A scenic 40-minute ride from east Paris is the town of Reims. Though it’s tough to pronounce unless you can master the throat-forward nuance of the French language—it’s easy to fall in love with this small town. Especially since it’s anything but: Reims is actually a larger city in France’s northeastern Grand Est region, with more than 180K residents. But, because so few travelers are aware of this green, rustic destination, strolling around the cobblestone streets and popping into brasseries dated 100s of years ago is a relaxing, dazzling experience.
And one could say: bubbly.
Reims is the ‘unofficial’ capital of the champagne-making region of France. Neighboring town, Epernay will argue they hold the same title—and both are worth a visit for your honeymoon. Especially for those couples who have been-there, ate-that-crepe in Paris, this muted—yet vibrant—area provides a vacation for all of your senses. And a romantic, tipsy immersion into one of the world’s most prized wine varieties. Regardless if your palette favors blanc de blanc or blanc de noir, there are many sips to have as you toast to the start of your marriage.
Here, a guide to planning a honeymoon to Champagne (with a capital ‘C’ and all), France:
Arriving in Paris
Though—technically speaking—you can fly into Paris and take a train directly to Reims right away, it’s worth it to spend a few nights in the City of Lights. After all, you are on the trip where you have full permission to go overboard on the romance. And of all the places in the world where PDA is not only tolerated, but encouraged, the capital of France tops the list. We suggest booking a night at Hotel De Sers and—if you can swing it—upgrading to their Eiffel Suite. This impressive one-of-a-kind room features a full living room, master bedroom, second bathroom and balcony with a captivating view of the legendary structure (hence the name). While you and your partner recover from jet lag, enjoy espresso in the morning and prepare your palette with a bottle of champagne at night, as the Eiffel sparkles before you.
Another option if your preferred accommodation is a home-away-from-home is to book an apartment with Paris Perfect. This boutique and locally-owned company features Parisian abodes, varying in size and style, that share one important feature in common: a view of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re mindful of your budget, having a fully-equipped kitchen will allow you to cook at home and integrate into the laid-back French mindset easily.
Getting to Reims and Epernay
Once you’ve wrapped up a few days of sightseeing (or snuggling) in the city, head to the Paris East train station. It’s recommended to book your train ticket to Reims or Epernay in advance and to give yourself thirty minutes to find your track and grab a coffee for the ride. You’re technically taking the commuter rail, TGV Paris, as opposed to a leisure train. This brings down the cost significantly, and you can expect to pay less than $150 each for a round-trip.
Accommodations in Reims or Epernay
While many wine aficionados will prioritize trips to Tuscany, Bordeaux, Mendoza and Marlborough, few consider Reims and Epernay as part of the same family. Considering champagne is a type of wine with regulated and prestigious winemaking standards and a fascinating history that began with a monk (Dom Perigon!), it’s definitely worth the trip. But, unlike these other vineyards around the globe, Epernay and France don’t have a laundry list of honeymoon-worthy hotels. In fact, most couples will choose to book an Airbnb since privacy is the number one priority for most. In Reims and Epernay, you can find chateaus overlooking vines and small mountains, apartments with view of the infamous Reims Cathedral, and other highly-rated gems for less than $100 a night.
If you would like to be pampered at a luxury hotel, consider L'Assiette Champenoise and Domaine Les Crayères in Reims, or Hotel Jean Moët (yep, that Moët) and La Villa Eugène in Epernay. Because a 30-minute, $8 train ride connects these two towns, you can stay in either. If you would like more options for fine dining, restaurants and nightlife, select Reims. If you intend to stay in every evening with your new spouse and desire a more relaxed romantic getaway, pick Epernay.
