Okay I’ll admit, I’m still no expert. But after a weekend in Epernay, I do know what good champagne tastes like. I also know how it’s produced, sold, and that the Avenue de Champagne is arguably the most expensive avenue in the world. For this knowledge alone, I would encourage you to take a trip to Epernay. But this unique little town in France has a lot more to offer than just its champagne. The three days I spent in and around Epernay gave me a glimpse at why this town is so popular among European tourists.
Upon arriving in Epernay, I felt as if I had been transported into a fairytale. The architecture is beautiful, the streets were clean, and the weather was perfect. My family and I stayed in an Airbnb in the city center, surrounded by restaurants and shops. My first meal? Onion soup – a MUST whenever you are in France. Trust me, there’s a reason why Americans called it French Onion Soup.
We spent that first night getting acquainted with the town. The small tourist office near the town hall provides services such as bike rentals, maps, and even a tourist train that drives around the city while playing an audio tour. Yes, my mom and I rode the train and yes, it was worth every penny. We also may or may not have ridden rides in the street carnival taking place that weekend. I have no regrets regarding this decision.
The next day, we embarked on a champagne tour with our Air Bnb host; she runs her own tourism business – Aÿ Champagne Experience. We visited several vineyards in the town of Ay and a family-owned home champagne house that produces the brand Ergot et Filles. The family showed us the cellars, the fermentation process and gave us a taste of a few different types of champagne: Brut, Extra-Brut, and a vintage called Millèsime. I personally preferred this experience over the large champagne houses on Avenue de Champagne. However, after our tour, we weren’t quite done tasting champagne so we tried a flight at Champagne Janisson-Baradon et Fils (yes, champagne flights exist and yes, they are amazing). Check out the picture below.
My family and I are outdoorsy people. So on day three we decided to hike to a nearby town called Hautvillers. The hike consisted of a beautiful walk along a river and through famous vineyards such as Moët et Chandon. While in Hautvillers, we explored the Abbey d’Hautvillers where Don Perignon is buried, and stumbled upon a small market where we spilt a bottle of champagne in a garden. It was about as magical as it sounds.
We knew our visit wouldn’t be complete without trying some champagne on the Avenue de Champagne, known for its cellars storing copious amounts of the world’s finest champagne. So after our return hike, we stopped inside Champagne Georges Cartier for a tasting. At this point in the trip, I started to feel like I could really compare and contrast the different types of champagne we’ve had. So basically, I’m declaring myself a champagne aficionado.
The only problem we ran into while in Epernay was limited restaurant and store hours. Many businesses close in the middle of the day and don’t reopen until around 7pm. We had a few failed searches for food. Additionally, it is harder to find English speakers here than in bigger cities like Paris. This trip forced me to use more French than I have since moving to Brussels. So if you’re looking for immersion, this is a great place to be. However, the people were incredibly helpful and gave me pointers when they heard me struggling with my French. I truly loved every minute in this town. For champagne rookies and experts alike, I definitely recommend a weekend trip to Epernay.