10 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Reims
One of the must-see destinations in the Champagne region, Reims combines the culture of a big city with the charm of a smaller town. There's plenty to see on a quick day trip from Paris (less than one hour away by TGV train) and enough to keep visitors entertained for a longer stay. Inspiring architecture and a rich heritage have earned Reims a place on France's list of "Villes d'Art et d'Histoire" (Cities of Art and History).
This historic town abounds with impressive monuments, elegant public squares, and stylish restaurants. Reims boasts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites and four Michelin-starred dining rooms. Most of all, Reims is renowned for its glorious Gothic cathedral, where French kings were crowned. Although Reims was damaged during the First and Second World Wars, the town has been marvelously rebuilt, and many of the newer buildings were designed in a lovely Art Deco style.
Find the best places to visit in this enchanting city with our list of the top things to do in Reims.
See also: Where to Stay in Reims
1. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame stands proudly in the center of Reims with its soaring towers visible from a distance. Reims' cathedral enjoys a very special position in French history. Similar to Westminster Abbey in London, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims was used for the monarchy's coronation ceremonies (for more than eight centuries). Joan of Arc also attended mass here. This sacred monument lies on the site of a 5th-century church where Clovis, the first Christian king, was baptized. When that church was destroyed by a fire in 1210, the construction for the present cathedral began a year later.
This breathtaking 13th-century edifice is a master work of High Gothic architecture and one of the finest cathedrals in France. The vault of the nave is 38 meters high, supported externally by a flurry of flying buttresses whose technical performance is concealed behind a profusion of delicately sculpted angels. The richly patterned west front of the cathedral features three magnificent doorways, with a gorgeous rose window over the central doorway. Above this is the iconic Gallery of Kings, a long row of statues set in niches. The sculpture on the central doorway depicts the life of the Virgin.
One amusing feature of the facade is the "Sourire de Reims" (Smiling Angel). Upon entering the sanctuary, visitors are overwhelmed by the enormity of the space. The vast nave has an ambience of solemnity and is illuminated by many stained-glass windows. Although many of the original windows were destroyed, new stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall and the German artist Imi Knoebel have added a contemporary touch to the cathedral.
Address: Place du Cardinal Luçon, Reims
2. Palais du Tau (Archbishops' Palace)
Another UNESCO-listed monument, the Palais du Tau, adjoining the cathedral, is the former residence of archbishops. The ancient palace was almost entirely rebuilt in the 17th century in French Neoclassical style, however the building has several perfectly preserved medieval rooms. Visitors can see the royal apartments where kings stayed during their coronation ceremonies.
In these splendid surroundings, it's easy to imagine the grandeur of past royal events. The Salle de Tau, the banquet hall used after coronation ceremonies (held next door at the cathedral), is adorned with exquisite 15th-century Arras tapestries. Within the palace's 13th-century chapel, a treasury contains remarkable items, including the 9th-century talisman of Charlemagne and the 12th-century chalice of Saint Rémi. The palace also has a museum, which displays statues from the cathedral and tapestries depicting the story of King Clovis.
Address: 2 Place du Cardinal-Luçon, Reims
3. Basilique Saint-Rémi
The oldest church in Reims, the Basilique Saint-Rémi is an exceptional Early Romanesque monument and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This awe-inspiring church was built between 1005 and 1049 (for a Benedictine abbey) on the site of an 8th-century Carolingian chapel, which drew many pilgrims.
Although the exterior is Gothic, the interior still has elements of the original Romanesque structure. The harmonious 11th-century nave is illuminated by 12th-century stained-glass windows, giving the sanctuary a warm and ethereal ambience, while the choir and surrounding chapels exemplify a serene Early Gothic style that inspires spiritual worship. The church houses the tomb of Saint Rémi (440-533), which has made this basilica a place of veneration since the 8th century.
During the Hundred Years' War, the abbey fell into decline and was later revived during the Renaissance. However, during the French Revolution, the monks were expelled, and the basilica was converted into a parish church. The First World War caused damage to the building, which took forty years to repair. Today, the Basilique Saint-Rémi is open to the public for visits and is occasionally used as a venue for music concerts.
Address: Place du Chanoine Ladame, Reims
4. Elegant Public Squares & Ancient Monuments
The first square most tourists will see in Reims city center is the Place du Cardinal-Luçon, where the cathedral, the Palais de Justice (Law Courts), and a bronze Joan of Arc statue are located. Also a must-see attraction, the expansive Place de la République boasts a well-manicured park space and an imposing 3rd-century Roman triumphal arch, the Porte de Mars, which served as a town gate until 1544.
South of the Place de la République is the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), constructed between 1627 and 1630. Another well-preserved 3rd-century Roman monument is the Cryptoportique, found at the Place du Forum. This archaeological site is used as a venue for summertime music concerts.
