Cycling and motorbiking
Grip the handlebars of a bike or motorbike to explore Champagne. The region boasts over 5,000km of tracks and trails for cyclists, wending their way through wide open landscapes and plains, miles of vineyards punctuated by picturesque villages and grand houses, gothic churches, and past canals and lakes. Sticking to a network of 450km (280 miles) of greenways (voies vertes) avoids using the roads entirely – and these are growing year by year, built on towpaths that run alongside tranquil canals, old railway lines and waterways. Consider cycling from the Meuse Valley to Reims, Épernay and Châlons-en-Champagne, and enjoy a well-earned glass of champagne at the end.
If you prefer speed from an engine, explore a mixture of long, tree-lined avenues, winding vineyard roads and urban backstreets. Look out for the ‘accueil motards’ signs around Champagne. Developed in 2013, this network links together over 200 participating hosts (hotels, holiday apartments, guesthouses and campsites) across the region who can cater for motorcyclists’ needs and offer them the special reception required.
Walking and hiking
Walking and hiking are major attractions in Champagne. Long-distance walkers, pilgrims in search of spirituality and lovers of the great outdoors can enjoy a variety of marked footpaths across the region and spread their journey over several days. The prestigious St-James Way, the Via Francigena and the historical Joan of Arc trail are the cream of the crop… but with nine Grande Randonnée national footpaths and three Grande Randonnée de Pays regional footpaths, Champagne offers something for everyone. Discover great forests, deep valleys, open plains, hills and sloping vineyards...
- GR654: The St-James Way
The St-James Way runs along the Chemin de Vézelay. This famous footpath crosses Champagne along some 460km on its way to Namur and Flanders, offering the hiker a multitude of diverse landscapes that illustrate the various riches of the region. You cross the great Ardennes forests, the rolling Ardennes foothills and the plains of Champagne with the Montagne de Reims range at its heart. You then pass the region’s major lakes (Der and Forêt d'Orient) and head towards the border via the Côte des Bars and the Barrois plateaux.
- GR145: The Via Francigena
Every road leads to Rome – “Omnes viae Romam perducunt” – or so the saying goes. In AD 990 the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric, travelled to Rome to receive his pallium from the hands of Pope John XV. As he travelled back he kept a journal listing the 80 stages necessary to accomplish the 1,700km journey. The French part of the Via Francigena taken by Sigeric arrives at Calais and crosses the formerly separate regions of Nord-Pas de Calais, Picardie, Champagne-Ardenne (Reims, Châlons-en-Champagne, Bar-sur-Aube and Langres) and Franche-Comté. It’s been labelled a ‘Great Cultural Route’ by the European council since 2004 and was officially recognised as GR145 in 2011.
- GR703: The Joan of Arc trail
Follow in the footsteps of Joan of Arc! From her hometown of Neufchâteau near Cirfontaines-en-Ornois in southern Meuse, Joan of Arc travelled via Champagne towards Chinon, stopping off at the Saint-Urbain abbey and Clairvaux on the way.
Crystal in Bayel
Touch delicate crystal in the town of Bayel… it’s been produced here since 1300, but it was only in 1678 that a Venetian master of glass, Jean-Baptiste Mazzolay, founded an official crystal works. King Louis XVI granted the Royal Crystal Manufacture of Bayel exclusive rights to the production and sale of crystal between Chaumont and Paris – and today, master glassmakers still blow glass by mouth and cut and etch it by hand. Also don’t miss Bayel’s Musée du Cristal.