By Mina Solujic; photo credits to Victoria Constantin
If there’s one things that can tie Sciences Po students together, it’s the seemingly shared dislike of Reims that exists among us. Especially with the less than great weather, not to mention SciencesPo’s total takeover of our lives, lashing out against Reims can be pretty enjoyable. And as much as I do like to complain about anything that bears a slight inconvenience to my life, I’m not a big enough cynic to think that there’s nothing that this little French town can offer us. After spending a year of my life here, I’ve found that there is, in fact, more to do here than just champagne tours and looking at the cathedral. So, without sounding too much like a guidebook, here’s a few cool places that I’ve discovered so that you don’t have to.
For some students, it may initially come as shocking having to be completely responsible for your own sustenance, especially while at a university with a subpar cafeteria. Carrefour, for many, has thus naturally become a sort of second home. But you can’t let yourself get trapped in the Bermuda Triangle that is school, Carrefour, and home; with November breakdown on the horizon, you’re gonna need to break out of it.
I can understand the restrictions of a student budget, but there are some places that should allow a bit of a splurge. One restaurant that immediately comes to mind is Sacre Burger, found just off of Place du Forum. It’s a cool vibe with a fun industrial-esque decor that’s always bustling with people. I’d recommend making a reservation beforehand though, as they’re just that busy.
Those of you wanting to do some more healthy eating might wanna step away from the Carrefour Bio label and instead head up to some of the local farmer’s markets available in Reims. The most popular and aesthetically pleasing one can be found at Les Halles, which is actually a UNESCO world heritage centre with an art deco design. This particular market takes place Wednesday and Saturday mornings, but there are several others that pop up throughout the week. These markets are often cheaper, with better produce grown by local farmers.
Reims doesn’t have the same brasserie culture that one might find in Paris (that is, it sadly doesn’t have one on every street corner), regardless, it does have some cool places to start the night off (or keep it going). The first name that comes to mind is Le Cabasson, objectively one of the best venues Reims has to offer. A cafe by day and a bar by night, it’s a good time for any occasion. With the mismatched everything going on in the bar, you get a feel of that bohemian eclecticism that only seems to exist in movies. If you’re lucky, you might stumble onto one of their mini jazz sessions that they host every few Sundays (yeah, they’re open on Sundays).
If you’re interested in meeting students from other universities, there are some cool bars where one can encounter Reims’ other student communities. Neoma business school students often spend Thursday nights at the Kilberry and then head out to go Voguing afterwards. Another popular student haunt, The Gin Pamp, is filled to the brim on weekend nights.
A place I recently learned about and which is unfortunately soon closing for the season is La Guinguette, an outdoor bar in the Parc de la Rosarie that also hosts different DJs and other musical sets. It’s a cool place to get exposure to Reims’ relatively low-key cultural life, as well as taking advantage the last of the nice weather before winter comes.
Moving to non-alcoholic drinks, if you’re looking for a place to study that isn’t the library or home, there’s Oma Cafe right on rue Gambetta. Reims is severely lacking in the coffee shop department, so Oma is very nicely filling that void with its caffeinated drinks and vintage designs. Earlier this year it was also opened for two weeks on the weekends until the owner thought better of it. Here’s hoping that she’ll forget about doing that and open up again then, so there is still hope for a weekend study spot (either way, complement the owner on her muffins and she’ll love you forever).
There’s a pretty good music scene in Reims as well, if you forget about the Vogue nightclub. Taking place at Palais du Tau, another UNESCO world heritage site (Reims seems to have its fair share of those), there is Noces Felines, a concert that has up-and-coming artists coming from around France. Champagne from the house is provided and the sets are always a good time, whether you’ve actually heard of the artist or not.
Surprisingly, there’s also an outdoor music festival that takes place in Reims as well. Magnifique Society is a weekend-long festival that takes place at the Parc de Champagne, with both French and international artists coming to perform. The music is good and makes outdoor drinking all the more fun.
This list isn’t close to comprehensive and I’m sure I’m missing so many other great places, but Reims’ social media presence, in terms of cultural events, is on top of its game, making it pretty easy to keep up with any other big upcoming events through Facebook.
Reims has some cool things going on, and it’s lazy to think otherwise. Like any new place, you just need to put in the time to discover your own niche areas. And if you really need a break from Reims, you can always just hop on the next less-than-€10e train out of here and take a day trip away to Epernay.