The most happening area of Reims is the Place Drouet d'Erlon, a pleasant tree-lined square with many bustling brasseries and restaurants. Dining at an outdoor terrace on this square is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Reims. At the southern end of the Place Drouet d'Erlon stands the second oldest church in Reims, the Eglise Saint-Jacques, which dates from the 12th to 16th centuries. The most elegant square in Reims is the Place Royale lined with handsome Neoclassical buildings and featuring a bronze statue of King Louis XV at the center.
5. Musée des Beaux Arts
As would be expected from a "City of Art and History," Reims has an excellent fine arts museum. The permanent collection includes an extensive array of paintings, drawings, statues, art objects, and antique furniture. The collection covers French and European artworks from the 16th to the 20th centuries, showing the evolution of art from the Renaissance to the modern era. Highlights include the religious art; 19th-century landscape paintings; and Impressionist paintings by masters such as Monet, Renoir, and Pissarro.
Address: 8 Rue Chanzy, Reims
6. Musée Saint-Rémi
This wonderful history museum is housed in various rooms of the former royal abbey of Saint-Rémi, an architectural jewel that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings reveal centuries-old architectural aspects, such as the cloister, a grand staircase, and the chapter house — a masterpiece of Romanesque art featuring intricately carved 12th-century capitals. The museum collection includes art objects and antiquities, such as archaeological finds from the Gallo-Roman era. This museum is one of the best places to visit to learn about the history of Reims, from ancient times through the Renaissance period.
Address: 53 Rue Simon, Reims
7. Musée Hôtel Le Vergeur
On the Place du Forum, the Musée Hôtel le Vergeur displays a unique collection in a fabulous 13th-century mansion. The Hôtel Le Vergeur takes its name from the wealthy Vergeur family who owned the house until the 16th century. The previous owner, Hugues Krafft, devoted much of his fortune to restoring the house. He decorated the rooms with splendid furniture and created an art collection consisting of objects brought back from his many trips abroad.
Today, the museum displays Krafft's decorative arts collection, as well as an eclectic assortment of prints and paintings that illustrate the history of Reims; objects that were part of royal coronations; and exceptional pieces of religious art, most notably the engravings by Albrecht Dürer.
Address: 36 Place du Forum, Reims
8. Chapelle Foujita
The Japanese artist of the Ecole de Paris, Tsuguharu Foujita was so inspired by a visit to the Basilique Saint-Rémi that he decided to convert to Christianity. His baptism took place on October 14, 1959 at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims, and he received the baptismal name, Leonard.
In 1965, with the financial support of René Lalou and with a single-minded artistic vision, Leonard Foujita built his very own chapel in Reims. The Chapelle Foujita was designed entirely by Foujita, from start to finish. He oversaw the architectural plans and supervised the construction of the building. Foujita then designed the sketches for the ironwork and stained-glass windows, and next he painted the frescoes in the chapel's choir.
Foujita chose the Romanesque style for the chapel because it recalls the Saint-Rémi Basilica and because a simplistic Romanesque structure would be ideal for displaying his exquisitely detailed murals. Foujita's sense of spirituality and artistic panache shines through in each scene of his monumental work adorning the chapel.
Address: 33 Rue du Champ de Mars, Reims
9. Musée de la Reddition (World War II Museum)
In a listed historic building, this museum is dedicated to the remembrance of the Second World War. The museum is housed in the building where Eisenhower's headquarters and the Operations Room of the Allied Forces were located during WWII. Most importantly, this building is where the German General Jodl announced unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945, ending the war. The news was then announced simultaneously in the Allied capitals on May 8, 1945.
The building has been preserved in its original condition and gives visitors a vivid impression of the historical events. The exhibits show the role of Reims at the end of a full-scale war. From Occupation to Liberation, the story of the war is told through objects, documents, memorabilia, and models. There is also interesting information about the French Resistance.
Address: 12 Rue du Franklin Roosevelt, Reims
Every year in spring or early summer (dates vary), Reims transforms itself into the scene of a medieval celebration for Les Fêtes Johanniques, the Joan of Arc Festival. The festival reenacts the Saint's arrival in Reims, after her military victories, for the coronation of King Charles VII. The city commemorates this historical event (which took place on July 17, 1429) with authentic pageants, an artisan crafts market, musical performances, and other street entertainment.
During the festival's Grand Coronation parade, town residents dress up in period costumes to follow "Joan of Arc" and "King Charles VII" in a procession to the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
Another lively cultural event is Les Sacres du Folklore, which brings together folk singers, musicians, and dancers from across the globe. The festival takes place for several days in June or July and features dance performances, music concerts, and a gala event.
Where to Stay in Reims: Best Areas & Hotels
The city of Reims offers a wide variety of accommodations from upscale luxury hotels to affordable budget lodging. The most upscale properties are surrounded by tranquil parklands, appealing to those who prefer a more resort-like ambience in an idyllic rural setting.
- Luxury Hotels: Surrounded by a lush seven-hectare parkland, the Domaine Les Crayères is a sumptuous five-star Relais & Châteaux property. Lodging is in a lovely château or a charming cottage; both have generously sized rooms adorned in classical French style. The hotel's outstanding guest services include a concierge, airport transfers, valet parking, self parking, and dry cleaning. Guests may also borrow bicycles during their stay.
