Some of the best things to do in Reims have to do with exploring the architectural and historical heritage of the city. And is that this small city has several buildings that have a very great relevance to the history of France and even throughout Europe, making it a site that deserves to be known during a visit to the wine region of Champagne.
With that in mind, in this publication I will explain everything you need to know about a visit to the cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims. Then you will have the facts you need to know to know when it is favorable to visit it in the logistical planning of your trip and to have appropriate expectations about the kind of experience you will live.
How to access the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims?
The first thing you need to know about the access to the Notre Dame Cathedral is that it is located in the center of the city in a point that is easy to identify because it is the tallest building in the city. It is on Cardinal Luçon Street and, although it has different entry points, the main entrance through which you can get inside is located on the front facade in the Place du Parvis.
Entering this cathedral is totally free and you even have the possibility of touring it through a private tour paid externally. This is quite convenient, since many cathedrals around the world charge an entrance fee and this makes it difficult for people with a limited budget to visit these tourist attractions.
It is definitely the most important tourist attraction in the city and, therefore, it is something that cannot be missing in the itinerary of a three-day visit to Reims or a two-day visit to Reims and its surroundings.
Therefore, opting for a private tour along the historical buildings of the city is an appropriate and highly recommended decision if your stay in Reims is going to be very short and therefore you want the accompaniment of a guide to help you learn all the important details about the past of this community. As well as the impressive buildings that compose it in some parts.
Timetable of the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral
The opening hours of the cathedral of this city could not be more convenient, as they allow you to visit it in a quite extensive range of hours. The cathedral is open every day of the week from 7:30 am. As for the closing of the visits, you have to know that this takes place at 7:30 pm during weekdays while on Sundays and holidays it closes at 7:15 pm.
You should also note that access is no longer authorized 15 minutes before closing time. That means that on Sundays you will be able to enter until around 18:30 pm while on weekdays you will have until 18:50 pm to enter the cathedral. So the cathedral is open during most of the day and no matter what time you arrive in the city, you can still visit its most important church without having to pay a single euro.
You have to know that these hours only apply to the first floor of the church because if you are interested in visiting the towers with the respective bell tower you will have to contact the administration of the Palais de Tau. The schedules for this type of visits are adjusted according to the request submitted, which must be made 15 days in advance and must describe the number of people who will participate. Although it is known that there is a minimum of 10 participants to be granted access to these towers and a monetary contribution is also usually requested.
The schedules on holidays change depending on the masses or religious tradition of that specific part of the year. Similarly, visiting this cathedral is one of the best things to do in Reims during the Christmas season because guided tours are often organized without the need for a reservation and there are also special masses.
Are there guided tours of the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral, are they worth it?
If you wish to take a guided tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral there are two possible ways. One of them is to contact the Palais du Tau to organize a tour that includes the possibility to go up to the two towers and to see the bell tower. The issue with this alternative is that there must be a minimum number of participants and the reservation must be made up to 15 days in advance. That while there is the reality that there is not a single guarantee that the visit will be approved or even that the administration will respond.
The other alternative that exists to go to this site under a guided tour is to hire a private tour of the main attractions of the city of Reims, which usually focus on going to the cathedral as well as the Palace of Tau and the basilica of Saint Remi.
This is because they are three sites that are declared as World Heritage Sites by Unesco under a joint nomination and its importance has to do with the monarchical past of France. This knowing that the palace was the residence where the royal family prepared before the coronations and the cathedral was the place where the official act of coronation of the next French king took place.
Anyway, opting for a guided tour is something recommendable only if you already had the opportunity to participate in one of the best excursions from Reims. This knowing that the city is a major tourist destination, but stands out especially for its proximity to the wine fields of the Champagne region, which produce wine known worldwide for its quality.
Who can access the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral?
The Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral is open to anyone interested in learning a little about its history or being impressed by the art on display inside. This means that no matter your religion, age or place of origin, you can always enter this site without any limitations.
In fact, during these seasons it is common to encourage the visit of the largest number of people, even those who do not consider themselves as faithful Catholics, because the truth is that the place is quite important for the historical and architectural identity of Reims as well as for its relevance in tourism in the French Northeast.
How to get to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims from the rest of the city?
The cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims is best reached on foot if you are arriving in the city for the first time. This is knowing that the city center has some bus routes that are not practical for this purpose because they connect the outskirts with the central district.
