This 2.5 km circular walk takes you to Place Drouet d’Erlon, Porte Mars, Museum of Surrender, The Market, the Cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace
I first came to Reims in 1975 and was charmed. Since then, I have been a regular visitor to this lovely Champagne capital. I always stay at Hotel de la Paix, a centrally located, charming place introduced to me many years ago by Maggie McNie MW. The hotel has grown over the years and managers have come and gone but its charm has remained largely unchanged.
Step out of Hotel de la Paix, turn right and walk a few yards to Place Drouet d’Erlon – “the pedestrianised main square which draws locals in the mood for a bite, a beer or a bit of shopping. Its centrepiece is the Subé Fountain, built in 1907 and crowned by a gleaming gold statue of Winged Victory.” Every December, the square is the venue or the Reims Christmas Market.
Turn left at Sube Fountain and walk to the end of Place Drouet d’Erlon. On the left at number 43 is La Vinocave – one of the many good wine shops in Reims. There are many bargains here and a stop is well worth. Further on to the right is Le Grande Cafe (No.92) which is the place to eat mussels in all its manifestations.
At the end of Place Drouet d’Erlon, turn left on to Boulevard Foch. On the other side of Square Colbert on your left is the Reims Railway Station. As you walk down Boulevard Foch, you pass another very good Reims restaurant – Michelin starred Le Foch (No. 34). Cooking here is innovative and menus start at Euro 33. On your left in Square de la Porte de Mars is Porte Mars, the ancient Roman triumphal arch dating from the third century AD. It was the widest arch in the Roman world. (In October 2015, Porte Mars was undergoing renovations and was surrounded by scaffolding.) Across the Square is the Museum of the Surrender where on 7 May 1945 at 2.41 in the morning, the German chief of staff signed the act of unconditional surrender of all armed forces of the Third Reich thus ending the Second World War in Europe.
Reims Covered Market (Les Halles du Boulingrin) is the place to be on a Saturday morning. Often it overflows on to the streets outside. There are fresh vegetables, fruit and fish, cured meats and cheeses and in autumn, mushrooms (Cépe, Chanterelle etc.) and soft and creamy young walnuts.
As you walk down Rue de Mars, you pass another two good Reims restaurants on your right – La Brasserie du Boulingrin and Au Petit Comptoir. I would eat at the Boulingrin every time I am in Reims.
Turn right in to Place de l’Hotel de Ville, left on to Rue Docteur Jacquin, right on to Rue de Pouilly and finally turn left on to Cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet which leads you past the Reims Tourist Office, straight to the cathedral.
Cathedral Notre-Dame of Reims was the site of 25 coronations of the kings of France, from Louis VIII in 1223 to Charles X in 1825, including the crowning of Charles VII in 1429 in the presence of Joan of Arc. It replaced an older church, destroyed by fire in 1211, that was built on the site of the basilica where Clovis was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims, in AD 496. In 1974, Marc Chagall created three stained glass windows for the axial chapel of the Cathedral.
Next door is the Archbishops Palace (Palais du Tau) which was the residence of the kings of France before their coronation in Notre-Dame de Reims. The king was dressed for the coronation at the palace before proceeding to the cathedral; afterwards, a banquet was held at the palace. The first recorded coronation banquet was held at the palace in 990, and the most recent in 1825. The palace has housed the Musée de l’Œuvre since 1972, displaying stauary and tapestries from the cathedral, together with the remains of the cathedral treasury and other objects associated with the coronation of the French kings. The Palace of Tau, together with the Cathedral of Notre-Dame and the former Abbey of Saint-Remi, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Leave Cathedral Square via Rue Rockefeller, turn right on to Rue Chanzy, walk past the Musée des Beaux-Arts, cross the tramline, walk alone Rue de Talleyrand enjoying the street scenes with buskers and turn left on to Rue de l’Etape which takes you straight to Place Drouet d’Erlon where you started the walk.