atmospheric passageways (covered porches).
An overview of the town's history can be seen at the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Langres, which has an exceptional collection of archaeology and fine arts, including paintings by Charles Brun and Eugène Delacroix.
The Cathédrale Saint-Mamme, dating to the 12th century, was rebuilt in 1760 but has retained some of the original Romanesque elements within its Gothic sanctuary. The Neoclassical facade features monumental twin towers and columns in the Corinthian, Doric, and Ionic style.
Langres also appeals to nature lovers, with its beautiful countryside of woodlands and lakes. There are many things to do in the area, such as fishing, boating, and hiking.
The largest fortified medieval castle in Europe is found in Sedan, a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire in the foothills of the Ardennes Mountains. Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, the enormous Château Fort de Sedan features bastions, ramparts, and towers that defended the fortress from invasions.
The château is an enchanting place to discover at leisure. Open to tourists year-round, the site has a museum, café, restaurant, and hotel. There's also a boutique that sells locally made food products and souvenirs of the region such as stationery, books, jewelry, and games.
For a memorable experience, visitors can enjoy a gourmet meal at the château's fine-dining establishment, the Restaurant La Principauté, and spend the night at the Hotel Le Château Fort. This hotel is located within the château and offers splendid views of the city of Sedan.
Cultural events offer another reason to visit. In May, the Château Fort de Sedan hosts a Medieval Festival. Other memorable things to do include watching the equestrian arts during the summertime Chivalry Tournament and following a costumed guide on a nighttime "Torchlight Tour." During December, the château delights visitors with its Christmas festivities and concerts.
In the early 17th century, the Princes of Sedan found the ancient fortress to be too austere and uncomfortable. The more refined Palais des Princes, built in 1614, became the new residence of the Princes of Sedan. The Palais des Princes is not open to the public, but tourists may admire the Classical-style facade.
The town also has two interesting religious buildings: the Eglise Saint-Charles, originally a Protestant church and converted to a Catholic church in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was revoked, and the Synagogue de Sedan, built from local stone with a delicate rose window.
6. Mémorial Charles de Gaulle in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises
The Mémorial Charles de Gaulle is dedicated to the remembrance of the revered French statesman. Through educational documents and explanatory notes, the permanent exhibit tells the story of Charles de Gaulle's life and highlights the most important historical events, such as the Second World War and the establishment of France's 5th Republic.
The most impressive feature of the memorial is the Croix de Lorraine (Cross of Lorraine), a monumental cross more than 44 meters high, built out of pink granite stone from Brittany. The cross was created to fulfill the wishes of General de Gaulle and to memorialize his life.
The memorial is in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, the village where Charles de Gaulle lived with his family. His private home, called La Boisserie, is a charming house surrounded by a leafy park. Tourists can visit the house and take a walk through the park.
Charles de Gaulle had a particular fondness for this area of the French countryside. The gravesite of Charles de Gaulle is found in the cemetery of the Eglise Notre-Dame (parish church) in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises.
Address: 52330 Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises
Official site: http://en.memorial-charlesdegaulle.fr
Spectacularly built on a rocky outcrop surrounded by forests, this historic town offers sensational views of the valleys below. Chaumont was the former residence of the Counts of Champagne; the lower rooms of the Château des Comtes de Champagne now house the Musee d'Art et d'Histoire de Chaumont, with a collection of archeology, history, and fine arts.
Further evidence of Chaumont's prestigious past are the 13th-century Basilique Saint-Jean-Baptiste; the Chapelle des Jésuites, built in 1617; and the Renaissance houses with towers (30 in total) that punctuate the cityscape of Vieux Chaumont (Old Chaumont).
During Christmastime, the town has a tradition of decorating with nativity scenes. Visitors can admire these charming representations of the Holy Family at the Musée de la Crèche (Museum of the Nativity), which displays a collection of 18th-century Neapolitan nativity scenes. Each unique work of art depicts the Baby Jesus and the Three Kings along with many tiny figures.
Charleville-Mézières is a dual town that straddles the Meuse River. Charleville was founded in the 17th century, with the Place Ducale at the center of the town, while Mézières is more modern. Because of the its rich cultural heritage, Charleville-Mézières is listed as a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire.
