Epernay or Reims: Which One Should You Visit During a Trip to Champagne?

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When it comes to exploring Champagne, there are two main cities to visit: Reims and Epernay. However, if you’re short on time and can’t visit both, which one do you choose? Epernay or Reims? 

While you can certainly see both in a weekend in Champagne, say you really want to just focus on one town or that you really only have 1 day. Let me tell you, this isn’t the easiest choice. Both cities are fantastic places to base yourself to enjoy delicious bubbly. 

But, to help you decide, I’ve come up with this Reims vs Epernay guide to help you choose for yourself which city is best for your visit to Champagne. 

Champagne being poured into glasses

Epernay or Reims: Which One Should You Visit?

To break this guide down, I’ve got categories to compare the two including a background of each city, things to do, how easy it is to get to, hotels, Champagne houses, and more!

Epernay or Reims: Background on Each

Street in Reims

Reims is the largest city in the department of Marne, with a population of around 197,000 people. It is the 12th largest city in France, and it was the traditional city for the coronations of French kings.  

Epernay, on the other hand, is a much smaller city of about 30,000 people. It is known as the Capital of Champagne, as it is close to many vineyards. It also has a whole street dedicated to Champagne houses called Avenue de Champagne where you’ll find producers like Moet et Chandon, Perrier-Jouet, and more. 

Hotel de Ville in Epernay

Both are fantastic places to visit, but they each have their own unique characteristics, meaning you may want to choose which to visit based on what you’re hoping to accomplish with your time there. 

Epernay VS. Reims: Grapes Grown

Champagne Tasting in Reims - Ruinart tasting

There are actually 4 main subregions of Champagne: Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne, Cote des Blancs, and Cote des Bar. 

The Montagne de Reims is just south of the city of Reims and mostly grows Pinot Noir. These create some bolder Champagnes, and these vineyards are closest to Reims. 

Vallee de la Marne is located around Epernay and to the west. This region mostly grows Pinot Meunier but there is also Pinot Noir production too. These can be blended to get a Blanc de Noirs. 

Cote des Blancs is located next to Epernay on the east and to the south a bit and focuses mostly on Chardonnay production. This is where you’ll find many Blanc des Blancs.

White grapes on a vine in Burgundy - Weekend in Dijon

Cote des Bar is the furthest south of both Epernay and Reims and focuses mostly on Pinot Noir. 

For the most part, a lot of the grapes used in Champagne come from the more popular regions around Epernay and Reims: Montagne de Reims, Vallee de la Marne, and Cote des Blancs. 

Now many Champagne houses combine grapes from these regions, so in the end, it likely won’t matter much where you visit. But it is nice to know where the grapes are grown. 

I mean if you enjoy Blanc des Blancs Champagne, perhaps Epernay and the surrounding area is a better fit versus if you prefer Pinot Noir or Blanc des Noirs. But again, many Champagne houses combine grapes from these regions.

Which is Easiest to Get to and Around: Reims or Epernay, France?

Monument in Epernay

Next up when it comes to visiting Epernay vs Reims is how easy it is to get to. 

Reims is about 1.5 hours away from Paris if you’re driving or about 45 minutes via a direct train from Gare de l’Est in Paris. 

Epernay is about 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Paris if you’re driving or about 1 hour and 20 minutes if you take a direct train from Gare de l’Est in Paris. 

To get from Epernay to Reims or vice versa, it is about 35 minutes via the train or car. 

Once you’re in either city, you can get around via buses. Reims also has a tram system. 

Epernay has many bike baths and you can rent bicycles to get around if you wish as well. However, Eperany is a pretty walkable city, so it is easy to get around on foot, especially in the city center for the most part.

The city center of Reims is walkable too, but many of the larger Champagne houses are a bit further out from the city center, meaning you may want to consider taking a Bolt or public transportation. 

