The Reims Cathedral is a wonderful masterpiece of gothic architecture. Here you will learn everything to prepare for your visit to the city of Reims to visit the cathedral.
🗺️ Where is Reims?
Reims is the capital city of the Champagne region in France. This region is located in the northern parts of the country, to the north-east of Paris.
The city is rather large for European regional city standards, with a population of over 190K people. It has been around since roman times, having started as a small Roman settlement some 2000 years ago.
The Champagne region is known for the bubbly sparkling wine, the true designated origin protected (D.O.P) Champagne.
Any other sparkling wine grown outside the Champagne region can not be called a Champagne. Those are called Cremeux in France.
⛪️ Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims
The cathedral of Notre-Dame of Reims is a roman catholic cathedral, seat to the bishop of Reims. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
The city was used as an important administrative seat to many rulers over the ages.
King Clovis, the first king of the Franks to united them all, converted to Christianity and was baptized in the cathedral of Reims in the 5th Century, due to the influence of his wife Clotilde.
The cathedral of the dark ages was built and rebuilt until it was destroyed in a fire in the 13th century. Exactly a year later, the archbishop decided and started to build a new grand stone cathedral. This is the one standing now in Reims.
After the baptism of Clovis by Saint Remi, all kings were anointed and crowned in Reims. Only 7 kings in that over 1000-year-old tradition didn’t get crowned in Reims.
The 100 yeas war and English siege almost saw Reims being taken forever by the English. Joan Arc recaptured it from the English. She was later burned at the stake in Rouen. Two statues honor her bravery, one outside the cathedral and one indoors.
Most builders of other cathedrals are not known today. In Reims, it is different, with 4 builders, who worked across the ages to construct and finish the cathedral to what we see today.
The architects envisioned a cathedral with a large enough nave for the coronation ceremonies. Yet, it’s by far not as large as the one in Amiens or as tall as the cathedral in Beauvais.
Here also the flying buttresses and high vaults with large windows are meant to bring in the maximum light and to make everybody wonder how the master builders could have built such wonderful stone buildings.
As a visitor, you can enter from 3 portals to the nave from the west facade. The two uniform towers and sculptures, part of the detailed façade on the exterior, bring out the striking beauty of this cathedral.
The first thing, and one of the highlights, that you will notice when entering the cathedral are the great rose windows. The stained glass rose windows are colorful and have a magnetic effect on people.
The three elongated modern windows in the axial chapel were made by Marc Chagall and Charles Marq.
You can spot a golden eagle on your way down the nave towards the transept. The transept takes visitors further down to the chapels and towards the altar area and the ambulatory.
The cathedral has one of the largest number of statues, and the cathedral’s roof details are also special compared to other cathedrals in northern France.
You can climb the north tower’s spiral staircase to get a view from the top down. Just be aware, it’s about 250 steps up! The fee to visit the tower (la tour) is €8 per adult, which applies for age 18+. The bell tower is the south tower.
Various moments in our history, such as the Revolution and WW1, left the interior and outer building damaged.
The Revolution saw many furniture pieces destroyed and artifacts stolen. Yet, the cathedral still hold a fine collection of treasures including the Holy Ampulla, used to anoint at the coronations of french kings, and the Talisman of Charlemagne.
The cathedral was heavily bombarded during the first world war, the roof burned down, parts of the walls were destroyed, and the glass windows were shattered. The cathedral was reconstructed with modern prefabricated reinforced concrete.
💡 Tips for your Visit
- It can get rather hot in the summer months in Reims, especially in August.
- The inner old town isn’t all too big, which is perfect to take a stroll through the city and to discover all the sights
- A walk from the train station to the cathedral takes about 10 to 15 mins.
- You can park near the cathedral in the inner-city area. It’s a garage called Parking CPA Cathedral and for a few hours you pay €2.50.
- Reims has a new CRIT reduced pollution program. That means certain vehicles cannot enter anymore the inner-city area if they do not have a CRIT sticker. Up to January 2023 is a grace period in place.
- You don’t need to dress in any special way to enter the cathedral. Shorts, skirts, dresses and shoulder-free is all ok. There is however a friendly caretaker, who will remind people wearing a hat, to just take off the hat when they enter the cathedral.
🧭 Attractions nearby
Here are some more places to visit while in Reims.
- Place Drouet D’Erlon – a large square with the Subé Fountain and the golden angel at the top
- Fontaine de la Solidarité – Unique artistic water fountain
- Palais du Tau (Palace of Tau) – The former bishop’s residency where the kings of France would come to stay. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can see the famous smiling angel there.
- Cryptoportique – Area for Events
- La Porte de Mars – Widest Roman arch
- Ruines du Couvent des Cordeliers – Ruins of a former convent destroyed in WW1
- Automobile Museum – Collection of rare vintage cars
- Champagne Taittinger – A well-known Champagne house with tasting and tour of the Roman mines turned cellars.
🚗 Getting there
You can get to Reims from Paris, Calais, Strasbourg or Brussels.
From Paris to Reims
To get there by car take the A4 freeway to Reims from Paris. The drive takes almost 2 hours and the highway fee is set around €13.
The best way to get to Reims is by train. The TGV (high-speed train) leaves from the Gars de L’Est to Reims and reaches within 1 hour. The ticket is minimum €44.
From Calais to Reims
You can take the highway A26 from Calais to Reims, and it takes 3 hours. The toll will cost about €23 one way.
The Eurostar train from the UK, passing Calais, stops in Paris at the Gars du Nord and from there you have to get to the Gars du Este to take a TGV to Reims.
From Strasbourg to Reims
By car, it’s about 3 1/2 h from Strasbourg in the Alsace region to Reims via de A4 highway. The distance is 217 miles (ca. 349 km) and the highway fee will set you back €30 for one direction alone.
The train is also the best way to get from Strasbourg to Reims. The TGV will take you there within 2 hours. You just have to switch TGV train in Champagne-Ardenne TGV, which is located near Reims, to travel directly into the city center.
The price per adult for a one-way ticket is minimum €45.
From Brussels to Reims
Brussels is the capital of Belgium, which is located about 3 hours by car from Reims.
Take the E420 freeway in Belgium, those are free to use in Belgium, and then the A304 and A34 to get to Reims. The highway in France will cost you about €20.
You can get to Reims from Brussels too by Thalys (French-Belgian high-speed train) and TGV train, but you will have to switch train in Paris. The total ride will take about 3 hours and will cost somewhere around €145
The nearest Cathedrals are located in Châlons, Soisson and Laon. Those are not that well-known outside of France but equally impressive. Other bigger cathedrals are the Beauvais cathedral, the Amiens Cathedral, the Paris Notre Dame Cathedral and the Strasbourg Cathedral.
The Reims cathedral was the traditional location for the coronation of the French king throughout the ages.
To visit the cathedral of Reims is free, and you can visit from 7:30 am to 7:30 pm. There is no queue! We visited in August, peak season.
Reims is pronounced raans in English and French. Please, due to the pronunciation, don’t confuse with Rennes, which is located in Brittany (France).