Perched above rolling vineyards in the picturesque village of Champillon, Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa is a pampering retreat that knows a thing or two about the finer things in life. The former coaching inn has been cleverly made over with a heady dose of contemporary flair. There’s plenty to savour here, from bubbly tastings to Michelin-star feasts; however you choose to while away your days, don’t miss a visit to the sleek, seductive spa.
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Champagne tasting (including three varieties) and a cheese board for two
Noon. Earliest check-in, 3pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability. Late check-out until 6pm costs half a night’s stay.
Double rooms from £514.24 (€595), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually breakfast.
Borrow an e-bike from the hotel to explore the postcard-perfect hills – the extra power will come in handy on some of the steeper inclines.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, yoga classes, electric bicycles to borrow (€50 a day), free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, air-conditioning, minibar, Illy coffee machine, Hermès toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Delicately dressed with ombré floral wallpaper, pale wood and the softest of linens, the suites are all enticing. If you’re forced to play favourites, go for a Panoramic Suite – strategically poised at the corner of the building for sweeping vineyard views – or plump for the Marie-Louise Suite, a sprawling hideaway with a private terrace just made for bubbly sundowners.
Pale and interesting, the hotel’s striking infinity pool overlooks the vineyards and has an inviting terrace kitted out with parasols and sunloungers to take in the view. It’s open from April to October and heated, so you can take a dip on sun-kissed spring and autumn days. Open year-round, the 25m heated indoor pool is equally sleek, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and elegant grey loungers strategically positioned to make the most of the tranquil vistas.
Decked out in pale wood and metallic tiles, the Royal Champagne Spa has nine treatment rooms, including two for couples, and you’re free to use the sauna and hammam. Book ahead for body-and-soul ministrations at the hands of expert therapists, from champagne facials to candle massages. High-tech treatments from cult beauty brand Biologique Recherche can be tailored to your needs for a two-hour beauty-and-wellness boost.
Bring some stylish (but sturdy) flats to pootle around the vineyards, plus yoga wear to join in with sun salutations.
The hotel’s public spaces are all accessible to disabled guests. One Garden Junior Suite and one Royal Junior Suite have bathrooms adapted for wheelchair users. Help yourself to soft drinks from the free minibar.
Welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to the rooms, and the restaurants have high chairs, colouring sheets and baby-changing facilities, and will happily cater to little ones with half portions. Babysitting is available for €35 an hour.
If you’re dining en famille, Le Royal’s central wooden table is the most dramatic. Nab a window table at Le Bellevue for glorious countryside views.
Suits and silks wouldn’t go amiss in Le Royal: pick something high-waisted, perhaps, to echo the Empire silhouettes in the dining room’s oversized portraits. Le Bellevue’s vibe is more laid-back: think chinos and impeccable breton stripes.
Tasteful, grown-up Le Royal is dressed in interesting greys and shades of honeycomb, with plenty of space around the linen-draped tables for intimate conversation. Book at least three weeks in advance for a chance to sample chef Jean-Denis Rieubland’s effervescent cuisine: his deft use of Aubrac beef, local game and the garden’s own produce has earned the spot its first Michelin star. Chic brasserie Le Bellevue is more casual, but no less enchanting: feast on crowd-pleasing Reims ham, herb-crusted chicken and ice-cream sundaes.
Take a stool beneath the crystal chandelier at sophisticated Abysse, where bartenders are as likely to tempt you with an expertly mixed cocktail as a glass of Pinot-rich Leclerc Briant champagne. Apéro hour is best savoured on the terrace; if you’re feeling peckish, nibble on caviar blinis or squid tempura from the tapas menu.
Le Bellevue is open from 7am to 9pm. Le Royal serves dinner from 7.15pm to 9.30pm; it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays. Abysse pours tipples until 1am.
Simple salads, sandwiches and pasta can be brought to your room.
A 20-minute drive from Reims, this peaceful retreat overlooks the vineyards in the charming village of Champillon.
Paris Vatry airport, a 50-minute drive away, serves low-cost flights to Portugal, Spain and Morocco. The international hubs of Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports are just a 90-minute drive away,
Services from Paris Est, Strasbourg and Reims stop at Épernay station, a 15-minute drive away.
It’s worth bringing your own wheels to explore Champagne’s rolling hills and under-the-radar cellars at your own pace. Drop your bags off in front of the hotel on arrival; there’s free valet parking on site.
If you’re making a grand entrance by helicopter, the nearest landing point is at Épernay’s Plivot Aerodrome.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’d be no shame in staying put: a few laps of the pool, a gentle wander around the surrounding vineyards or an afternoon at the spa may be just what the doctor ordered. Rich with culture and tradition, the Champagne region begs to be explored. Pack an Hermès head scarf to keep those locks in place during a cabriolet tour of the nearby villages or a hot-air-balloon ride, both of which the hotel can arrange. A drive down Épernay’s Avenue de Champagne acts as a Who’s Who of top producers: grand maisons such as Moët & Chandon or Mercier host tours of their impressive estates and cellars. Make time for family-run smaller labels, too, who often host drop-in tasting sessions of lesser-known vintages and can happily part with a case or two to take home. Ask hotel staff for a recommendation, or drive around the villages of Aÿ or Avize (easily spotted by its towering oversized bottle of champagne) to see where luck takes you. If you’re craving a spot of urban buzz, make time for a day trip to Reims, if only for the spectacular cathedral where French kings were crowned for 1,000 years. The hotel also has a flock of e-bikes (€35 for a half day, €50 a day) for bombing through the countryside; hire also includes a satchel, bottled water, helmet, a regional map and padlock.