And being such a small city you can perfectly go from the train station to this cathedral in a walk of less than five minutes through four streets. In fact walking through most of the center of Reims is something you can do in less than four or five hours in total.
Anyway, the Tram has a station called Opera-Cathedrale that can help you go to and from this church in case you are staying in another neighborhood of the city. This is practical knowing that this means of transportation is the closest thing to a mass transit system like the metro in Reims.
You should also know that it is not recommended to arrive by private car to this site, as it is not comfortable, although the Parking CPA Cathedrale allows you to park your car for a couple of euros in a comfortable and safe place. It is less than 300 meters from the cathedral square, on Rue des Capuchins between Rue Libergier and Rue Henri Hadart.
Is it advisable to go to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims with children?
There are really no limitations on children of all ages entering the Notre-Dame de Reims Cathedral. However, you should keep in mind that it may not be the most entertaining activity for young children. Therefore, it is quite convenient to know that in front of the cathedral there is a square with other monuments just as close that you could appreciate from the outside so that a walk will help keep them busy.
My advice is to go during the early morning or late afternoon if you are visiting this cathedral with children, since there will be fewer people and if for some reason they start talking or crying, then you won't have to deal with the discomfort of shushing them so the rest of the people can enjoy their tourist experience.
Another way to make the tour of a cathedral more bearable when traveling with small children is by participating in a guided excursion. If it is a shared group, then there is a chance that there will be other families with young children to play with. While the older children learn about the past of this church that is so representative of French Gothic architecture.
What not to miss at the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims
Undoubtedly the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims is a marvel of French Gothic architecture and, therefore, its exterior, which has three different porticoes, is loaded with statues and statuettes very characteristic of European cathedrals. This is very typical of its architectural style. In fact only Chartres cathedral has more sculpted figures within France.
The main portico is one of the main attractions you should pay attention to. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and has different sculptures of Catholic characters. The angel with the smile is one of the most characteristic ones. Another aspect of the facade of this church worth to be observed are the towers that have a height of 86 meters and have other scenes sculpted in its structure.
The interior is also a place you should pay close attention to and is characterized by having a fairly unified architectural style, since the construction did not last more than two centuries and mainly took place during one of them, the thirteenth century. Which was not something common in the construction of these magnificent churches.
The surroundings of this cathedral are also something you should enjoy, as the front façade is not the only impressive thing about it. In fact there are those who say that its side walls are the most impressive aspect of the structure.
How much time do you need to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims?
The amount of time you have to invest to tour the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims is something that depends on how interested you are in observing the art on display inside as well as its complex structure. And most people believe that half an hour is more than enough to go through it in its entirety even if it is observed in detail.
That while there are also those who want to feel the peace in this place for spiritual or religious interests and therefore believe they have to spend at least an hour inside.
The truth is that my recommendation is that you spend the time you consider necessary, but more than 30 minutes inside the cathedral may be excessive. Especially if you are not accompanied by a guide who will explain the importance of each of the things you are seeing.
Tips for visiting the Notre Dame de Reims Cathedral
There are some recommendations that I can make for you to enjoy your visit to the cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims to the fullest regardless of whether you are traveling with children, on a planned excursion or on your own, as these are aspects that you should comply with if you want to experience the fullest tourist exploration of this beautiful city.
Take it easy
The first thing I can tell you is to go leisurely to this cathedral, as it is open for 12 hours a day and there is no limitation on free admission by time. So you don't need to speed up your exploration of other parts of the city to get to this site. In fact, if anything characterizes tourism in Reims is that it is much quieter and more moderate than in other cities with a larger number of visitors.
Take the opportunity to get to know its surroundings
As it is the most important building in the city, the surrounding area is full of important institutions such as the palace of justice of the city, the opera of Reims and the museum of fine arts. The palace of Tau is also right next door and is another site you should enjoy if you intend to make your way to this church.
The Place Royale with its cafes and institutional buildings is another place you should check out and is less than two blocks away from the cathedral structure. In fact, the neighborhood surrounding this church is the most visited area of the city and, therefore, the commercial and gastronomic offer is quite abundant.
Avoid coinciding with a mass
If you want to be able to talk calmly and walk without pressure throughout the length and breadth of this cathedral, then it is preferable that your visit does not coincide with a mass. The reality is that these religious acts do not follow a specific schedule throughout the year and following the pattern is very complex.
So in the event that you find yourself with a mass at the time of your visit, it is preferable that you go to lunch or visit the neighboring palace and then return to make your tour on your own terms.