Champagne Houses in Reims and Epernay

Shop at Veuve Clicquot

Both cities have a mixture of Champagne houses ranging from internationally well-known producers to smaller houses. 

Here are some great Champagne houses in each city to check out and choose whether you should visit Epernay or Reims based on your preferences.

Champagne Houses in Reims:

Maison Ruinart: Oldest established Champagne house in the world. Cellars here are actually old Roman chalk quarries and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is also an art installation in the largest quarry. 

Champagne Tasting in Reims - Ruinart

Taittinger: Also has cellars that were former Roman chalk mines, and they are one of the largest producers of Champagne. The cellars are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Veuve Clicquot: Where the Grande Dame of Champagne, Madame Clicquot, helped make Champagne what it is today. She is credited with creating the first vintage Champagne where all the grapes in the bottle are from the same year. She also invented riddling to get rid of the lees and make Champagne clear. The cellars here are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tasting a glass of Veuve Clicquot

Champagne Pommery: Another house with a strong female history, Madame Pommery was the first to create Brut Champagne, a drier Champagne versus the sweeter styles. This Champagne house is also known for its Gallo-Roman chalk cellars and the ability to do self-guided tours here. 

Champagne Pol Couronne: This is a smaller Champagne house where you can go for tastings and even learn the art of sabrage. This is when you open a bottle of Champagne with a saber.

G.H. Mumm: Another great Champagne house where you can take a cellar tour and have a tasting. 

Champagne Lanson: One of the oldest Champagne houses in Reims.

GH Martel Champagne House

Champagne GH Martel & Co: Has chalk cellars dating back to the Medieval period. It is a smaller and quaint Champagne house. 

PS- Check out my Champagne tasting guide to Reims!

Champagne Houses in Epernay:

Champagne tasting at Moet & Chandon -

Moet et Chandon: This is the largest Champagne producer in the world and well worth a visit. They offer many great tours with tastings, and they have the largest cellars in the region. Located on Avenue de Champagne. 

Champagne Alfred Gratien: Known as the “Baby Krug” because they age their wines in oak during their production process like Krug does (sadly, you cannot visit Krug). The Champagne is very good here. 

Alfred Gratien Champagne Tasting

Champagne Esterlin: Great spot on the Avenue de Champagne for a tasting.

Chateau Comtesse Lafond: Beautiful chateau on Avenue de Champagne that offers tours and tastings. You can also book a sabrage here.  

Champagne Mercier: Has a driverless train tour of their cellars and many tour options including an option to visit their vineyard. Also located on the Avenue de Champagne.

Champagne de Venoge: Charming Champagne house on Avenue de Champagne with tours of their mansion and cellars.  

Statue of perfect with Champagne Glass at Chateau de Venoge

Champagne Paul-Etienne Saint Germain: Also on Avenue de Champagne, this smaller Champagne house is perfect to just pop in for a quick tasting.

Champagne de Castellane: Great spot to taste Champagne as well as go on their cellar tour, visit the museum, and enjoy their tower with amazing views. Also located on the Avenue de Champagne.

Champagne Collard-Picard: Another great place on the Avenue de Champagne for a quick tasting and for shopping. 

Champagne Perrier-Jouet: Have lunch or a glass of bubbly at their Champagne bar. They also have tastings and workshops. This is also located on the Avenue de Champagne. 

As you can see above, almost all of the best Champagne houses in Epernay are located on Avenue de Champagne. In fact, you could honestly spend an entire day in Epernay just visiting various houses along this street. 

Whereas in Reims, they are a bit more spaced out. Another thing to note is that there are a ton of great smaller Champagne houses located in Eperany. Reims has smaller houses too, but some of the really big Champagne houses are located here. 

Perrier-Jouet Champagne House

Reims is also known for its several Champagne houses with old Roman chalk cellars. 

Basically, whether you choose Reims vs Epernay is up to you. Do you want bigger Champagne house names, smaller houses, houses that are closer together, or places with historical cellars? Or if you have a certain Champagne house that you really want to visit, you may want to consider visiting that city. 

