It’s easy to come up with one great reason to visit the Champagne-Ardenne region, after all, the world’s most celebrated party drink is produced here. It’s not just fizz that makes it such a great destination though…
The Champagne-Ardenne region is situated in the north-east of France along the French border with Belgium. There are four departments that together make up the region: Ardennes, Marne, Aube and Haute-Marne. Whether you’re planning an easy break by train in the region, or a stop-off on the drive south (it’s just 2.5 hours drive from Calais), there are so many different things to explore and enjoy.
Here are a few of our favourite suggestions:
What to do in Champagne
1. Visit the chalk cellars of one of the world’s most prestigious champagne houses in Reims, the town where French Kings were crowned, or Epernay, home of the famous Dom Perignon. All the greats like Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger, Pommery or Moët & Chandon (reopens autumn 2015) offer cellar tours followed by a champagne tasting.
2. Sample champagne to your heart’s content at the Champagne Festival (La Route de Champagne en Fête), which takes place in the area of Les Riceys, Aube 1-2 August 2015. The €18 entry fee includes a tasting glass, a route guide and access to all the participating champagne wineries. www.vignerons-les-riceys.com
3. Enjoy a glass of champagne in the world’s only tree-top champagne bar! The Perching Bar is set in a forest park just 15 minutes’ drive from Reims. Perched 18 feet up in the air, it offers exceptional views over the Champagne plains and is reached via a wooden footbridge. www.perchingbar.eu
4. Original and colourful, ‘The Champagnes of Renoir’ exhibition will be on display from July to August 2015 at the Renoir Centre in the stunning village Essoyes where the great painter lived. Ten copies of Renoir’s most famous paintings linked with ten of the finest locally produced champagnes. www.renoir-aube-champagne.com
5. Soak up the atmosphere of Medieval Troyes, capital of the ancient Province of Champagne, seat of the Counts of Champagne and cradle of the Knights Templar. Historic churches, museums, glorious stained glass in the Cathedral, vibrant café culture and excellent shopping outlets on the outskirts of the city make this an ideal short break destination. www.en.tourisme-troyes.com
6. Follow the marked Champagne Route of about 220 km, in the stunning Côte des Bar, Aube. Between green hills and valleys, it’s a journey that reveals the secrets of Champagne, the terroir from which it came and the people who have spent generations perfecting it. There are numerous places to stop, taste and buy en route.
What to do in Ardenne
7. The World Puppet Festival takes place in Charleville-Mézières 18-27 Sept 2015. This spectacular bi-annual event celebrates puppetry in all its forms and attracts creative artists from around the globe. It’s quirky and enormous fun in a very beautiful town. www.festival-marionnette.com
8. Get your adrenalin thrills on the Fantasticable ride in the Ardennes: a full body zipwire launched from a hill-top platform for an incredible glide over the Meuse Valley at a speed of up to 80mph. Not for the faint-hearted! www.terraltitude.com. Terraltitude Forest Adventure Park also offers tree ropes, bungee jumping and other family activities.
9. Explore, eat and stay at the largest feudal fortress in Europe at Sedan part of which is now a magnificent hotel. The Medieval Festival 16 – 17 May includes period pageantry, music, jousting, duels, banquets and a mediaeval fair. www.chateau-fort-sedan.fr
10. Nature lovers will love the great lakes of Champagne (Lac du Der and lakes of the Forêt d’Orient) attract thousands of Common Crane and other migratory birds en route to wintering sites in Spain. The dusk arrivals and dawn departures are a spectacular sight to behold from November to March. There are walking and cycling routes, nature reserves and a host of water sports and activities in the area too.
The International photo Festival of Nature and Wildlife 19 – 22 November showcases some of the finest nature photography, an annual event which attracted 46,000 visitors in 2014. www.festiphoto-montier.org
Find out more at www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk