The Champagne Region in France is known world-wide for the quality of its vineyards and wine cellars. Champagne is serious business in France and can only this region in the north of France to be considered a true Champagne.
Driving the Champagne Route (Route du Champagne) and visiting the houses is the best way to discover the true beauty and valued qualities of this region and the Champagne itself. You will pass by magnificent views of authentic villages, ancient monasteries, and imposing châteaux and churches.
When you stop into the Champagne houses you will learn about the 18th Century old tradition of hand-picking the crops and hand-spinning the Champagne bottles which remains a requirement in this Region today.
Here is your guide to driving the Champagne Route in France including main stops, where to eat, and the best places to stay along the Route du Champagne!
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Map of the Champagne Routes in France
There are eight official Champagne Routes (Route du Champagne) in the Champagne area, which you can find by downloading the Champagne Touristic Route Map. We did some research and decided to drive the Montagne de Reims route starting in the Champagne capital of Reims and heading towards Épernay because there was a nice mix of large, notable champagne houses as well as smaller, boutique champagne houses to try. On this route you can also stop and see the famous Verzenay Lighthouse that overlooks the vineyards.
If you want to continue south from Épernay, continue onto the Côte des Blancs route to admire the panorama of the vineyards from Mont Aimé and enjoy the charms of the flowery village of Oger. In Aube around Bar-sur-Seine with its half-timbered houses, make a stop at Essoyes where Impressionist artist Auguste Renoir lived for a few years – and visit one of the 28 champagne cellars.
On the Massif of Saint-Thierry route you can enjoy a beautiful viewpoint from Trigny, a flower-filled village with medieval ramparts.
The fourth route takes you East from Epernay, along the Vallee de la Marne route to discover the vineyards along the water in the Marne valley.
The remaining four routes: Vallee de L’Andre, Coteaux Sud d’Epernay, Brie Champenoise, and Coteaux du Sezannais are less traveled by tourists but maybe that is what makes them appealing to you!
When to Visit the Champagne Region
A good general rule is to visit between May and October. If you want to visit during the shoulder season for reduced crowds, May through June or the month of October will be on the lighter side. However, you may run into the problem of finding open restaurants in the smaller towns of Champagne due it being off-season. August through September is the busy season in the region when the grape harvesting begins and the Champagne houses are the busiest.
How to Get Around the Champagne Region
Renting a Car to Drive the Champagne Route
You really have two options, either rent a car or join a champagne tour. We really enjoyed driving ourselves as we were able to dictate our own schedule and stop whenever we wanted a photo. Driving yourself is very easy as the roads are well maintained and the routes are clearly marked.
You will see many gold and black signs that say “Route touristique du Champagne” to point you in the right direction of the next town on the route. You can see one in the photo above where we are about to make a left, and below as well when we arrived in the town of Bouzy.
Read my international trip planning guide for the tips and tricks you need to know before renting a car internationally!
Join a Champagne Tour
If you are not so keen on driving in a foreign country, the easiest option would be to join a champagne tour via a day-trip from Paris. This way you have peace of mind that you won’t get lost, and you will be able to venture outside of Paris to the Champagne country-side! You will likely be visiting some of the larger named Champagne houses on an organized tour, so keep that in mind when booking.
Here are a few options to consider:
The Main Stops Along the Champagne Route
Champagne Houses – Reims
We suggest selecting a few well-known champagne houses to tour as well as a few smaller houses to get a well rounded experience. The smaller houses are usually family run and will give you a more authentic experience. You can also stop by any house for just a tasting and skip the tour.
If you are starting or ending in Reims, the main champagne houses to visit are:
- Vranken Pommery, 5 Place du Général Gouraud, 51100 Reims
- Taittinger, 9 Place Saint-Nicaise, 51100 Reims
- Veuve Clicquot, 12 Rue du Temple, 51100 Reims
- G.H. Mumm, 29 Rue du Champ de Mars, 51100 Reims
- Champagne Jacquart, 34 Boulevard Lundy, 51100 Reims
We did a cellar tour and tasting at G.H. Mumm where we were shown the art of capturing the bubbles inside of Champagne bottles, as well as the hand spinning of the bottles. It is best to book your tickets in advance online.
Champagne Houses – Épernay
The main champagne houses to visit in Épernay are Moët et Chandon and Champagne Mercier. We opted for a smaller, family-run Champagne house in Épernay called Champagne De Gallais.
Oh my – was this spot a treat! Here you can enjoy a tasting overlooking their gorgeous vineyards and take a tour of their family-owned cellars and a gorgeous castle on the grounds.
It was an amazing experience to take a tour through the Vineyards and wine cellars at Champagne De Gallais because it was so personal and we felt that we connected personally with the farmers. Our dog even loved his visit too!
Drive the Route touristique du Champagne Through Small French Towns
When you aren’t stopping at Champagne houses for tours and tasting, really try to enjoy the scenery outside the window. We stopped at a few small towns along the Montage de Reims route and couldn’t get over the stunning landscapes of vineyards that go on for as far as you can see.
As mentioned earlier, in Verzenay you will find the famous Verzenay lighthouse, which watches over the vineyards below and houses the Musée de la Vigne (the Museum of the Vine).
