Paris attracts millions of visitors over the holiday season, many of whom consider taking a day trip to Strasbourg for its famous Christmas market. However, few realize it’s actually much easier to get to Reims, home to France’s third largest holiday market and the cellars of one of the festive season’s most popular beverages: champagne.
Although it might seem like taking the train is a lengthy affair, at only 45 minutes by high speed train, going to Reims is virtually like crossing Paris, plus it’s also a whole hour less than the journey to Strasbourg. Strasbourg’s marché de Noël in is lovely, nevertheless, it’s becoming a victim of its own success with an ever-increasing number of visitors shuffling through its crowded rows. The Christmas market in Reims, with the magical backdrop of the city’s awe-inspiring gothic cathedral, provides a less busy and extremely authentic French holiday market experience. This year it will be held from November 21st to December 28th and feature 140 stalls of artisanal crafts, regional specialities and gourmet food items. If you visit the market on the weekend you will also be treated lively concerts and other entertainment taking place in the afternoons.
The festive ambiance extends beyond the market with a 50-metre high ferris wheel and a giant Christmas tree in nearby place d’Erlon. Families may want to make a detour to La Foire de Noël et des Rois, a holiday fun fair with more than 100 attractions that is taking place across the river from December 1st to January 6th.
Add additional sparkle to your day by visiting some of the champagne cellars conveniently situated at the edge of town, like the Domaine Pommery-Vranken. Cleverly designed by owner Louise Pommery, the gorgeous Elizabethan-style estate was the first champagne house to open to tourism back in the 1860s. In addition to converting a series of tunnels and Gallo-Roman chalk pits into cellars for storing the bottles of champagne, Madame Pommery commissioned artists to decorate them, an additional draw for visitors of the era. This tradition is maintained today with the Experiences Pommery, a renowned annual contemporary art exhibit that is displayed throughout the cellars. You can contemplate these thought-provoking works at the end of your tour over a glass of their exquisite bubbly in their vast main hall, also filled with more art.
A second and very different tasting opportunity can be enjoyed across the street at the Villa Demoiselle. A wonderfully restored Art Nouveau mansion, it is now the base of Demoiselle Champagne, which you can sample after touring the stunning heritage building.
With your spirits sparklingly lifted, you can take a leisurely meander back to the station enjoy the evening holiday lights lining the city streets. Alternatively, admire the twinkling lights from the holiday ferris wheel—the perfect way to wrap up your enchanting excursion to Reims which will even get you back in Paris in time for dinner.