Epernay or Reims: 6 Factors to Help You Decide 

by | Last updated Nov 20, 2023 | France

If you are planning a day trip or spending several beautiful days in wine country, you will quickly realize there are two main hubs in the Champagne region: Epernay and Reims. Each has its own charm, so how do you decide? Let’s go through the 6 factors.

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01- Historical Sights

Cathedral of Notre-Dame

Reims Cathedral

Reims is home to some incredible historical sights, most notably the Reims Cathedral. This historic Gothic masterpiece is where the kings of France were crowned! Its impressive structure is illuminated by beautiful panels of stained-glass windows.

Other popular historic sites include the Palace of Tau, where the kings would celebrate their coronation. It now serves as a museum of royal regalia, ceremonial objects, and artwork. Additionally, you’ll discover Porte de Mars, an ancient Roman arch situated adjacent to the train station.

Epernay has a few historic interesting sights such as the classic Art Nouveau house, La Maison de la Lune, and the artist-decorated Gabrielle-Dorziat Theater. However, it really is all about the Champagne in Epernay.

VERDICT: Reims certainly has more historic sights and monuments to explore.

02- Size and Population

Map View of Reims

Map view of Reims, France

Map view of Epernay

Map view of Epernay, France

Reims is a major urban center and is spread out. It’s larger with a population of a little over 184,000.

In contrast, Epernay is more concentrated. It’s smaller with a population close to 24,000. 

VERDICT: It depends on what you prefer. Visit Reims for a more metropolitan ambiance and Epernay for a quaint boutique atmosphere.

03- Ambiance

Reims city center

Reims city center

Reims has more of a medieval, industrial feel. 

Marne Canal

Domaine de Castellane overlooking the Marne River in Epernay, France

I found Epernay to possess a distinctive charm and a notably laid-back atmosphere.

Epernay is next to the meandering Marne River, where you can leisurely cycle to Champagne houses. À la Française Champagne-Bourgogne offers a fantastic bike + sip tour.

If you have been to South Africa wine country, you’ll know what I mean when I say Reims is to Stellenbosch as Epernay is to Franschhoek.

VERDICT: Epernay wins hands down.

04- Champagne Houses

Ruinart Champagne House in Reims

Ruinart Champagne House in Reims, France

Reims is home to the big Champagne House names like Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, and Ruinart. The Champagne houses are more spread out. They offer fantastic, well-organized tours. I highly recommend Ruinart and Taittinger.

Leclerc Briant Champagne Tasting in Epernay

Leclerc Briant Champagne tasting in Epernay, France

Epernay is home to the smaller Champagne houses like Leclerc Briant and Henri Giraud that are more concentrated together.

Epernay is famous for its Avenue de Champagne, which is a prestigious and charming street lined with several renowned Champagne houses. It’s a popular tourist stop for a lot of the Champagne tours.

We actually stayed on this famous street at the incredible boutique hotel, Le25Bis by Leclerc Briant Champagne House. That meant Champagne breakfasts every morning from one of the most prestigious Champagne producers! Oh, yeah! My kind of vacation.

VERDICT: Tie. Both Reims and Epernay offer fantastic Champagne tours, just depends on what kind of experience you are seeking. 

05- Restaurants

Gazpacho at Le Jardin Les Crayères

Gazpacho at Le Jardin Les Crayères

If you are a foodie, you will love Reims.

It is home to one Bib Gourmand-recommended restaurant and four Michelin-starred restaurants according to the Michelin Guide.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Le Jardin Les Crayères at the super elegant and swanky hotel, Domaine les Crayères.

This experience rates  #5 on my top things to do in Reims!

Steak tartare at Chez Max in Epernay France

Steak tartare at Chez Max in Epernay, France

Epernay also holds its own when it comes to fantastic culinary experiences.

There are two restaurants in the Bib Gourmand category, in addition to two other highly recommended dining establishments featured in the Michelin Guide.

We ate at two local establishments while in Epernay, Chez Max and L’OBEN. Both were phenomenal as noted by the stellar reviews from fellow diners.

Do not miss ordering the steak tartare at Chez Max, which is made table side by the Chef himself. Quite possibly the best steak tartare I’ve ever had.

VERDICT: If you go by the Michelin stars, Reims wins. However, for a truly authentic casual dining experience in a charming town, Epernay wins. I guess that makes it a tie.

06- Accessibility from Paris

Reims Ville Train Station

Reims Ville train station

Reims is located only 45 minutes from Paris by high-speed train. You’ll hardly have time to finish your morning coffee before you realize you’ve arrived. It goes by that quickly.

Epernay is also still accessible from Paris but is an additional 30 minutes (1 hr. 17 min total travel time).

If you are interested, see my step-by-step guide on how to book a train ticket from Paris to Reims if you are looking to visit on your own and not with a tour group. 

High speed direct train from Paris to Reims France

Paris to Reims: 45 minutes

Paris to Epernay

Paris to Epernay: 1 hour 17 minutes

VERDICT: Reims is the easy choice if visiting as a day trip from Paris.

Final Thoughts

Go to Reims if you only have time for a day trip from Paris. You can hit several historical sights, dine at an incredible Michelin-recommended (or starred) restaurant, and enjoy one of the quintessential Champagne tasting experiences at one of the big houses.

If you have several days to enjoy the Champagne region, stay in Epernay. Enjoy strolling the charming streets, biking along the Marne River, leisurely sipping Champagne from one of the smaller producers, and eating the best tartare from the friendliest Chef.

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Which do you prefer? Epernay or Reims?

Let me know in the comments below!


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