7 Tips for a Day Trip to Champagne from Paris

Tasting a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne in Reims, France.
Tasting a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.

Champagne is synonymous with France. After all, the bubbly glasses of goodness originated in northern France and only sparkling wine from that region can bear the prestigious title of “Champagne.” Visiting the home of one of the most famous drinks in the world was at the top of my life long list of dreams, so on our last day in Paris—and the final day of our trip to Spain and France — Heather and I took a day trip to France’s Champagne region for some wine tasting.

Tasting a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne in Reims, France.
Tasting a glass of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.

I had visions of sipping fizzy Champagne all day and wandering around the historical region without a care in the world, but the reality was much different. We didn’t realize the region was divided into two cities (and arrived in one when we had a tour scheduled in another), among other bumps in the road. So learn from our mistakes!

7 Tips for a Day Trip to Champagne from Paris

Glasses of Moët & Chandon Champagne at Moët & Chandon Champagne House in Epernay, France.
Tasting some of Champagne’s best Champagne: Moët & Chandon.

1. The Champagne region is about an hour’s train ride from Paris.

The easiest way to Champagne from Paris is to take the high speed TGV train. The region’s two major centers are Reims and Épernay (more on that below) and the train stops in Reims (45 minutes away, about 15€) or Épernay (75 minutes, about 22€). Trains run back and forth all day and tickets can be purchased at the station before boarding or in advance online.

The view from the train outside of Epernay, France.
The view from the train just outside of Épernay, France.

2. Champagne is made up of 5 small areas, but stick to Reims and/or Épernay.

All five regions of Champagne produce sparkling wine, but the towns of Reims and Épernay are the centers of the area. A note of caution: Reims and Épernay are not that close together! We made the mistake of taking a cab from Reims to Epernay and it cost us around 100€!

If you want to see both regions, jump back on the train. It’s an inexpensive 9€ and is much quicker (about a half hour on the TGV high speed train) than taking a cab or the bus.

For train passes throughout Europe:

A row of Veuve Clicquot Champagne glasses at Veuve Clicquot in Champagne, France.
Tasting glasses of Veuve Clicquot Champagne at the winery.

3. Épernay is like Sonoma while Reims is like Napa.

After our 100€ cab ride to Épernay to tour the Moët & Chandon caves, we made the best of being in the other city and visited a smaller Champagne House (what the wineries are called), called Georges Cartier. Georges Cartier is a smaller winery that doesn’t export to the United States so we’d never get to taste it stateside. We got one-on-one attention and a private tasting of their entire line of Champagnes.

We wandered around Épernay for the rest of the morning (yes, our Moët & Chandon tour was at 9:45 a.m.) and enjoyed the peaceful, small town. It felt a lot like Sonoma.  When we finally explored the much larger, more touristy Reims (where we toured Veuve Clicquot), it reminded both of us of the more touristy Napa. That’s not good or bad, just worth mentioning for those who have been to California’s wine region and have a strong preference for one side over the other.  But…

The caves aging thousands of bottles of Moët & Chandon Champagne in Reims, France.
The caves aging thousands of bottles of Moët & Chandon Champagne.

4. Wine tasting in Champagne isn’t like it is in California.

If you’ve been wine tasting in California, you know that wineries welcome visitors to drink, relax and oftentimes eat. In Champagne, most wineries obviously want visitors and they want you to try their wines, but none of the houses we visited offered any food (which can become a problem after drinking Champagne all day!) and often shuffled us to move on after our tours. In Napa and Sonoma (where I went wine tasting last summer), I felt like I could spend all day relaxing at the wineries but in Champagne I felt like they wanted me to buy a bottle and move on.

Another major difference: Champagne is aged in underground caves so most of the tours take visitors underground to natural vaults created by chalk and/or limestone quarries, some dug out during the Roman times. It’s incredibly impressive. But keep that in mind when deciding your attire because the caves can get chilly!

The Moët & Chandon Champagne House with a statue of the famed Dom Perignon outside.
The Moët & Chandon Champagne House with a statue of the famous Dom Perignon outside.

5. Research what Champagne Houses you want to visit beforehand. 

There are a ton of Champagne Houses in the region, so have an idea which ones you want to visit before you go.  This will help decide if to go Reims, Épernay or both. Épernay is home to Mercier, Moët & Chandon (open since 1743!) who also owns Dom Pérignon; while Reims hosts Veuve Clicquot (1772), Mumm (1827) and Tattinger (1734). Wikipedia has a helpful list of houses here and Reims Tourism lists houses and languages spoken at each. Reservations can be made at most Champagne houses online beforehand.

