The puppet festival in Charleville-Mézières. Photo credit: Hervé Dapremont

Discover the region’s many and diverse cultural and historical centres

Related article: The Road Less Travelled in Champagne & Ardenne

CHARLEVILLE-MÉZIÈRES

The current name was created in 1966 by the joining of the market town of Charleville and the former military stronghold of Mézières. Don’t miss the 68 post-WWII stained-glass windows at Mézière’s Basilica of Notre-Dame d’Espérance. www.charleville-tourisme.com

Sedan Castle

SEDAN CASTLE

The largest feudal fortress in northern Europe was founded in 1424 and regularly enlarged by the La Marck family and then the Tour de l’Auvergne family until it was finally relinquished to the French king. Atmosphere by the bucketload. www.chateau-fort-sedan.fr

The garrison town of Rocroi

ROCROI

The 16th-century garrison town was designed to face up to the Spanish- controlled fortress of Charlemont, further north at Givet. The fortress was demolished in 1889 but the ramparts remain. A gem of a town labelled a Petite Cité de Caractère. www.otrocroi.com

Reims cathedral. Photo credit: OT Reims

REIMS

Largely rebuilt in 1920 with many fine Art Deco properties, Reims boasts three UNESCO-listed buildings – the Gothic cathedral, Saint-Rémi Abbey and the Palais de Tau, now the cathedral museum. The Fine Arts Museum is also of note. www.reims-tourisme.com

The town of Épernay. Photo: Gillian Thornton

ÉPERNAY

A modest but effortlessly stylish town, it’s famous for being home to the Champagne Trade Association. Take a guided tour on the Petit Train, then stroll along the avenue de Champagne for a tour of the great houses and an incomparable choice of tastings. www.ot-epernay.fr

The town of Troyes

TROYES

The capital of Champagne until the Revolution, it is packed with historic buildings and famous for its stained-glass – don’t miss the cathedral and the adjacent bishops’ palace, now the Museum of Modern Art. Then bargain shop till you drop! www.tourisme-troyes.com

Lac du Der. Photo credit: Pascal Bourguignon

THE GREAT LAKES OF THE ORIENT FOREST

South of Lac du Der, three man-made lakes control the flow of the Seine and the Aube. Orient is dedicated to non-motorised water sports; Temple to nature and fishing; and Amance to motorised water sports. www.lacs-champagne.fr

Chatillon-sur-Broue. Photo: Gillian Thornton

HALF-TIMBERED CHURCHES

Unique in France and dating from the 15th to 18th centuries, the Ardenne half-timbered church trail links ten churches and a chapel between the Lac du Der and the Orient Forest. Download the map from: www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk

The churchyard in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises where De Gaulle is buried. Photo: Gillian Thornton

COLOMBEY-LES-DEUX-ÉGLISES

Visit La Boisserie, destroyed in World War II and then rebuilt, and the churchyard where De Gaulle lies with his wife and daughter beneath a simple tomb. The Memorial and Cross of Lorraine are must-see sites too. www.memorial-charlesdegaulle.fr

The Chateau du Grand Jardin in Joinville. Photo: Gillian Thornton

JOINVILLE

Don’t just visit the château in this historic Renaissance town, labelled a Petite Cité de Caractère. Take time to wander the quiet streets and canal quay, and visit the Auditoire for five floors of history and some authentic prison cells. www.tourisme-joinville.com

The village of Essoyes. Photo: Gillian Thornton

ESSOYES

When Pierre-Auguste Renoir fell in love with Aline Charigot, 18 years his junior, he also fell in love with her village and came here to live out his life. Feel the great Impressionist’s presence in his house, studio and along the four signposted walking trails. www.renoir-essoyes.fr

View of Langres. Photo: OT Champagne

LANGRES

One of the oldest fortified towns in France, it boasts the longest fortified walls in Europe – 3.5km around the town plus a star-shaped citadel, totalling 8km. Take the circular rampart walk and explore the maze of narrow streets. www.tourisme-langres.com

From France Today magazine

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