Epernay is the self-proclaimed capital of the Champagne region of France and is home to all of the biggest producers in the world. It is in the Marne Department and sits on the bank of the river of the same name. It’s just 130km north east of Paris and around 30 minutes’ drive from Reims.
Calais to Epernay takes less than three hours by road so our Dover-Calais crossing is perfect if you want to explore everything the town has to offer. Alternatively, if you take our Newhaven-Dieppe crossing the drive is only fractionally longer using a fast, direct route from the port.
WHY VISIT EPERNAY?
Visiting Epernay always involves one thing – a visit to one or more of the many great champagne houses that have their headquarters there. The area first began producing the wine because the climatic conditions are perfect for cultivating the Pinot and Chardonnay grapes used in its manufacture - and this is why all the hillsides around Epernay are such an attractive patchwork of vineyards.
The town itself combines the grand, palatial architecture of the champagne houses alongside more modern architecture.
Very little remains of the town’s original medieval buildings as, throughout history, Epernay has been subject to many attacks both during the Hundred Years’ War and the last century’s two world wars. The centre of the town is home to the oldest buildings and there is a network of narrow and irregular streets boasting a new discovery round virtually every corner.
Right at the heart of the town is a lush, green park which is a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic on the grass and try some of the region’s famous cheeses, charcuterie and patisserie.
There’s also a great deal to see and do in the surrounding area and Epernay tourist information centres can make many suggestions about driving routes which will take in most of the region’s attractions.
WHAT TO SEE IN EPERNAY
As the name suggests, Avenue de Champagne is home to the world’s most famous producers of the drink including Mercier, Moet et Chandon and Perrier-Jouet and a visit to at least one of them is an essential part of any trip to Epernay. The Mercier visit, in particular, is very impressive. Not only is there a guided tour of the grandly-designed cellars 30 metres below ground, you also travel round on a small train. After the tour there is a chance to taste some of the famous champagne and, naturally, it also includes a visit to the Mercier shop. It’s a good idea to book your tour online in advance because there’s great demand in the busy holiday seasons.
Epernay’s oldest existing monument is the Portail St Martin – all that still exists of the 16th Century Church of Notre Dame. The grand stone doorway gives a very good idea of just how impressive the original church must have been when it was built in 1542.
There are also a number of grand palaces just outside Epernay that are well worth a visit including the chateaux of de Pierry, de Montmort and de Condé. The latter dates back to the 17th Century and sits in magnificent grounds filled with 300 year old trees. For many years it had fallen into near dereliction but it was bought by a private owner in 1983 who set about restoring it to the fine condition it is in today.
WHERE TO STAY IN EPERNAY
Epernay accommodation is plentiful and varied – from centrally located hotels like Les Berceaux which even boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant to budget-priced simplicity at Le Colbert just a little way out of the town,
You’ll find these, and many more places to stay in Epernay, when you visit our partner, booking.com.
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