Reims (Durocortorum in Latin, Rheims in Old French; pop. 185,000) is the capital of the Champagne-Ardenne region and of the Marne department. It is the city where the kings of France used to be crowned.
Three of the city's monuments were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1991 : the Cathedral of Our Lady of Rheims, the Former Abbey of Saint-Remi, and the Palace of Tau.
Many of the largest Champagne producing houses have their headquarters in Reims, including among others Taittinger, Pommery, Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, Piper-Heidsieck, Ruinart and Krug. Most are open for tasting and tours by appointment.
Before the Roman conquest of Gaul, the city was the capital of the Remi tribe, which gave its name to Reims. Christianity was established in the town by the middle of the 3rd century, at which period the bishopric was founded.
Clovis conquered the remnants of northern Roman Gaul in 486. 10 years later, he converted to Christianity on request of his Burgundian wife, and was baptized by Remi, bishop of Reims.
Under Charlemagne, Turpin becomes the first Archbishop of Reims. In the 10th century, Reims had become a centre of intellectual culture under Archbishop Adalberon, one of the prime authors of the revolution which put the Capetian dynasty in the place of the Carolingians. One of his pupils, a monk known as Gerbert of Aurillac (950-1003), studied at the cathedral school of Reims, then became the teacher of Emperor Otto III and Pope Gregory V, before being himself elected as Pope Silvester II.
From the early 13th century, the Archbishop of Reims took precedence over all the other peers of France.
During the Hundred Years' War, the English had made a futile attempt to take Reims by siege in 1360. The Treaty of Troyes (1420) ceded it to them, but they were soon expelled by Joan of Arc, who in 1429 had Charles VII consecrated in the cathedral.
Reims was damaged during French Revolution (as it was a symbol of the monarchy), as well as in all major wars in the 19th and 20th century : the Napoleonic Wars (1814), the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1), WWI (1914) and WWII (1945). The cathedral was severely damaged by German bombardment and a subsequent fire in 1914. It took 40 years to repair the edifice.
It is in Reims that General Eisenhower and the Allies received the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht on 7th May 1945.
Reims is a fairly compact city, with most of the sights with a 500m radius from the old Roman forum. Apart from two churches and a museum, all the attractions are located in a north-south axis between Mars Gate (on Place de la République) and Tau Palace (next to Place Carnegie).
The train station is north-west of the historical centre. It faces the green Colbert Square , followed by the lively Place Drouet-d'Erlon, which welcomes weary train passengers with its multitude of hotels, restaurants and cafés. The so-called Hautes promenades and Basses promenades, on each side of Colbert Square, are 18th-century parks comprised between the boulevards on the north-west of the city centre, where the city walls once stood.
Reims Cathedral ※|
The magnificent Gothic cathedral where kings of France were crowned.
|Hôtel des Comtes de Champagne|
Gothic-style residence of the Counts of Champagne. It is located on Rue du Tambour and now belongs to the Taittinger family.
|Hôtel de Ville|
The town hall was reconstructed after being destroyed during WWI, though the 17th-century façade survived.
A typical Louis XVI-style square with arcades and balustraded roofs. It is located south of the forum.
|St. James' Church|
The Église St-Jacques
is another superb example of Gothic architecture and stained glass windows. It is located 200m west of the cathedral.
|Porte de Mars|
A 3rd-century Roman triumphal arch that was part of the original Roman city wall. Bas-relief sculptures of Romulus & Remus and other classical themes are still visible. It is located at the northern extremity of Rue de Mars
(north of the town hall).
The remains of the old the Gallo-Roman forum. It is located on Place du Forum.
Most of the local Maisons de Champagne (wine producers) have guided tours (in French or English) of their cellars with the inevitable tasting session at the end. Here are the addresses of the most famous (alphabetically):
- Krug, 5 rue Coquebert - Tel. 03 26 84 44 20.
- Lanson, 66 rue de Courlancy - Tel. 03 26 78 50 50.
- Mumm, 34 rue du Champ de Mars - Tel. 03 26 49 59 70.
- Piper-Heidsieck, 51 boulevard Henry Vasnier - Tel. 03 26 84 43 00.
- Pommery, 5 place du Général Gouraud - Tel. 03 26 61 62 56.
- Louis Roederer, 21 boulevard Lundy - Tel. 03 26 40 42 11.
- Ruinart, 4 rue des Crayères - Tel. 03 26 77 51 51.
- Taittinger, 9 place Saint Nicaise - Tel. 03 26 85 45 35.
- Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, 1 place des Droits de l'Homme - Tel. 03 26 89 53 90.
West of the Gallo-Roman forum stands the Hôtel de la Salle, a Renaissance house built between 1545 and 1556.
On Rue Carnot, starting from the middle of the western side of the square, one can admire the 16th-century Chapter's Gate (Porte du Chapitre) and its mini-turrets, which open a passage toward Place du Chapitre, a small canonical enclosure just behind the cathedral.
Crossing the railway by Avenue de Laon, you reach the Surrender Museum (Salle de Reddition, at 12, Rue Franklin-Roosevelt), the former headquarters of General Eisenhower at the end of WWII, and where the surrender of Nazi Germany was signed on 7th May 1945.
How to get there
Reims is located at the crossroads of three major motorways: the E50 between Paris (145km) and Metz (190km), the E46 between Soissons (60km) and Charleville-Mézières (90km), and the E17 between Arras, Laon (70km), Châlons-en-Champagne (50 km) and Troyes (125 km).
Since June 2007, the new TGV-Est line operates between Paris and Strasbourg via Reims (45min). Regular train take 1h30min. Trains from/to Laon or Chalons-en-Champagne take 35 min to 1 hour. Charleville-Mézières is about 50min away.
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