Reims, the north-eastern French city, was made famous thanks to its champagne and for being the ‘Coronation capital’ of the country in the past. Today, Reims is also home to a vast and ever-growing number of museums and art galleries, which you can discover with our guide.
The stunning Palace of Tau, or Palais du Tau, is a national monument in France. Parts of it, including the Palatine Chapel and Tau room, date from as early as the 13th century. The history of the Palace is inextricably linked with the coronation of France’s kings pre-Revolution, since it was here that the coronation banquet was held. The Palace is open all year round and is just as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside, where you’ll find historical artifacts such as Charlemagne’s talisman and the Sainte-Ampoule, used in the coronations of France’s 32 monarchs.
Situated in the very heart of the city center is the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Reims, or the Reims museum of fine art. Originally founded in 1794, the museum has since changed location and is now housed in the Palais abbatial de Saint-Denis. The museum’s collection is impressive and includes works spanning all the major artistic movements from the 16th to the 20th century. On display are paintings, sculptures, drawings, sketches, engravings and pieces of furniture. There are also temporary exhibitions held here so check the website to see what’s on when you visit.
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Reims’ Villa Demoiselle is worth a visit as much for the stunning art-déco interior and exterior as for the 5,800m² of gardens and vineyards that surround it. The villa was built from 1904 to 1908 and really is a breathtaking example of art-déco and art-nouveau design based on plans by architect Louis Sorel. Villa Demoiselle was recently restored by skilled builders and craftsmen. You can take a guided tour of the rooms and the grounds to truly appreciate the work that went into its restoration. A visit to the Pommery champagne cellars next door is also highly recommended.
The Fort de la Pompelle museum may be a little outside of Reims’ city center but it is definitely worth the visit for its impressive military history. The fort was built in 1883 by the military architect Séré de Rivières and in the following decades it was the site of numerous battles, in particular between the French and German armies during World War One. Visitors to the museum are immediately plunged into an eerie atmosphere of remembrance and commemoration. Here you can observe military uniforms from the period, as well as weaponry, equipment and the day-to-day belongings of soldiers in the trenches during the First World War.
The Museum of Local Aeronautics, or the Musée de la Base Aérienne 112 at de l’aéronautique locale, may not be huge but it’s a must visit for anyone with a keen interest in aeronautics. The museum, which traces the history of military and civilian flying in the region over the last 100 years, is made up of eight halls and a 150 square meters exhibition space containing documents, objects and models. There are a number of planes on show outside the main building which illustrate the advances made in both military and civilian flying at this aviation hub in Bethény, just a few minutes away from Reims.
Just across the road from the opposing Saint-Remi basilica in the center of Reims stands the equally impressive Saint-Remi history museum. Made up of 17 distinct rooms, the museum is housed in the 17th-century building which was formerly the St. Remi Royal Abbey. The world heritage site is today one of the most popular attractions in the city center and includes collections dating from pre-history to the Renaissance, all relating to the history of Reims itself. In the abbey buildings, the tapestry depicting the life of the eponymous Saint-Remi is particularly poignant.
Museum of the Surrender, or the Musée de la Reddition, in Reims has a remarkable historical significance. It was here where, on Monday 7th May 1945, the Allied Forces of the Second World War obtained the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of the German Third Reich. The news was transmitted all around the world the following day. The museum dedicated to the event opened in 2005, and it houses displays and objects relating to the event and to the Second World War but the most popular attraction is definitely the Salle de la Signature, or signing room, which has remained untouched from 1945 until the present day.
Despite its name which might lead you to believe the contrary, you can’t actually stay at Le Vergeur museum hotel located in Reims’ city center. You can, however, take a guided tour of the listed building, which belonged to collector Hugue Krafft, and explore the impressive collection of artwork housed there. There are beautiful pieces of decorative art to discover in each room and, thanks to generous donations, the collection grows in size every year. Among the pieces are many original engravings by Dürer and works relating to the history of Reims and the coronations that have taken place here.
The Reims Champagne Automobile Museum is a celebration of all types of automobiles, old and new. There are nearly 200 cars, motorbikes and other vehicules on display on the site, which is situated just a little outside of Reims’ city center. A former factory was converted to house the various automobiles and today you can wander around the space all year round, admiring what’s on offer. As well as the myriad different brands of automobile, rare motorbike and restored pedal cars, there are also over 5,000 miniature and toy cars to admire in the factory house next door.
The FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, situated in Reims’ city center, is a public art gallery funded by government grants to promote contemporary art in the region. Similar institutions exist across the whole of France but the FRAC located in the northern French city of Reims contains almost 700 works of contemporary art including painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation art from the 1960s up to the present day. The gallery-cum-studio, which is housed in the former Jesuit college in the center of the city, is open all year round and boasts a number of diverse and interesting expositions throughout the year.