lying to the east of the Paris region, is one of the great historic
provinces of France. As far back as the times of the Emperor
Charlemagne, in the ninth century, Champagne was one of the great
regions of Europe, a rich agricultural area that was famous for its
fairs. Today, thanks to a type of sparkling wine to which the
region has given its name, the word Champagne is known worldwide
if many of those who know the drink do not know exactly where it comes
Champagne, that most delightful of sparkling
wines, was not actually invented in the region. According to legend, it
was monks who bought the method for making sparkling wine up
in the south of
France; but they soon discovered that the chalky soil and climatic
conditions in the Champagne region produced a bright
was in many people's opinion
better than the sparkling wines
produced further south. There was of course more to the story
champagne than that; commercial success over the centuries had as much
to do with the fact that the Champagne region was close to Paris
and other great European cities, as with the inherent qualities of the
product. But there is no region in France - perhaps no other region in
the world - whose name has been made so famous by a local product.
The modern region of Champagne-Ardenne
is not however one of the most prosperous of French regions;
indeed, in terms of GDP, it is 17th out of the 21 regions of
continental France - though 8th in terms of GDP per inhabitant. The
difference is explained by the fact that in spite of bordering on the
Paris region, Champagne is a relatively sparsely populated region -
forming the north eastern end of what geographers have called the
"empty diagonal" of France.
the capital Châlons is by no means the main city in
Champagne-Ardenne region; this honour goes to the former capital Reims
Rheims in English), one of the great historic cities of northern
France, and four times the size of Châlons.
The Champagne-Ardenne region consists
of four departments - the Ardennes
(08), the Aube
(10), the Marne
(51) and the Haute-Marne
(52). The region is bordered by Belgium in the north, by Lorraine
east, by Franche-Comté and Burgundy
in the south, and by
region and Picardy
in the west.
The region is made up essentially of
relatively flat agricultural land and areas of gently undulating hills.
The hills are higher and more pronounced in the north of the region -
the area of the Ardennes - and the south of the region, an area known
as the Plateau de Langres. The central part of Champagne is an
important agricultural area, with vast expanses of cereal production,
and – in particular north of Reims – production of
vegetables and sugar
beet. In the north of the Ardennes department, the landscape
characterised by wooded hills and valleys. The famous vineyards of
Champagne lie on the chalky hills to the south west of Reims, and
around the town of Epernay.
Apart from the
former regional capital Reims, the Champagne region is not a
particularly busy tourist destination. Its rurality, accessibility and
low population density have attracted a number of second-home owners
from the Paris region and from Belgium and Holland -
in the hillier areas; but more often than not, it is a region that
tourists pass through, rather than a destination. Lying on the main
autoroutes from Paris to Germany and from the UK or Belgium
the south of France, Reims, a university city, has all the
of a bustling regional capital; the old city is dominated by
the 13th century cathedral, one of the great gothic cathedrals
northern France, and a UNESCO world heritage site. Badly damaged in the
first world war (see WW1
sites and map
), the cathedral has been painstakingly restored
true glory. The city is also home to some of the major Champagne
producers, such as Taittinger, and cellar tours are available.
However, for perhaps the most
visits and champagne tasting, many visitors will prefer to visit the
smaller town of Epernay, fifteen miles south of Reims. Lying in the
heart of "champagne country", Epernay is home to many of the most
famous champagne producers, including Moët & Chandon
Perrier-Jouët. The town being small, it is easy to
of champagne houses or cellars on foot.
Finally, there is another small area
champagne, which is quite distinct from the Reims-Epernay vineyard. The
southern champagne vineyard area lies in the Aube department, between
the towns of Bar sur Aube and Les Riceys.
Among the many historic sites in France that are
known than they ought to be, the small hill town of Langres
in the south of the region, must be near the top of the list. Sometimes
referred to as the "Carcassonne of the North", the old town is a
remarkable ensemble of historic stone buildings, enclosed within 3.6
kilometres of ramparts, mostly dating from the 13th and 17th centuries.
But parts are much older, as Langres has been a fortified city since
Roman times; and unlike Carcassonne, Langres is not jam-packed with
The Champagne region prides itself on
historic links with some of the most iconic leaders that France has
ever had - and in particular Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc), who came from
the village of Domrémy, now in the Aude department, and
Gaulle, who is buried at Colombey les Deux Eglises, in the Haute Marne.
Contrary to false information repeated on several websites, de Gaulle
was not born here, and had no ancestral link to the region.
tourist attractions in
Champagne-Ardenne regional tourism site
hand-picked selection of hotels in
the Champagne region.
Champagne hotels have been selected on account of their
hotel name for more details, with online booking and best
For full lists of Champagne hotels, see page top right.
- Epernay - Troyes area :
takes the hassle out of finding a good hotel; we have read hundreds of
hotel reviews on different websites, excluded hundreds of hotels from
our listings, and only kept those for which the favourable or very
favourable reviews well outnumber the poor write-ups. As a result, our
hotel lists are short and very selective.
Naturally, the type and quality of service provided will
according to the type of hotel chosen; visitors cannot expect the same
service or room quality in a two-star hotel as in a four-star chateau
hotel. Our choice lists hotels that are generally judged to be above
average or well above average for their category.
See our selection of Paris
cellars visits (51): at Rheims and at Epernay. Travel
underground and see how the precious product is matured.
Mézières (08): capital of the
birthplace of the poet Rimbaud. Old town.
les Deux Eglises . village with the country residence of
General de Gaulle, who is buried here.
the "champagne capital", small town in the hills south of Reims, with
many of the biggest champagne producers. Cellar tours, champagne tours.
one of the finest mediaeval cathedrals in France. Once the kings of
France were crowned here. Historic city centre. Basilique St.
Roman triumphal arch, Champagne cellar visits.
du Der (52)
. the biggest reservoir in Europe (48km²), built in 1967, this
become a particularly important area on the migration routes of water
birds. The annual visits of flocks of cranes draw birdwatchers from all
over Europe. See Birds in
(10): Near Bar sur Aube: one of the biggest theme parks in
fortified hill town with 3.6 km of ramparts and city gates. Off the
beaten track, the historic stone-built town centre is a
ensemble. A gem
natural parks (51): the Montagne de Reims, hills south of
Reims; the forêt d'Orient, near Troyes.
tourism: the Seine, the Marne, the Aube and various canals.
Château-fort (08) - purportedly the biggest
fortress in Europe, built in the early fifteenth century.
(10): 13th century gothic cathedral with fine stained
glass; historic city centre.