Epernay or Reims: What Do They Offer Outside of Champagne Tastings?

Hot air balloon in Epernay

Now, many of you are likely visiting the Champagne region for the purpose of drinking Champagne. But there is a lot to do in each place outside of that too. 

So here are other cool things to do in each city to help you decide which is best for you- Epernay vs Reims. 

Things to Do in Reims:

Reims Cathedral
  • Reims Cathedral: 13th Century cathedral which was the traditional location of the coronations of the kings of France.
  • Palace of Tau: The Archbishop’s residence next to the Reims Cathedral and is now a museum with artifacts from the cathedral and the coronations.
  • Basilica Saint-Remi: Medieval church with an abbey museum.
  • Musee de la Reddition: Commemorates the end of WWII, and is where the Nazis surrendered. 
  • La Porte de Mars: Widest Roman arch in the world.
  • Musee Automobile Reims Champagne: Museum with old automobiles, motorbikes, and more. 
  • Subé Fountain: Located on Place Drouet d’Erlon and has a gilded angel on top.
  • Admire the Art Deco Architecture: After the damage of WWI, much of the city was rebuilt during the 1920s and 1930s and has beautiful Art Deco architecture. 
  • Dine at Michelin-star Restaurants: There are 5 Michelin-star restaurants in Reims to enjoy. 
  • Explore the Parc de Champagne: This is a lovely park for walking around, playing sports, and more! 
  • Fossier Biscuit Factory: See how these famous lovely pink biscuits are made.

Things to Do in Epernay: 

Portail Saint-Martin - Things to do in Epernay
  • Walk Along Avenue de Champagne: Admire the architecture and Champagne houses on this iconic street.
  • Museum of Champagne, Wine, & Regional Archaeology: Learn about the soil in the area and how it is perfect for making Champagne, the history of Champagne and the houses, and even see old farming implements. 
  • Ballon d’Epernay: Fly 150 meters in the air to see the most epic views of the city, Marne Valley, Montagne de Reims, and more!
  • Eglise Notre Dame: This much-restored church features many architectural styles and several works of art.
  • Portail Saint-Martin: A charming portal from 1540 that was part of the Notre Dame destroyed in 1909. 
  • Visit Nearby Hautvillers: Located only about 10 minutes via car or 30 minutes via bike, you can check out the Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers where the grave of Dom Perignon is located, and visit smaller Champagne houses nearby.

PS- Check out all the things to do in Epernay!

Reims is a bigger city with plenty of history including the old Roman chalk mines, the cathedral where the French kings were coronated, and even WWII history. There are some museums to check out and plenty to do that isn’t necessarily related to Champagne. 

Reims also has several Michelin star and other highly rated restaurants to enjoy. Epernay certainly has some delicious restaurants as well, but perhaps not as highly rated as those in Reims. 

Dinner at Cave a Champagne - Things to do in Epernay

Epernay, on the other hand, is a smaller town. It is also known as the Capital of Champagne. This means much of the tourism and things to do in the city are catered around Champagne. So if you want to focus on Champagne tasting and learning more about the history and such, Epernay is a great place to go. 

However, if you want a bigger city with more things to do outside of Champagne, Reims is a good option. 

Where to Stay in Reims or Epernay

Breakfast spread at Chateau de Venoge

There are more hotels in Reims overall, as it is a bigger city. However, there is a chance to stay in a Champagne house during your time in Epernay. 

So let’s talk about it. 

In Reims, the Domaine Les Crayeres is a delightful 5-star hotel. Stay in a stunning chateau where you’ll be pampered by stylish rooms and suites, gourmet restaurants (including a 2-star Michelin restaurant), and an incredible bar perfect for a glass of Champagne. 

Book it here!