The hotel boasts two superb restaurants: Restaurant Le Parc, with two Michelin stars, and the modern, casual Brasserie le Jardin. A gourmet continental breakfast is served every morning in a beautiful dining room. The Domaine Les Crayères is in the outskirts of Reims, within walking distance of the Basilique Saint-Rémi.
Another Relais & Châteaux property, the five-star L'Assiette Champenoise blends luxurious comfort with modern style. Guest rooms are stylishly minimalistic, with park or garden views. Gourmet food lovers should note that the hotel's restaurant has three Michelin stars, the highest rating. The restaurant serves the finest local seasonal cuisine in an attractive dining room or on the outdoor terrace. Breakfast is available in the dining room or delivered to guests' rooms.
For added convenience, the hotel offers room service, free valet parking, and assistance in booking tours. Guests may also take advantage of the property's gardens and stunning indoor pool. L'Assiette Champenoise is located in the town of Tinqueux, three kilometers (a 10-minute drive) from Reims.
The Best Western Premier Hotel de la Paix is well situated in the heart of Reims, just a short walk away from the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. This four-star hotel offers luxurious, contemporary-style rooms and conveniences such as on-site parking and 24-hour concierge service. Guests will also appreciate the indoor swimming pool, restaurant, spa, sauna, and hammam. A continental breakfast buffet is available for an additional charge.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In the historic heart of the city, the four-star Holiday Inn Reims Centre is within walking distance of the cathedral and other top tourist attractions. This recently refurbished modern hotel has simple but stylish guest rooms, and conveniences such as room service and parking. Other amenities include a front desk open 24 hours with multilingual staff, laundry services, a business center, and babysitting. A breakfast buffet is available for an additional charge.
For convenience and comfort, the Mercure Reims Centre Cathédrale is a great choice near the historic center, about a 10-minute walk from the cathedral. This four-star hotel has a 24-hour front desk, business center, and parking. The soundproofed guest rooms feature a sleek contemporary style, updated bathrooms, wide-screen televisions, and refrigerators. Specializing in authentic French cuisine, the hotel's restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Room service is also available.
The Golden Tulip Reims L Univers is located near the train station about a 10-minute walk from the cathedral and other landmarks in the historic center of town. This convenient four-star hotel has a 24-hour front desk with multilingual staff, concierge services, and a restaurant serving lunch and dinner. The soundproofed rooms feature modern decor and premium bedding. A breakfast buffet and room service are available.
- Budget Hotels: In the historic center of Reims near the bustling Place Drouet d'Erlon, the Hôtel des Arcades is within easy walking distance of the cathedral and the museum of fine arts. The hotel offers basic rooms at an affordable price, but has considerable style and sleek modern bathrooms for a two-star property. A continental breakfast buffet is available.
The Hôtel Ibis Reims Centre is conveniently located near the historic city center within walking distance of many top tourist attractions. This three-star hotel offers excellent value without compromising on style. The hotel has a 24-hour front desk (with multilingual staff) and snack bar, as well as laundry services. A breakfast buffet is available for an additional charge.
For those on a tight budget who don't mind very basic accommodations, the Résidence Hôtelière Laudine is a good option on the outskirts of town near the Basilique Saint-Rémi. The small, simple guest rooms include kitchenettes with refrigerators and microwaves. A self-service laundry facility and parking are also available. Guests may choose to pay an additional fee for a breakfast buffet in the cafeteria.
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The Champagne and Lorraine Regions: Reims is nestled in the beautiful Champagne region, a landscape of woodlands, valleys, and rolling vine-covered hills. Besides its gorgeous pastoral scenery, the area is full of historic treasures, such as medieval towns and ancient castles.
Neighboring the Champagne region, the Lorraine region is appreciated for its pristine countryside, especially the Vosges Mountains' forested hills and alpine lakes, as well as for its cultured cities. The "City of Art and History," Metz (a two-hour drive away) is the closest urban center to Reims in the Lorraine region. Renowned for its refined Baroque architecture, the elegant town of Nancy is about a 2.5-hour drive away from Reims or just a two-hour ride on the TGV train.
Cultured Towns in Northern France: Many vibrant cities and atmospheric towns are found north of Reims. At the top of most tourist itineraries is Paris, about a 90-minute drive or 45-minute TGV train ride from Reims. In the historic Picardy region, charming and cultured Amiens (less than a two-hour drive away) delights visitors with its impressive monuments, trendy medieval quarter, and other unique tourist attractions.
Farther north, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region is dotted with quaint villages and typical Flemish towns, such as Arras (about a two-hour drive). A tour of Flemish Baroque architecture continues in Lille (two hours away by train or car), the most important metropolis in French Flanders. Tourists will enjoy discovering the city's appealing old-world character, as well as its exceptional fine arts museums.