The archaeological and historical collection at the Musée de l'Ardenne (at the Place Ducale) tells the story of the town and the region, from the Roman era through the Merovingian period until the modern era. Highlights are the assortment of vintage marionettes and a collection of 19th-century landscape paintings by local artists.
The poet Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) was born in Charleville and is buried in the town's cemetery. The Musée Arthur Rimbaud (at Quai Arthur Rimbaud) is devoted to the life and work of the celebrated French poet.
Charleville-Mézières is also famous for its puppet theater and has an Institut International de la Marionnette (Institute of Puppet Theater) at the Place Winston Churchill) with a puppet collection. The institute also supports research and offers educational programs.
Every year for one week in September, Charleville-Mézières hosts the Festival Mondial des Théâtres de Marionnettes (Puppet Theater Festival). Traditional puppet shows animate the streets, parks, and theaters of the town. This event is the largest puppet theater festival in the world and attracts around 100,000 people.
9. Château la Motte Tilly
The Château de la Motte Tilly is an expansive estate with a beautifully manicured 62-hectare park. Classified as a Jardin Remarquable (Remarkable Garden), the vast and tranquil grounds have been restored to resemble their original design
The estate features formal French gardens with spacious lawns, orderly rows of landscaped shrubs, and a decorative "water mirror" pool. The park also has romantic English gardens and an Orangery, where exotic plants such as orange and pomegranate trees were grown in the 18th century.
Built in 1754, the Château de la Motte Tilly perfectly exemplifies Neoclassical architecture of the 18th century and is a rare example of a completely furnished historic French château. Because of its exquisite interior decor, the château was used as the film set for Dangerous Liaisons.
Tourists may visit the interior of the château and then take a stroll through the gardens. It's also a delightful place for a picnic. Restaurant La Rosita offers visitors gourmet picnic baskets, filled with local products and items from the château's vegetable garden.
Address: Domaine de La Motte Tilly, 10400 La Motte Tilly
10. Abbaye d'Auberive
Founded in 1135 by twelve Cistercian monks, the Abbaye d'Auberive endured both the Hundred Years' War and the Thirty Years War. Seemingly undisturbed by the outside world, the abbey is enclosed by a 6.5-hectare park filled with shady trees and fragrant roses.
The most unique feature of the park is the Conservatoire de la Pomme (Apple Conservatory), three orchards of heirloom fruit trees. Many rare apple varieties are found here, such as the Caville Aromatique and the Belle Fille de Bourgogne.
Art lovers appreciate the Abbaye d'Auberive for its Centre d'Art Contemporain, which presents temporary thematic exhibitions and is open from June through September (Tuesday - Sunday). This center has one of the largest private collections of contemporary expressionist and figurative art in France.
The Arts et Culture à l'Abbaye d'Auberive association produces an interesting program of cultural events, including music, dance, and theater performances, which take place at the abbey throughout the year.
The Abbaye d'Auberive is open to the public for self-guided visits from June through September (Tuesday - Sunday) and on Sundays in May and October. At other times of year, the abbey is open Monday through Friday, but visitors should check ahead of time.
Address: Place de l'Abbaye, 52160 Auberive (Haute-Marne)
11. Château de Cirey
The Marquise du Châtelet, one of the great female intellectuals of the time, offered shelter to the famous French author Voltaire at this château in the Blaise Valley. The château served as a place of refuge when Voltaire was threatened with imprisonment for writing the "Lettres Philosophiques" ("Philosophical Letters"), a work that ridiculed the institutions of France.
Voltaire spent 15 years here (from 1734 to 1749), during which time he wrote several comedies and tragedies. The Château de Cirey has been awarded the "Maison des Illustres" label because one of France's most "illustrious" citizens lived here. The privately owned château is also a classified Historic Monument.
The château is open to the public from May through September for guided tours of the interior to see the library, dining room, chapel, salons, and kitchen. Especially interesting is the "Petit Théâtre" (Little Theater), where Voltaire staged his dramatic productions.
Visitors may wander through the château's luxuriant park (free of charge) to discover a canal and paths shaded by hundred-year-old plane trees.
Address: 33 Rue Emilie du Châtelet, 52110 Cirey-sur-Blaise
Perched on a hilltop in a landscape of woodlands, Hierges is one of the region's prettiest medieval villages. Many artists have fallen in love with the village's charm, found in its cobblestone streets and quiet pastoral surroundings.
