Champagne Tours Guidelines

24th March 2023

Champagne Tours Guidelines

Back in 2015 Champagne was designated a UNESCO World Heritage area which further helped to put this famous wine region on the wine tourism map. Needing no second introduction, Champagne is known by many as the ‘King of Wines’ with globally acclaimed brands such as Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon and Cristal originating from its terroir.

Tourism to the Champagne region has always been rather popular not only for the beauty of the land, but also the opportunity to sample the many fine producers located in its main regions such as:

  1. Montagne de Reims
  2. Vallée de la Marne
  3. Côte des Blancs
  4. Côte des Bar (separate southern area)

It is very much tourism friendly with many easy to follow routes with clear signage along with adequate tourism office advice. With many of the great tourism attractions of Champagne contained in a relatively concentrated area with plenty of transport to aid visitors, it makes for being one of the best wine tourism destinations today.

Reims Cathedral welcomes over 1,000,000 visitors each year.

There are some 34,400 hectares of vineyards with thousands of producers and scattered alongside most are more than adequate services such as hotels, restaurants, transport, cycle routes and much more. It has clearly been discovered as one of the world’s most famous wine regions and I am pleased to say it is one of the easiest to tour thanks to the Route Touristique du Champagne (Champagne Tourist Route) clearly marking out routes so you can explore vineyards, churches, châteaux, villages, stunning countryside, view points and more.

What to take with you on a Champagne Tour: The weather can be, dare we say, very similar to that of England ie somewhat unreliable so do be prepared and think about not only seasonal clothing, but, especially during Summer months, including a Rain Mac. Shoes are very important so consider comfortable options so you can deal with cobble streets / wine cellars and any muddy paths (especially during vineyard tours).

Accommodation during a Champagne Tour: Ideally you will have planned out your itinerary and know where you’ll be and when so you can pre-book accommodation with countless options online facilitating this process. You have options to stay at varied Champagne Houses and I do suggest, though slightly higher budgets needed, to experience the rooms at Champagne de Venoge. Websites such as Champagne-Booking make the process of finding and booking accommodation very easy. There are many Gites de France in the region also which offer some wonderfully located and most welcoming places to stop at. Airbnb is another great option if you wish to remain at one location for your sleep overs.

You can also look at various travel hostels and of course any online hotel booking website will have countless options to choose from. Many people also choose to enjoy the grape picking season (vendanges) where not only can you enjoy the region of Champagne, you will also experience, with a bit of hard work, how Champagne is made – You will also get paid and importantly, your accommodation and food is supplied!

When I have stayed in Champagne I have used hotels, Airbnb, rooms at wineries, stopped off with fellow friends and even camping – Each experience was wonderful, though my advice is to book everything in place first and to check out the facilities you will have at hand when you arrive.Christopher Walkey

Where to eat in Champagne: There are plenty of places, from grocery shopping if you are renting a place for a few days, to eating at fine dining restaurants. From cafes to bars, themed restaurants to McDonalds, there are plenty of food outlets to choose from. If you are visiting smaller villages then they are less likely to hold any shops / cafes, though for sure a neighbouring village will. A quick check on your mobile phone and Google maps will present you with reliable solutions for food!

Do I need to book? It will pay you to pre plan your trip to Champagne if you are visiting without any tour guide service. Though many Champagne houses are open for the public to visit, some will request that you pre-book. Many of the Champagne producing villages will have independent wineries so plenty of places to pop in to for tasting (usually there is a fee from around 10€), do remember that these are usually small family run operations so at busy times, ie close to harvest in August / September they may be short staffed.

The bigger Champagne houses, and especially on the famous Avenue de Champagne, will have tours and tastings running throughout the day with many, many visitors and tour guides. Most places do speak English you will be pleased to know with many of the information leaflets in French and English.

When is best to visit Champagne? If you are looking to tour the region and experience the wonders of the region you will need to time it right. During the winter months, without the greenery of the vines, the area can look pretty grey (well brown to be honest what with bare vines and soil on show), but less visitors means potentially less crowds for you to contend with and especially at the touristic hotspots such as Cathedral de Reims. It would be fair to say that the Champagne region always has tourism, for its proximity to England, but also its place in Europe with many lovers of Champagne only a few hours drive away in neighbouring countries.

The best time is later spring and the first half of summer as the greenery sets in, the weather picks up and the touristic attractions are all open and doing their best to welcome you.

What to do in Champagne? For many people I speak to, though the tasting of Champagne is also important, the splendour of the region is captured by rambling or cycling and I agree, this region is perfectly set up for both as it is relatively flat with smaller rolling hills so nothing overly challenging. Some will say that the public transport is a touch unreliable, and certainly not each and every village can be reached, but overall it is satisfactory especially if you plan to stay in Reims / Epernay and each day travel out to local regions as buses and taxis are easy to use and find.

Winery visits are of course top of the list and most are prepared for visitors. The heritage of the Champagne region is vast so there are plenty of touristic attractions from Dom Pérignon’s Abbey to neighbouring 16th-Century Troyes.

Champagne Tour Guides: If you want a relatively carefree visit to Champagne then a tour guide is the best way forward. From simple tour guides via, for example, Office de Tourisme d’Epernay, to guides that will offer you a one to one tour experience during your stay. The costs can vary from you choosing existing packages to requesting a bespoke tour to accommodate your requirements.

I have visited the Champagne region with a tour guide and the experience was a great one. Not only did my tour guide have a great relationship with the wineries we visited (it is to be expected as they might very well be on a tiny commission for guests they bring), but importantly their knowledge of the area outside of the ‘everyday attractions’ was really worth the money. The added benefit, especially as someone who will taste many Champagnes throughout the day, is that they provided the transport picking me up from my Airbnb in the morning and dropping me off in the evening.Christopher Walkey

What to expect when visiting a Champagne House during a Champagne tour

What to expect when visiting a Champagne House: If visiting some of the smaller wineries you can expect a very personal tour experience where you can get to visit the local vineyards (if in walking distance), the cellars, the production area and then a tasting. Especially if you are in the wine business you can expect an in-depth tour, whereas consumers might prefer to stick to just tasting and at most, a tour of the cellars. Some wineries also offer food to accompany the Champagne tasting (this usually requires pre-booking) and some wineries offer lunches / dinners.

Christopher Walkey

Co-founder of Glass of Bubbly. Journalist and author focused on Champagne & Sparkling Wines and pairing them with foods.