There isn’t much in this town, but honestly I couldn’t help but stop in a town called Bouzy on a Champagne driving tour in the Champagne region of France! On your way out of town there is a beautiful vineyard with the town in the background that is worth stopping and taking a photo (pictured above left).
This was our last town stop before the bigger city of Épernay. We barely saw anyone else around here, but managed to find an open restaurant to have some lunch. I love the charm of these small French towns and I would explore every one of them if I could, no matter how big or small.
Explore Épernay and the Gate of St Martin
Our last stop from Reims on the Montagne de Reims route was Épernay. In downtown, the first thing you will notice is the towering Gate of St. Martin. This is the oldest monument in town and is all that remains of the 16th century Church of Notre Dame. Right behind the gate, where the former church used to be, you can find a nice garden area with fountains and roses growing.
The downtown area in Épernay is a good place to have dinner (more reasonably priced than in Reims) or stop for some street crepes. We can never pass up a street crepe when we are lucky enough to be in France. So that is exactly what we were eating when we captured the attention of our dog pictured below – he loves crepes too!
Explore Reims and the Cathedral of Notre-Dam
Known as the Capital of Champagne, Reims is a very good home base when exploring the champagne region. Here you will find the towering Cathedral of Notre-Dam, which almost exactly like the one in Paris. Don’t forge to explore the beautiful gardens around the back!
There was a church service going on when I walked by on Sunday morning, so unfortunately I didn’t get a peak inside. However, I did instead walk around the streets of Reims admiring all the characteristics of the French architecture and imaging I lived behind those windows with roses growing out front. Reims is a beautiful place to just get lost in the streets.
Beneath the vineyards in Reims there are also underground secret tunnels that you can explore.
Where to Stay in Champagne France
We decided to stay in the city center of Reims at Cecyl Reims in order to drive the Montagne de Reims champagne route. The rooms were quirky, allowed pets (which was essential, and just big enough for our purposes. However you could easily book a hotel in Épernay to do the same champagne route.
If you are looking for an experience outside of the larger towns, there are plenty of quaint chateaux and B&B’s to stay along the wine route. Here are a few of my favorites that I would consider for our next trip:
The Château de Sacy – $$
If I could do it all over again, I would splurge for a stay at Château de Sacy. Located just outside of Reims in a vineyard in Sacy, France this château is the perfect way to immerse yourself into the culture of the Region.
Set amongst the vineyards, you can take a bike ride through the vineyards or just enjoy a glass of Champagne on the patio enjoying the view. Pets are even welcome, so our dog can still join us next time too – seriously sign me up.
Location: Rue des Croisettes, 51500 Sacy
The Voirin Jumel Estate – $
If you are looking for something more reasonably priced, then this B&B located outside of Épernay in Cramat, France is for you! Cramat is located along the Côte des Blancs champagne route in France.
The vineyards on this estate have been in the family for over 5 generations. There are multiple guest cottages on the estate which are perfect for an authentic experience in the heart of the Champagne Region.
Location: 555 Rue de la Libération, 51530 Cramant
Cottages Antoinette – $$
The Cottages at Antoinette are an innovative ecological project consisting of 3 contemporary houses built in 100% natural wood. The houses are built on stilts in the vineyards of the Champagne Region, above the village of Chigny-les-Roses. This unique aspect offers you a panoramic view of the vineyard from your room.
Location: 6 Allée Frederic chopin, 51500 Chigny-les-Roses
Where to Eat in Champagne France
The restaurants in Reims are noticeably more upscale compared to Épernay or the small towns in the Champagne France. We actually had a little trouble finding an open restaurant for lunch while we were driving the Montagne de Reims route. We were told this was because we were traveling during off-season in June, however the towns were quite small as it is.
You can find a handful of restaurants on Google Maps while you are driving outside of the bigger cities of Reims and Épernay, but the opening times are very vague, if they are open at all.
My best advice (and what we did) was just to stay flexible. We ended up eating lunch in Mareuil-sur-Ay at a restaurant with three lunch options to choose from. I think I accidently ordered a tripe (intestine) salad or the waitress misunderstood my French. Either way it was so very French of me!
Le Bocal, 27 rue de Mars, 51100 Reims
We enjoyed our dinner in Reims at Le Bocal so much for it’s fresh seafood selection. The fresh fish deliveries dictate the menu that is written on the wall in chalk daily. All the fish is on display so you can pick out exactly what you want to eat for dinner.
Restaurant Le Foch, 37 Boulevard Foch, 51100 Reims
This is a MICHELIN Star restaurant with a set menu at 4 different price points. This is where you need to come for an upscale French dining experience to top off your Champagne, France experience.
Sacre Bistro, 2 Place Auban Moët, 51200 Épernay, France
There menu is burgers, wine, and champagne – how glorious is that combo. I love how laid back the environment is here. but there is still a trendy French feel to the restaurant.
La Cave a Champagne, 16 Rue Gambetta, 51200 Épernay
This is a very personal restaurant, set inside what feels like a cave decorated with scenes of Épernay. There is a set menu nightly, that I have heard is fantastic and such an authentic meal for the region.
I can’t wait for you to discover the magic of the champagne region in France! If you are planning on driving through Champagne, let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
I would love to hear from you if you used this guide and found it helpful!
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Becky Ellis says
Reblogged this on BubblyBEE.net and commented:
Do you know the way to Épernay? A happy bubbly road!