Hotel in Reims

Also in Reims is the La Caserne Chanzy Hotel & Spa. This place is right across from the Reims Cathedral and has amazing views. Plus, this place has a spa with a hammam, pool, sauna, and massage treatments. 

Book it here!

Best Western Premier Hotel de la Paix is another option in Reims that is in the city center, has modern rooms, a sauna, and a cocktail lounge.

Book it here!

Now when it comes to Epernay, there are some unique places to stay, including at Champagne houses! 

Room at Les Suites du 33

Les Suites du 33 is a boutique hotel located at the Chateau de Venoge Champagne house property on the Avenue de Champagne. Stays here include breakfast and a glass of Champagne at check-in. This is a beautiful property and a great place to base yourself while wandering along the Avenue de Champagne. 

Book it here!

A. Bergere Champagne is another B&B along the Avenue de Champagne and is part of the Champagne A. Bergere domain in Epernay. 

Book it here!

Hotel Jean Moet is another great hotel located close to the Avenue de Champagne with a Champagne bar. 

Book it here!

If you prefer more accommodation options and in locations for exploring the city, you’ll enjoy Reims. Whereas if you prefer to be close the Champagne houses, or even stay at a Champagne house, you’ll love Epernay. 

Lastly, Which is Less Busy? Epernay or Reims?

Champagne Tasting in Reims - Sabrage

Okay, when it comes to which is least busy, I’m going to go with Epernay. It’s a smaller town with fewer people living and working here. Also, there are fewer tourists, as many people tend to go to Reims for the bigger name Champagne houses as well as it is easier to get to from Paris. 

This does depend on when you visit, as when we visited in April it wasn’t terribly busy in either city. 

Either way, when it comes to Champagne tours and tastings, it is super helpful to make reservations in advance. Some smaller and more casual boutique Champagne houses allow walk-in tastings, but most require reservations for tastings/tours.

I would book reservations ahead of time either directly on the Champagne house’s website or on Champagne-booking.com if you can’t do it on their website. 

Which is the Best Place in Champagne to Visit: Epernay or Reims?

Fountain in Reims

This really does depend on what you want to do, as I’ve said above. If you want to visit a city with other things to do plus big-name Champagne houses, then Reims is great.

Reims is also great for a quick day trip from Paris because it is only 45 minutes away via train. 

However, if you want smaller Champagne houses, or you want to just walk along Avenue de Champagne exploring the various houses, then Epernay is great. It is also doable as a day trip from Paris, but it does take longer to get there and back.

Ideally, you’d spend a weekend in Champagne and get to see both and decide which is better for yourself. 

Old wooden cask at Moet & Chandon - Things to do in Epernay

Personally, I absolutely loved both cities. But I really fell in love with Epernay. It is such an adorably quaint town and the Avenue de Champagne is so cute. It was cool to visit Moet but also go to smaller Champagne houses and explore. 

Plus, as it is so small, it is pretty easy to get around and just wander. 

When to Visit Champagne

Ruinart Champagne Bottles

Champagne does tend to have cold winters, and many houses either close to visitors or have reduced hours during the winter. 

So I’d skip winter and opt for a visit between April and October. I visited in April and it wasn’t busy at all, the weather was comfortable, and it was honestly just a great time to visit! 

Summer can be busy with many people visiting on vacation, as weekend getaways from Paris, and more. The weather is also nicer, making it a popular getaway destination. 

So visiting in the spring around April and May or fall in September and October is a better idea. 

Other Tips For Visiting Champagne

Row of Veuve Clicquot

Okay, hopefully by now you’ve decided which place you’d prefer to visit between Reims vs Epernay. But here are some other tips to know before you go!

This is the ultimate breakdown of which city in Champagne to visit. Whether you want to go to famous Champagne houses, historical chalk mines, or the famous Avenue de Champagne, I hope you figured out for yourself which place to visit between Reims and Epernay! 

Want more French wine and cider travel ideas? Check out these posts!


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