You already know that Paris is always a good idea, but what about other (just as chic!) destinations elsewhere in France? Burgundy and Bordeaux are great options for wine lovers, but there is no competition with the dream destination of Champagne, which is located just an hour from the French capital by train, or if you prefer take a car, 90 minutes by car.
While you might think a trip to Champagne is all about the bubbly, it’s also a scenic place, and happens to be one of the most relaxing places to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris, that is, as long as you know where to stay. When it comes to your accommodation, you simply can’t do better than the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa. The Royal Champagne, part of the Leading Hotels of the World, is perched on a rolling hillside, which means there are impeccable (and highly Instagrammable) views from every room and public space in the hotel. Besides the photogenic views, Hotel Champillon is also conveniently located just minutes from Epernay, as well as a short drive from Reims.
A trip to France’s fashionable wine region has long been a favorite pastime of champagne lovers and jet-setters alike, so it’s rather surprising that the Champagne region is somewhat lacking in ultra-luxury accommodation. There are a few old-school classics, but the Royal Champagne is arguably the only true 5-star hotel in the area that successfully offers the best in luxurious rooms, a lavish spa, and worthy dining options (also Michelin-starred! ). Plus, the lack of hotels isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it further distances the idyllic spot from the countless tourists you’ll encounter in other French towns.
Likewise, while the peak season for Champagne is generally April through October, I’m here to tell you that there really is never a bad time to visit the region, and indeed a trip to Champagne off-season might just be one of the best ways to really enjoy all that Champagne has to offer, without the crowds! Yes, it’s a little cooler (bring a warm coat!), but the winter scenery is just as striking (if not more so!) than the classic green vistas.
Now that you’re surely convinced it’s time to plan a trip to Champagne for a bubble-filled vacation, keep reading for everything you need to know about the region’s most luxurious hotel.
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The Royal Champagne is located on a historic site.
The Royal Champagne first opened as a hotel in the 1990s, but the historic property dates back to the 19th century and it has quite an illustrious history. It was once an inn where soldiers stopped, and happens to be where Napoleon Bonaparte passed and stopped on his return from the battlefields, and he is said to have stayed in the inn on his way to his coronation .
Mark Nunelly and Denise Dupré acquired the hotel in 2014 and quickly embarked on a four-year, multimillion-dollar renovation led by Reims architect Giovanni Pace. The hotel reopened in July 2018, revealing freshly opened interiors and an airy, spacious, and bright aesthetic, complemented by lots of floor-to-ceiling windows and oak and stone accents. It’s decidedly modern and bright, though it pays homage to its historic past in a myriad of ways, including in the horse and rider emblem found throughout the hotel.
The rooms are charming, airy and perfect for sipping a glass of champagne.
The hotel is made up of just 47 rooms, all decorated in neutral color palettes. Each unit has a private terrace and picture-worthy view, perfectly set up for guests to relax and sip a glass of champagne while admiring the view of the vineyard. The majority of rooms (43, to be precise) are nearly identical, with spacious beds and open interior living areas, though there are also four suites.
While many hotels claim they are there to help guests relax and rejuvenate, Royal Champagne goes beyond simple conversation; they offer a special sleep experience set, complete with a calming essential oil spray, melatonin sleeping pills, a meditation box, and a gentle sleep mask. Each night, a hotel staff member will not only spray the sleep mist before you return, but will also brew herbal tea to help you get the best night’s sleep. As you’d expect, quiet luxury comes at a price: Rooms start at $620 a night in low season.
Spa time is a must.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a spa in the area that rivals the Royal Champagne pampering experience, and that’s intentional, as the hotel has put a ton of work into the luxury spa’s soothing and relaxing treatments. There are nine treatment rooms, where guests can indulge in personalized Biologique Recherche experiences and classic massages, or opt for special treatments like a detoxifying lymphatic drainage session or Shiatsu massage. The hotel also works with Jo de Carvalho, one of the 50 people in the world considered a master of the practice of Kobido massage (this is natural lifting of the face and neck), for special treatments available on weekends. -end. Even if you’re not getting a treatment, it’s still worth heading to the spa and making the most of the facilities – there are two full-length pools (one indoor and one outdoor), a steam room and sauna, plus relaxation areas.
Let’s talk food and drink.
Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland has already obtained two Michelin stars at Le Negresco in Nice, and quickly obtained a Michelin star at the Royal Champagne’s gourmet restaurant, Le Royal, less than a year after taking office. Le Royal is the more formal of the hotel’s two restaurants, though it still has an intimate and cozy atmosphere. While the kitchen has already received many rave reviews, the backdrop is also worth mentioning, as the decor is inspired by Napoleon Bonaparte’s four loves of life, with screens dedicated to the different women. Any foodies visiting Champagne in winter should note that Le Royal is closed throughout January.
The Royal Champagne’s other restaurant, Bistro Le Bellevue, however, is open year-round and offers a more casual but still upscale experience, with seasonal dishes that can include asparagus risotto, baked cod and herb chicken. Be sure to ask the sommelier for wine pairing (or bubbly) recommendations. While floor-to-ceiling windows ensure every diner has a great perspective, do your best to score a table with a direct view of the hills outside.
Be sure to see the Champagne houses and the popular Champagne Avenue.
Reims, the largest city in the region, is around 30 minutes away by car, but it’s worth seeing the famous Reims Cathedral (including Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows), as well as champagne houses like Veuve Clicquot, Pommery and Taittinger. Be sure to plan your visit or tasting in advance, whether to guarantee a place during the hectic high season or to confirm that the house is open off-season (Pommery is open even in January, and yes, the caves are a bit scary).
Épernay is much closer to Royal Champagne, and is also where you will find the famous L’Avenue de Champagne. Stroll down the quaint street and you’ll spot dreamy mansions and the headquarters of iconic champagne producers, including Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouët. Even if you don’t book a tasting, take a walk on L’Avenue de Champagne just for the architecture and the atmosphere.
The Champagne journey never ends.
You are in Champagne, so a visit to many sparkling houses is a must. While there are many well-known champagne houses all around, if you’re staying at Royal Champagne (or even if you’re not), consider visiting Leclerc Briant, a 150-year-old champagne house located near ‘Épernay, about a 10-minute drive from the hotel.
The owners of the hotel are really invested in the region; they even bought a local champagne house, Leclerc Briant, about ten years ago, and completely relaunched the cellar. While sparkling Leclerc Briant is served all around the hotel, I highly recommend booking a champagne house experience for a tour and tasting; it is located about 10 minutes by car from Royal Champagne. It’s a more personalized and unique experience than many of the other big Champagne houses nearby, and the sustainability-focused wines, which are biodynamic and vegan, are a real treat.
*The stay in this hotel was offered by Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa. The views and opinions expressed are those of the journalist.*