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Best Historic Locations in Champagne & Brie Region

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One of the largest royal châteaux in France, the Palace of Fontainebleau has hosted some of the most notable of the country's kings, queens and aristocrats from the 12th Century onward. Its interiors feature an opulent and grandiose collection of ornamentation that run the gamut from wood paneling, gilded carvings and frescoes to fine art, tapestries and sculpture. Only the keep of the original 12th-century chateau built by King Louis VII still stands, the rest replaced by the exuberant reconstruction of the palace in the Renaissance style by King Francis I. Built to an aesthetic recently imported from Italy in the 16th Century, the chateau is one of the earliest examples of this kind of architecture in France. Over the subsequent years, Fontainebleau was expanded as successive generations of monarchs, including Henri II, Catherine de Médicis, Henri IV and Louis XVI, made their own additions. Known to have been adored by Napoleon Bonaparte I, Fontainebleau has played a major role in Europe's monarchical history. Henry the III, Louis the XII and Philip the Fair were all born here. Even Pope Pius VII stayed here for a time before the palace became the seat of the Second Empire of Napoleon III. Following World War II, the palace served as the headquarters of the Allied Forces and NATO. Today, it is a museum that attracts thousands of visitors each year. Surrounded by lush gardens, the Palace of Fontainebleau is the very epitome of opulence.

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims stands on the site where Clovis, the first king of the Franks, was baptized by Saint Remi. An place of worship was built on the site, but was destroyed in 1211. The cathedral that stands today was constructed in the 13th-Century, though many additions and modifications have been made since that time. Many kings of France have been crowned at this beautiful Gothic structure, though it is perhaps just as famous for having stained glass windows designed by renowned artist Marc Chagall. The cathedral celebrated its 800th birthday in 2011. Visitors to the cathedral can admire the intricate carvings and sculptures found throughout its interior or gaze in awe at the structure's exquisite facades.

This château has two significantly inspired events. One was the tragic downfall of Fouquet, a minister who paid the price of life imprisonment because King Louis XIV was jealous of his beautiful château. And under the influence of Fouquet, Vaux-le-Vicomte became a haven for French artists, writers and sculptors who gave their all for the glory of the residence. Check the website for information on the different visits. There is a candlelight visit that is going to be apt for all the lovebirds. Hours vary throughout the year and you can buy passes for more than one day; see the website or call for more information.

The Notre-Dame-en-Vaux is located in Chalons-en-Champagne in France and is dedicated to “Our Lady”. It is considered as a masterpiece of Marne which was built between the 12th and 13th centuries. Classified as a historic monument in the 19th century, it is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is titled “roads to St. Jacques de Compostela in France”. Structured in Roman-gothic style, its architecture type is of the Collegiate Churche. Inside the church is the Pipe organ, a depiction of Jamie’s life in stained glass, a painting “Adoration of the Magi” and the Cloister Museum.

While driving or walking down Avenue de Champagne, you'll be impressed by the magnificent buildings located alongside. Besides the city Hall (at the bottom of the avenue) and the visitor's bureau where they'll help you plan your visit of the town, take some of your time to visit the renown houses that made Champagne wines famous across the world, Mercier, Möet-et-Chandon or Mumm.

The Palais du Tau combines the majesty of a great residence and the religious history of its illustrious owners, the Archbishops of Reims. Its name derives from its shape which is in the form of the Greek letter "Tau". Inside is the Musée de l'Œuvre de Notre-Dame where visitors can admire a fine collection of religious statuary, tapestries, and art. Audio guides as well as tour guides are available.

Constructed in 1172, this 'Commanderie' began as a an agricultural community of monks whose proceeds went to fund the crusades. By 1307 the pope ordered that the village become a hospital. Simply put, this village is a historical landmark that has endured hundreds of years of religious and political strife. In 1964, the village was threatened by the expansion of urban zoning but was saved by a local association that signed a 99 year lease. For the last 30 years volunteers have been maintaining the site. Thanks to Les Ateliers de Techniques Anciennes, who have been leading workshops on ancient building restoration, the Commanderie des templiers stands strong.

One mile from the world renown Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims sits the Saint Remi Basilica. The Basilica was predominately constructed during the 11th century in honor of Saint Remi, the patron saint of Reims, with additions being added from the 11th to 15th centuries. The basilica was heavily damaged during the First World War and had to be completely rebuilt over the following 40 years. Today, the basilica serves as a premier example of Romanesque Architecture as well as a burial ground for important French rulers, such as Carloman (Charlemagne's brother) and Louis IV.

The Porte Mars is an ancient majestic triumphal arch in the lovely city of Reims in France. Dating back to the 3rd Century, the awe-inspiring structure is a massive 32 meters (104 feet) in length and 13 meters (42 feet) in height and was recognized as the widest arch of the Roman era. The magnificent monument consists of three grand arches, eight Corinthian columns and exquisite intricate carvings on its exterior. Friezes of the historic legends Remus and Romulus and Leda and the Swan make up the interior ceilings of the arch. Nearby to the construct is temple dedicated to Mars after which the monument was named. The historical site is accessible to the public, including the disabled and well-behaved dogs on a lead are also welcome.

This was once the residence of Jacques-Benigne Bossuet during his time serving as a French Bishop in Meaux. The building was constructed in the 12th Century, long before Bossuet actually lived there, however visitors can still see his tombstone on the grounds. There are tours that operate around the palace, including the cathedral and the gardens, that give background to the difference architectural styles that dominate the building. The residence was in constant construction from the 12th Century all the way up until the 17th Century with the completion of major changes on the lower level. In 1927, the building was listed as a historic landmark and has since housed the Bossuet Museum.

The crypts Saint Paul and Saint Ebrégésile, better known as the Jouarre crypts, are some of the best preserved crypts from the early middle ages. The crypt Saint Agilbert was founded in the year 660, and contains three sarcophagi of it's original founders. Please check the website for seasonal timings.

The town of Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a dream come true for historians and interested tourists. Ancient relics and artifacts of French antiquity are scattered densely throughout the town. To wander past many amazing medieval monuments and buildings, depart from the Place du Châtel to take a walk in the Ville Haute, the oldest part of town. The Saint Ayoul Church is in this neighborhood, as well as the Tour César (Cesar's Tower), the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church and the Grange aux Dîmes (Tithe Barn), along with 54 other sites. The office of tourism provides guided tours of the town, and the city welcomes all visitors to the Provins Medieval Festival each summer.

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