Getting Around Reims and Epernay
Your mode of transportation in these French hubs is mostly determined based on your budget. If you want the freedom to go from one champagne house to another, taste as many bubbles as you can and go at your own speed, it’s worth the cost to hire a personal driver for a few days. Though this is pricey—think around $300 or more a day—it is the most intimate experience for a honeymoon. If you would like to stick to only those houses that are located on Avenue de Champagne in Epernay or downtown Reims, you can take the connecting train between the cities. If you do this, there are also many other smaller champagne towns along the way, all unintentionally appropriately-named, like Dizy and Bouzy.
Though it is possible to take an Uber from Reims, it isn’t cheap, averaging around $50 for a 30-minute ride. And it’s tougher to get home since the smaller villages don’t have the ride-sharing app. If you happen to find a driver though, whip out your translation app and ask for his or her number, so you can schedule a pick-up when you’re ready to head back to your accommodations. If you stay at a hotel, a concierge can also assist with getting around. For those couples who DIY their trips, there are several tour companies in the area that offer various experiences—including tastings, cellar tours and more.
The Champagne Houses
Regardless if you have visited countless vineyards or wineries before, you likely haven’t heard about the detailed and curious history of champagne. In fact, if you tend to pick ‘sparkling wine’ because it’s cheaper, you aren’t actually enjoying champagne since to use this name, you must produce wines from this one area in France. And unlike other grapes that have a few harvests every year, champagne grapes are only allowed a three-week period in September. This puts the pressure on—no pun intended—since unpredictable weather can make or break the quality and taste. When you visit various houses, you’ll learn more about their individual approach, aging process and what sets them apart from others at the wine story.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to visit every house you love since some are closed to the public, or only available through specific, bookable experiences. However, most allow you to get close to where some of the magic happens by offering shops or historical tours. For example, the Dom Perignon House doesn’t allow visitors but you can visit the Abbaye Saint-Pierre d'Hautvillers, where the monk and champagne legend is buried. You can also take a tour in downtown Epernay, where you’ll be guided through the history of Dom Perignon and Moët, complete with tastings of various vintages.
As the only champagne house that was founded by a couple, many honeymooners want to visit Perrier-Jouët, but it’s also a house that doesn’t welcome visitors. However, you can shop through a collection of goods in Epernay, and even take home a bottle at a lower price than you’ll find in the states. Perrier-Jouët also donated a portion of their property as part of a partnership to build a museum in Epernay, which will open next summer.
One of the most beloved brands by winos is Krug, located in Reims. Though you can’t take a tour of the mansion and cellars by yourselves, you can be granted access if you stay at L'Assiette Champenoise and book their Krug experience. Available in limited quantities, call ahead if you want this five-star treatment that includes one night with a suite balneo terrace, a half-bottle of Champagne Krug Grande Cuvee, breakfast in-room, dinner for two with a Krug pairing, and an exclusive visit to the Krug home.
A handful of houses do welcome visitors in various forms. Recently renovated, Nicolas Feuillatte is a great first stop for honeymooners. Their tour details the winemaking process, leading you through various points of their production, and ends with a tasting of their best selects. Champagne Pommery in Reims is also an exciting experience, especially if you have a knack for art and design. Their cellars are one of the few that are open to the public, and highlight a vast variety of underground installations. In recent years, Bollinger has welcomed visitors for tours, but only hosts a few a day—so book in advance to ensure you have a spot. A smaller, female-led house, Champagne Ayala also allows for visitors if you set up directly via their website.
Otherwise, it’s worth a stroll down Avenue de Champagne in Epernay and popping into various tasting rooms. Depending on how many sips you take, prices can range from $10 to $100, so be sure to double-check before getting started. After all, the more champagne you drink, the harder it may be to make decisions. Many couples will also enjoy splurging on tasting menus in these cities, since there are more than a dozen Michelin-star rated restaurants, varying in French classic and even Japanese fusion.
Bottom line? Or perhaps, the last pop? Champagne may not only be for celebrations but if there was ever an excuse to drink tons of bubbly and sleep in with the person you picked for life, your honeymoon is it. Clink-clink, you two!