Chartres

Chartres "Basse ville"

Chartres is a small city in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, approximately an hour south-west of Paris by train. Population is 42,000 although that rises to 100,000 when the surrounding towns are taken into consideration. The main attraction for most visitors to Chartres is the 12th century cathedral, considered by many art historians to be the finest surviving example from the High Gothic period. In the last couple of years a new mayor has overseen the modernization of the center of the town. There has provoked both positive and negative reactions from the "Chartrains", but there is no doubt that the town is undergoing a certain renewal.

Get in

By car

From central Paris, take the A10, followed by the A11 - a driving distance of 91 km (57 miles). It's also possible to take the A13 (towards Rouen) and then at the Traingle de Rocqencourt to head south on the A12 to Trappes and the RN10. The RN10 is the "old" road from Paris to Chartres (and beyond) and there is no toll. Most of it is dual carriageway, although there are a few tricky 3 lane sections. Usually doesn't take any longer than the motorway and both arrive side-by-side in Chartres.

By train

There are many daily direct trains from and to Paris Montparnasse. The journey to Chartres averages just over an hour each way and costs €24 1st class, €16 2nd class (adult fares). Prices are the same whether you buy in advance or last minute. Try to take one of the double-decked TER trains if possible, because they are more comfortable, and you have better views of the lovely countryside.

The SNCF station in Chartres has a good news kiosk, and sometimes there is a small cafe open. Bathrooms at the station are open intermittently, but you can find bathrooms in many other places around the city.

There are few "direct" trains and these are at commuter times. Therefore they are quite often "packed" and at peak-time prices. Most trains are direct from Paris to Rambouillet and then they stop at every station to Chartres. Travel time for one of those is 1 hour 15 minutes. Some trains stop only at Épernon and Maintenon (the small chateau is well worth a trip) and these manage the journey in 1 hour. All trains from Paris to Chartres (and beyond to Nogent le Rotrou and Le Mans) are TER (Train Express Régional)

More often than not, you will be taking the "Paris - Chartres - Nogent le Rotrou - Le Mans" line. The front of the train could read EITHER "Chartres", "Nogent le Rotrou", or "Le Mans," as these 3 cities always have the terminus.

If you are in France for a long period of time, it is worth it to buy an SNCF Fidelity card. For people 28 and under there is "Carte Jeune" where one can save up to 60% on ticket prices. There are also cards available for seniors and special vacation passes. These cards are only worth it when travelling extensively through France.

A view of the cathedral

Get around

Free maps and information can be obtained from the great tourist information center. They are very helpful and friendly, and the center is on the road between the train station and cathedral. It is near the cathedral, on the north side of the gravel square in front of the cathedral.

See

Statuary on the south portal of Notre Dame de Chartres

Do

Buy

One of the beautiful stained glass windows in the Cathedral

Chartres has many shops selling religious items. Most are located to the north of the cathedral, or along the streets between the cathedral and the train station.

For basic needs, there is a medium-sized Monoprix store located in the pedestrian area at the top of the hill. They sell groceries and other items useful for budget travellers.

There is a food market in the Place Billard every Saturday morning. Some professional traders, but plenty of local producers.

Stray away from the touristy areas for delicious meals. Next to the Hôtel de Ville de Chartres you can find some wonderful brasseries.

The town square in Chartres

Eat

Chartres has many small, wonderful restaurants at reasonable prices, especially compared to Paris. Of course, the establishments closest to the SNCF station are the more expensive ones.

There is an awesome macaroon store at the south end of the main town square, and the pedestrian-only streets heading to the west from the town square have many excellent patisseries and boulangeries.

Drink

The memorial to Jean Moulin

When in Chartres, you should try some of the local brew, a beer called Eurelienne. There are 4 sorts - white (blanche), "blonde", red (rousse) and brown (brune). It is brewed just outside town, in Chandres, by a local farmer and the "brewery" can be visited during the first weekend of every month. Unfortunately, the beer is difficult to find, although some shops do a "tourist" package. Strangely, enough, it can be bought in a "Gamme Vert" garden center (behind the theatre) ! The Madrigal bar of the Grand Monarque hotel sells all four types.

Sleep

Chartres suffers from a lack of hotels so it is definitely worth booking in advance. Below are a few hotels in the center. There are a few on the ring road to the west and south of town. The good news is that a hotel Mercure has been built in the centre of town, about 50 metres from the Grand Monarque.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, September 12, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.