Dominating the village is a castle with ancient towers and a Renaissance facade. The Château de Hierges is open for guided tours from June through September.
The castle tours depart from the village church, the 16th-century Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste which has noteworthy Renaissance-era stained-glass windows and paintings.
13. Abbaye de Clairvaux
Built more than eight centuries ago, the Abbaye de Clairvaux offers a tranquil retreat in an area of peaceful valleys and dense forests. The former Cistercian abbey was operational until the French Revolution, when parts of it were confiscated.
The abbey has been renovated and is open to the public for guided tours. Visitors will appreciate the architectural splendor and natural beauty of the surroundings.
Music concerts are occasionally held in the abbey's chapel. Three times a year (twice in early summer and once in autumn), the abbey hosts a market of artisanal products made by monastic communities.
14. Musée de Napoleon in Brienne-le-Château
The town of Brienne-le-Château is most well-known for its association with Napoleon Bonaparte. The illustrious French general spent five years here when he attended the Ecole Militaire (military academy) from May 1779 to October 1784.
Housed in the former military school, the Musée de Napoleon now displays memorabilia from Napoleon's school years. In addition, the museum documents the battles of the "Circuit Napoléon 1814" (the French Campaign of 1814) with an extensive exhibition of maps and engravings.
Address: 34 Rue de l'Ecole Militaire, Brienne-le-Château
15. Château du Grand Jardin
Built during the Renaissance, the Château du Grand Jardin exemplifies classic 16th-century French architecture. The château, listed as a Historic Monument, is renowned for its formal gardens, which are adorned with sculptures and filled with fragrant flowers.
Music concerts and other cultural events are held at the château throughout the year. During summertime, the château offers thematic tours of the gardens.
Address: 5 Avenue de la Marne, 52300 Joinville
16. Château de Reynel
This quintessential medieval château is nestled in a romantic setting on a wooded hillside. The location provided an advantageous position during the Middle Ages in defending against the Holy Roman Empire.
Renovated in the 18th century, the château (listed as a historical monument) is open to the public for guided tours from June through September. Visitors enjoy seeing the elegant interior, which displays a superb collection of paintings.
The picturesque grounds, with expansive lawns and shady trees, are also a joy to explore. Terraces in the garden provide views of the valley below, with a few lakes visible in the distance.
Address: 1 Grande Rue, 52700 Reynel
Beaulieu-en-Argonne sits on a plateau with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. The name of the village translates to "beautiful place," fitting of its bucolic setting in the heart of the Argonne Forest.
The village is listed as one of France's four-star (the highest distinction) "Villages Fleuris" (Flowering Villages) because of the colorful potted flowers that decorate the town.
18. Château de Chacenay
Entered through a drawbridge, this majestic medieval château is surrounded by ancient ramparts. Guided visits (daily except Tuesdays) are available in June, July, and August, allowing tourists to see the château's exquisite interior which has been restored with authenticity and attention to detail.
The château also has a Manuscripts Museum, which includes a collection of historical documents fom great thinkers and heads of state, including Einstein, Poincaré, De Gaulle, Nixon, and J.F. Kennedy.
The château's extensive grounds feature pleasant gardens and include a 12th-century chapel.
Address: 1 Rue du Château, 10110 Chacenay
Saint-Amand-sur-Fion is a typical medieval village with quaint half-timbered houses and an important historic church. The Eglise Saint-Amand (open to visitors by appointment only) is a fine accomplishment of 12th-century Romanesque architecture.
There are also later Gothic additions, including the 13th-century Gothic choir known as "la Merveille de Saint-Amand" (the Marvel of Saint Amand). The bright, spacious sanctuary is illuminated by stained-glass windows.
20. Château de Montaubois
Set on a gorgeous property including four hectares of parkland, the Château de Montaubois takes visitors into the privileged world of a French castle. The château has been converted to a hotel with plush guest rooms featuring lavish 18th-century decor.
It's also possible to take a guided tour to see the interior of the château; the medieval garden; and a Baroque chapel, which has been fully restored. The guided visit also includes a video about the restoration of the château.
Address: Route de Domery, 08460 Signy l'Abbaye