Nostalgic but chic, La Table Kobus takes its inspiration from the Belle Époque brasseries of Paris. It’s an intimate spot for classic fare with a twist: foie gras with champagne liqueur, say, or seared scallops with a butternut-squash mousse. The elegant Château de Sacy is the setting for up-and-coming Les Vignes, where chef Nicolas Cristoforetti marries creative flair with old-school touches, such as a cheese trolley. In Épernay, La Grillade’s chef Christophe Bernard trained with Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse and knows his way around open fires and impressive cuts of meat.
Half an hour’s drive away in Verzy, the Perching Bar is hardly a neighbourhood haunt, but it’s worth the trek for a chance to sip on a flute or two of champagne in a treehouse bar nestled high above the forest grounds.
One of the quirks of the British psyche is that we’d rather let a bottle of champagne gather dust than risk opening it on an occasion not deemed fancy enough. Hands up who’s got a ‘good bottle’ that’s been guarded like a top-security museum piece for years?
No wonder the French don’t get us – they love drinking the good stuff. As an aperitif. Because it’s Friday. But also on Mondays. With oysters or baguette; friends or solo; for a celebration, but equally because champagne is delicious, life is short and pleasure is fun. And it’s in adopting this French approach to highbrow hydration, that me, Mr Smith and our Four-Legged Smith devote a random Sunday and Monday to quenching the most indulgent kind of thirst – an effervescent one.
10 minutes’ drive from Épernay, where the gloriously named Avenue de Champagne houses manicured tasting terraces that belong to Moët et Chandon and Perriet Jouet, Royal Champagne perches on top of a valley. Born as a coaching inn in the 17th century, the hotel has imbibed a few rounds of its own – it became an open-air dance hall in the 19th century and now, in the 21st, a brutalist design reboot created square-shaped suites that look like a concrete ice-cube tray nestled among vines.
Inside, it’s artfully on-brand, with stone floors and chandeliers polished to the point of sparkling. It’s like walking into a Lalique boutique… then I feel my right arm being yanked and I’m suddenly reminded that I have a large, excited dog with me. I panic. Did I imagine the small print allowing dogs? I look around at the precious vases of roses, a black-tie lunch rollicking below the balustrade downstairs, and furnishings in every dog owner’s most terrifying shade – light grey.
When staff rush over, I’m already preparing my apology speech and exit strategy. My dog, however, reads the room better than I do: within seconds, he’s flat on his back with his legs in the air enjoying a full-body rub. I realise that, like the wine we’re here for, the first step to joie de vivre is to chill. Ideally horizontally. Tongue hanging on the floor, optional.
Once shown to our Royal Junior Suite – the magnum proportions of which house a sofa, lounge chairs and a desk, almost as fillers – I realise the neutral décor is intentionally so. Your attention is meant for The View.
The valley-facing wall is made entirely of glass, leading onto a clear-sided balcony that lets you drink in the panorama before you: rolling hills, speck-shaped towns and a dramatic paint-stroke of sky and cloud. It’s both relaxing and regal; a podium to survey wine country as if it were your kingdom. Your decisions, as its new ruler, aided by the ‘Champagne, please’ button on the room telephone that immediately summons filled flutes to your door.
Most decision-making at Royal Champagne simply requires the word ‘yes’. Take the spa. I’ll admit that I’m a tough crowd with resort spas. I struggle to lean into laying back when I could be exploring, taking pictures or quaffing. I can rarely silence a mental commentary of whether a treatment is meeting expectations or, honestly, its expense.
But the spa at Royal Champagne is a destination in its own right, and this is why. In the nine years that I’ve known Mr Smith, I’ve seen him wear a robe once – during a hospital stay for back surgery. In two days at Royal Champagne, he wore a robe every day, at multiple points during each day, uncoerced by medical professionals to do so. He even went to the spa to go shopping for items that did not have wires or a screen. That is its allure.
Firstly, there’s a proper pool. In culinary terms, this is a steak not a dollop of foam – 25 metres to get your stroke on. (There is also an outdoor pool. But if you visit outside the summer months, as we did, unless you’re accustomed to the Wim Hof method of ice bathing, the inside pool is… kinder).
Secondly, the pool area is spectacular. Floor-to-ceiling windows are the star: on our first day, glorious sunlight poured in, turning the pool water an Ibizan-cala shade of blue. On day two, the weather turned; windows now showcasing dark, hypnotic storm skies with the vines all but invisible under creeping wafts of mist.
The treatments, hand on (well-moisturised) heart, are excellent. Facials use Biologique Recherche, a cult French brand founded by a biologist and a physiotherapist that all the Parisians I know swear by.
So much for my loathe-to-lay-down rule, I went twice. Once to de-mangle my back, gnarled by a dog trying to pull me into high-end places. The second to give my face some champagne sparkle – you wonder how they can find so many things to layer on and off over 90 minutes, then you look in the mirror at the juicy, even-toned reflection and realise that maybe spending more than 45 seconds on yourself is worth it.
There’s also a lot of positive noise for the restaurants. The Michelin-starred Le Royal is closed on Sundays and Mondays, so we didn’t get a chance to make inappropriate food groans in there. But Le Bellevue, the more casual restaurant (though not robe-wearing casual, Mr Smith), is a great, vibey staple – always full, with switched-on service, and fizz topped up like tap water.
A visit to Royal Champagne is not an everyday event, of course. But you do leave with a slightly changed perspective – that incorporating more of the good stuff into your everyday life wouldn’t be an entirely outrageous idea. Perhaps my dog was right all along – run towards the good stuff and spend more time laying down. I’ll drink to that.