You already know that Paris is always a good idea, but what about the other (equally chic!) destinations elsewhere in France? Burgundy and Bordeaux are lovely options for vino lovers, but there’s no competing with the dreamy destination of Champagne, which is situated a mere hour away from the French capital by train, or if you prefer taking a car, an easy 90-minute drive.
While you might think a trip to Champagne is purely about the bubbly, it’s also about the picturesque locale, and it happens to be one of the most relaxing spots to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of Paris—that is, as long as you know where to stay. When it comes to your accommodations, you simply can’t do better than the Royal Champagne Hotel and Spa. The Royal Champagne, which is part of Leading Hotels of the World, is perched upon a rolling hilltop, which means there are impeccable (and highly Instagrammable) vistas from every single room and public area in the hotel. Aside from the photogenic views, the Champillon hotel also happens to be ideally positioned mere minutes from Épernay, as well as an easy drive to Reims.
A trip to the fashionable French wine country has long been a favorite pastime of champagne lovers and jet set enthusiasts alike, so it’s rather surprising that the Champagne region is somewhat lacking in ultra-luxury accommodations. There are a few old school classics, but the Royal Champagne is the arguably the only true 5-star hotel in the area that successfully offers the best of luxurious rooms, a lavish spa and worthy (also, Michelin-starred!) dining options. Plus, the lack of hotels isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since it keeps the idyllic spot a bit more removed from the countless tourists you’ll encounter in other French cities.
Similarly, while the high season for Champagne is typically from April to October, I’m here to tell you that there’s truly never a bad time to visit the locale, and in fact, a trip to Champagne in the off season just might be one of the best ways to really take in all that Champagne has to offer, sans crowds! Yes, it’s a bit cooler (bring a warm coat!), but the wintery landscape 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 vacation filled with bubbly, keep reading for everything you need to know about the most luxurious hotel in the area.
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The Royal Champagne sits 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 the illustrious history. It was once a coach inn where soldiers would stop, and happens to be where Napoleon Bonaparte would pass through and stop by on his return from battlefields, and he reportedly stayed in the inn on the way to his coronation.
Mark Nunnelly and Denise Dupré acquired the hotel in 2014, and promptly embarked on a multimillion-dollar, four-year renovation led by local Reims-based architect Giovanni Pace. The hotel reopened in July 2018, revealing freshly opened up interiors and an airy, spacious and light-filled aesthetic, complemented by plenty 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 bubbly.
The hotel is composed of just 47 rooms, all of which are decorated in neutral color palettes. Every accommodation has a private terrace and a photo-worthy view, perfectly set up for guests to cozy up and sip on a glass of champagne while taking in the vineyard vistas. The majority of the rooms (43, to be specific) are nearly identical, with spacious beds and open indoor living areas, though there are also four suites.
While many hotels claim they’re all about helping guests relax and rejuvenate, Royal Champagne takes it a step beyond just talk; they offer a special sleep experience set, complete with a calming essential oil spray, melatonin-based sleep aids, meditation box and a soft sleeping mask. Each night, a member of the hotel staff will not only spritz the sleeping mist prior to your return, but also prepare an herbal tea to help you get the best night’s sleep. As you may have expected, peaceful luxury comes at a price—rooms start at $620 a night during the low season.
Time in the spa is a must.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a spa in the region that rivals the pampering experience at the Royal Champagne, and that’s intentional, as the hotel has put a ton of work into the soothing, relaxing treatments at the luxe spa. There are nine treatment rooms, where guests can indulge in personalized Biologique Recherche experiences and classic massages, or opt for special treatments like a lymphatic drainage detoxifying session or a Shiatsu massage. The hotel also works with Jo de Carvalho, one of just 50 people in the world considered a master of the Kobido massage practice (it’s all about natural face and neck lifting), for special treatments available on weekends. Even if you don’t get a treatment, it’s still more than worth it to head down to the spa and make the most of the facilities—there are two full-length swimming pools (one indoor and one outdoor), a steam room and a sauna, plus relaxation areas.
Let’s talk food and drink.
Chef Jean-Denis Rieubland previously earned two Michelin stars at Le Negresco in Nice, and quickly earned a Michelin star at Royal Champagne’s gastronomic restaurant, Le Royal, less than a year after he took over. Le Royal is the more formal of the hotel’s two dining options, though it still has an intimate and cozy atmosphere. While the food has already received plenty of rave reviews, the backdrop is also worth talking about, as the decor is inspired by the four loves of Napoleon Bonaparte’s life, with screens dedicated to the different women. Any gourmands who visit Champagne in the winter should note that Le Royal is closed throughout January.
The Royal Champagne’s other dining establishment, Le Bellevue bistro, however, is open year-round, and offers a more casual yet still upscale experience, with seasonal dishes that can include asparagus risotto, baked cod and herb chicken. Make sure to ask the sommelier for recommendations when it comes to wine (or bubbly) pairings. While the floor-to-ceiling windows ensure that every patron has a nice perspective, do your best to score a table with direct views of the rolling hills outside.
Make sure to see the Champagne houses and the famous L’Avenue de Champagne.
Reims, the largest city in the region, is around 30 minutes away by car, but it’s worth it to see the famed Reims Cathedral (including the Marc Chagall stained glass windows), as well as champagne houses like Veuve Clicquot, Pommery and Taittinger. Make sure to schedule your tour or tasting in advance, whether it’s to guarantee a spot during the hectic high season or to confirm the house is open during the off season (Pommery is open even in January, and yes, the caves are a touch spooky).
Épernay is much closer to Royal Champagne, and also happens to be where you’ll find the famous L’Avenue de Champagne. Take a stroll down the picturesque street and you’ll spot the dreamy mansions and headquarters of iconic champagne producers including Moët & Chandon and Perrier-Jouët. Even if you don’t book a tasting, a walk down L’Avenue de Champagne for the architecture and atmosphere alone.
The Champagne journey never ends.
You’re in Champagne, so a visit to plenty of bubbly 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 checking out Leclerc Briant, a 150-year-old champagne house located in nearby Épernay, about a 10-minute car ride from the hotel.
The owners of the hotel are truly invested in the region; they even purchased a local champagne house, Leclerc Briant, about a decade ago, and entirely revived the winery. While Leclerc Briant bubbly is served all around the hotel, I highly recommend booking an experience at the champagne house for a tour and tasting; it’s located about a 10-minute drive from Royal Champagne. It’s a more personalized and unique experience than many of the other, larger champagne houses nearby, and the sustainably-focused wines, which are biodynamic and vegan, are such a treat.
*The stay at this hotel was courtesy of Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa. The views and opinions expressed are the journalist’s own.*