It’s no secret to those who know me that I love champagne. So when a friend recently invited me on a day trip to Epernay, I happily said yes. A day in the beautiful Champagne region tasting its eponymous wine? Count me in. There’s a direct train from Paris, making it an easy day trip. It was also amazing, filled with tastings, sightseeing, and gorgeous weather. If you’re thinking of doing the same, below are my favourite things to do, see, and taste in Epernay.
The Avenue de Champagne
Epernay is often called the heart of Champagne, and for good reason. For starters, it is home to the world famous Avenue de Champagne, one of the most expensive streets in the world. This is due to the 100km of champagne cellars that are located underneath some of the world’s most famous champagne houses. Hundreds of millions of bottles are stored below this road, including the two oldest bottles of champagne that date back to 1825. Whether you want to go tasting or just want to marvel at the beautiful architecture, your first stop should be to go for a stroll along the Avenue de Champagne.
Moët & Chandon
Speaking of the Avenue de Champagne, this is where you will find the most famous Champagne house in the world. Moët & Chandon is responsible for fully 10% of all champagne sales worldwide, and produces upwards of 30 million bottles a year. Its headquarters is located on the Avenue de Champagne, with tours and tastings available throughout the day. You can also visit its very posh gift shop, where your heart can seize up at the prices. On your way out, be sure to admire the grand chandelier in the entranceway. It’s made up entirely of champagne glasses.
Mercier Champagne House
The Mercier Champagne House was founded in 1858 by a then 20 year old Eugène Mercier. Today, it is one of the larger houses in the region, and one of the top selling champagnes within France. This house boasts a unique cellar tour, in that you are guided through the 18km of cellars on an automatic train. Eugène Mercier was also famous for building the world’s largest champagne barrel for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. This barrel can hold the equivalent of 200,000 bottles of champagne, and it is still on display at Mercier. Perfect for a pre-tour photo op.
Les Grands Vins de France
If you’re looking for smaller and independent champagne houses, head over to Les Grand Vins de France cellar and tasting room. They deal exclusively in small producers and independent family estates. In addition to their extensive cellar, they also sell many products that are unique to the region, including the famous Epernay pink biscuits. However, my favourite thing about this shop is its tastings. You can try five different champagnes for just 15 Euros. In my opinion, it’s the best deal in town. And if you’re looking for something other than champagne, ask to try their Ratafia Champenois by Julien Chopin. You’ll be glad you did.
Explore the Town Sites
Most visits to Epernay are all about the champagne. However, be sure to leave some time to explore Epernay itself. The City Hall, located on Avenue de Champagne, is a gorgeous neo-renaissance former mansion. There is also a lovely little park behind it that is perfect for picnic lunches. On the way to the train station you’ll find the Notre Dame de Epernay, which beautiful architecture aside, will provide a much needed respite from the summer heat. Across the square you’ll find the classic Théâtre Gabrielle-Dorziat, and a couple of blocks over you’ll find the Portal of Saint-Martin. This archway is the oldest monument in town, dating back to 1540. All in all, Epernay is a beautiful place, so be sure to leave some time in between tastings for exploring.
A Bonus Just Outside Epernay
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, hop in a cab for a 10 minute drive to the village of Hautvillers. This is where you will find the abbey where Dom Pérignon spent decades perfecting the art of blending wines. Today, you can visit his tomb in the abbey and pay your respects to the father of champagne. Hautvillers also boasts stunning views of the surrounding countryside, so be sure to enjoy a glass on a terrace before heading back to Epernay.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.