I have this thing about bubbles. Champagne, Prosecco, Brut—you name it, I’ll guzzle it. Heck, I even had an entire champagne bar at my wedding.
So it’s no wonder that when I visited France, one of the very first things we did was book one of the tours to Champagne from Paris.
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The Champagne region is about 120 kilometers east of Paris, with the main highlights being the city of Reims (Montagne de Reims is known for full-bodied pinot noir grapes) and the quaint town of Epernay which is a good base for sampling Chardonnay-based bubbles.
Cobblestone streets wind past outdoor cafés and gothic churches, and there are sweeping views of bright green vineyards dotting the countryside in this picturesque area.
READ MORE: 15 best day trips from Paris, France
The only thing that could make your day trip from Paris better is taking it all in with a glass of champs, which is precisely what most visitors come here to do.
Here’s the ultimate guide to the top Champagne tours in France, and what else to do in the region when you need a break from the bubbles.
First, a little background if you’re stumped about exactly what’s being poured in your champagne flute.
Champagne must be made from grapes cultivated in the Champagne region of France, whereas Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine. Brut is champagne but without the sugar, while sparkling wine is just sweet. Get it? Good.
The Champagne appellation d’origine contrôlée includes a production zone that was legally established in 1927. This zone spans about 34,300 hectares and comprises 319 villages, known as “crus.”
There are over 280,000 plots of land dedicated to vine cultivation in the region, which are meticulously tended to by a community of over 16,000 growers.
It’s worth noting that the Champagne region isn’t just about champagne–it’s also known for producing excellent still wines known as ‘Coteaux Champenois.’ Though not as famous as their bubbly siblings, these still wines showcase another facet of the region’s winemaking prowess.
Tours to Champagne from Paris
A number of group and private tours take wine-ohs on Champagne tours from Paris by train, e-bike, coach or luxury car. You can also stretch out your time in the area with a three or four day tour, or simply explore on your own and booking ahead (reservations are strongly recommended, and most houses close for a couple of hours around lunchtime).
Here are some of the most popular French Champagne tours.
Champagne region tours: Piper Heidsieck + Moët & Chandon
My friend and I opted for a day trip, and hopped on a bus tour which zipped us straight to Reims, home of the esteemed Piper-Heidsieck cellars.
The tour begins with a little walk around the property, before heading inside for a tour through the dark, cold cellars. Visitors learn about the actual process of growing the grapes, fermenting and bottling them, and how the chilled bottles are corked.
You’ll get to see thousands of bottles maturing, before heading back upstairs for a taste of the good stuff. There is also a gift store where you can buy champagne or souvenirs like champagne flutes…which we did and would definitely NOT recommend since fragile glasses aren’t much fun to cart around Europe.
After the Piper-Heidsick tour we got a chance to have lunch and walk around town for a bit, before heading to Epernay—which is home to the storied Moët & Chandon cellars which is the world’s largest Champagne house and a UNESCO Heritage Site.
This is the where the big guns are, people. Dom Perignon himself.
This maze of cellars is the largest in the Champagne region, spanning nearly 30 kilometers under the chalky soil. Guided tours include a chance to explore the cellars (dress warmly as it’s only 10-12°C), before returning to the sun-soaked vineyards for a tasting.
The 90 minute experience costs 40€ to 75€ per person, depending on which varietals you sample.
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Apart from the large-scale Champagne houses, there’s an undiscovered charm in the smaller, family-run vineyards that produce their own unique blends. Each vineyard has its story to tell, its ancestral methods of cultivation and fermentation passed down from generation to generation.
Things to do in Champagne, France
If you extra time to spare (or just need a time out from the booze), the region has plenty of attractions beyond the vineyards.
Reims is home to three UNESCO World Heritage sites:
- The Cathedral of Notre-Dame: A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, known for its towering edifice complete with intricate stone carvings and stunning stained glass windows
- Palais du Tau: The former archbishop’s palace has been transformed into a museum housing a fascinating collection of artifacts, including the regalia worn by French kings at their coronation ceremonies.
- Basilica of Saint Remi: A Romanesque church housing the remains of Saint Remi, the bishop who baptized Clovis who was the first Christian King of France. Saint Remi Museum is nearby, and housed in a former abbey with a rich collection of artifacts dating from Gallo-Roman and Merovingian times.
The natural landscapes of Champagne are ideal for hiking or biking along the signposted trails that crisscross the vineyards, offering panoramic views of the region. You’ll also find tranquil rivers perfect for leisurely canoe trips, and even serene hot-air balloon rides over the vineyards for a bird’s-eye view of the patchwork landscape below.
Over in Montagne de Reims National Park, villages like Hautvillers are nestled amidst the vines, await exploration. Hautvillers is known as the “cradle of champagne,” as it’s the town where Dom Pérignon developed the method for making sparkling wine that we now know as champagne.
Wandering through its ancient streets, you’ll discover the picturesque abbey where Pérignon was once a cellarer.
While Epernay may be quaint, it boasts the Avenue de Champagne, often described as the most expensive avenue in the world due to millions of bottles ageing in cellars beneath the street. It’s lined with historic townhouses, many of which are the headquarters of renowned Champagne houses.
FAQ about the Champagne wine region
Where to eat: While you’re here, don’t overlook the region’s culinary delights. Champagne’s gastronomy is as sophisticated as its wines, offering local delicacies like ‘Biscuits Roses de Reims,’ a unique pink biscuit traditionally dipped in champagne, and ‘Jambon de Reims,’ a succulent ham.
The region is also famous for sweet treats like ‘Truffe de Champagne,’ a delectable chocolate truffle made with champagne ganache and the classic ‘Tarte aux Sucre’ sugar pie.
Getting around: While taxis are available, they can be quite expensive. A better option is to rent an e-bike, or book a guided tour a local operator so you can simply enjoy all that bubbly without having to worry about logistics. Here are some unique tours ideal for those based in the area:
The best time to visit Champagne, France: To experience a Champagne harvest, time your visit for fall. The annual celebration brings together locals and visitors alike in a spirited atmosphere of camaraderie and festivity. You might even get a chance to partake in the grape-picking, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will deepen your appreciation for every future sip of champagne.
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