Bonus tip: With good food comes good wine. In the case of Champagne, it’s the opposite: with good wine, comes good food.  Champagne is home to 11 Michelin-rated restaurants, so make reservations for those before heading there, too.

The Abbey of Saint Remi in Reims, France.
The Abbey of Saint Remi in Reims.

6. The region has an incredible past so don’t forget to indulge in history, too.

Because of its geographical position between many different countries, the region has seen a lot of history, particularly in the form of war. The Romans defeated the Huns in Champagne in 451 A.D., many battles of the Hundred Years’ War took place there, and it was bombed repeatedly during both World Wars. In fact, the caves of Veuve Clicquot were once used as a hospital during World War I and the remnants of a hospital cross are still visible on the cave walls. And Reims is actually the place where Eisenhower and the Allies received the German surrender on May 7, 1945.

Reims is also home to the Notre Dame de Rems Cathedral, where the coronation of every French king has taken place, and the Abbey of Saint Remi, the largest Romanesque pilgrimage church in northern France.

A carving on the wall of the Champagne caves of Veuve Clicquot in Reims, France.
A carving on the wall of the Champagne caves of Veuve Clicquot in Reims.

7.  Consider taking a guided tour.

We managed to visit the Champagne region on our own, doing a lot of research beforehand. We pulled it off, but not without some hiccups (like the 100€ cab ride). At the end of the day when we were exhausted from getting lost, we wished we would have signed up with a guided tour.

There are plenty online and I’m sure they are all much easier and less stressful than doing it on your own! This tour on Viator is the closest to what we did, visiting both Reims and Épernay. Or this one is just Reims while this tour is just Épernay (including Moët & Chandon and Veuve Cliquot).

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Champagne is such a contrast from Paris.  It’s definitely worth dedicating a day to explore the countryside and taste France’s most famous drink.  While parts of our day trip to Champagne was hectic, it was a sparkling end to an amazing trip through Spain and France.

Related :: 5 Incredible Facts About the Paris Opera House, 6 Things I Hated About Paris, and 7 Reasons to Take a Day Trip to Toledo.

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10 Comments

  • Hi,
    Loved this post, it has been super helpful for planning my trip to Reims/Epernay. I was wondering how much it cost to tour the different champagne houses? Also do you have any restaurant recommendations for lunch while there?

    • Thanks for reading! The tours vary by location, but they aren’t very expensive. For example, Moet & Chandon was around 30€. (Here’s how to request a tour and more info: http://us.moet.com/Visit-us/Visit-our-cellars). As for eating, I know there are a lot of great restaurants in the region (including Michelin-rated places) but I didn’t eat anywhere worth noting so I personally can’t recommend any. Sorry! Enjoy France!!

  • Thanks Kelli, Enjoyed your blog, I would like to do a tour of the trip but, it is expensive, so we are going to do it the hard way, on our own. We will be in Paris in a few weeks, and staying in the 4th arrondissment, what are other places worth exploring outside of paris apart from the usual tourist places in Paris. Appreciate your tips. Thanking you

    • Thank you! Other than Champagne, we went to the Palace of Versailles, a little outside of Paris. It was extremely touristy and very crowded, so it wasn’t my favorite place but I’m glad I experienced it. Other than that, I didn’t venture too far from Paris, although I wish I had. Sorry I can’t be of more help! If you discover somewhere interesting, I’d love to hear about it! Cheers and safe travels!
      – Kelli

  • Very helpful post. I’ll be there end of June and can’t decide if we should take the train and cabs to the Champagne Houses or take a tour. I really want to go to both Moet and Veuve but I’m having trouble finding a tour that goes to both so may have to train it and hope for the best! Did you find the trains easy to navigate? If you know of any tours that do both, please let me know!

    • Hi Liz,
      Thanks for reading! The trains were pretty easy to navigate, but I’d recommend giving yourself some extra time in case you can’t find the platform or anything like that. I don’t know of any tours that do both. If you find any, please let me know! Thank you and have fun!
      – Kelli

  • Hi Kelli! I enjoyed reading this blog. I’m flying to Paris this June and I hope to take a day trip to the Champagne Region. You just inspired me to go to Epernay to visit the Moet and Chandon Cellars. One small question though, if I took the train to Epernay, what would be the best way to commute to Moet and Chandon? And anywhere there?

    • Hi Patricia,

      Thanks for reading my blog. I think you’d be fine to take a cab from the train station to Moet & Chandon or it might even be possible to walk. I don’t remember exactly, so I don’t want to tell you for certain, but I think we walked there from the train. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help! Have fun and let me know how it goes! Cheers, Kelli

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