15 activities to do during a weekend or a day in Chartres.
Exploring Chartres on foot is to cross a city on the banks of the Eure River and its green valley, where nature has been preserved, to the delight of sports enthusiasts. The city is located at the heart of a network of cycling paths that connect it to nearby towns, such as Maintenon and its famous castle, whose gardens were designed by André Le Nôtre, the famous architect of the Gardens of Versailles under Louis XIV.
It is impossible to imagine visiting Chartres without visualizing the two towers (one Romanesque, the other Gothic) of its cathedral standing out for miles on the Beauce horizon. As the spiritual and cultural center of the city, the Notre-Dame Cathedral of Chartres has undergone successive constructions since its founding bases dating back to the 4th century, up to its recent restoration, which began in 2007.
The first Romanesque cathedral of Chartres reached its architectural and religious peak in the year 1000. Bishop Fulbert, a great theological figure of the Middle Ages, led important work on the cathedral, particularly its crypt. Measuring 250 meters, it is one of the largest crypts in France. It is worth a visit for its magnificent frescoes, its statue of the Virgin and Child (Notre-Dame-de-Sous-Terre), and its well dating back to the Gallo-Roman period. It can be visited with a guide, during the day or in the light of candles, as part of Chartres en Lumières during the summer period.
The current building of the cathedral mainly dates back to the 13th century, when the Gothic style was flourishing in Europe. It was at this time that the famous Chartres stained glass windows were created by skilled master glassmakers. As witnesses of a unique expertise, the Chartres stained glass windows were listed as UNESCO heritage. Beyond the biblical scenes they depict, they were designed using a coloring technique specific to the city of Chartres.
The “bleu de Chartres” (cobalt blue) is renowned for being one of the most beautiful and durable colors over time. It enhances the beauty of many stained glass windows, including that of “Notre-Dame-de-la-Belle-Verrière,” representing the Virgin with the Child on her lap, as well as the monumental rose windows adorning each of the cathedral’s three portals. It’s a must-see during a visit to Chartres, alone or under the guidance of one of the many guides available!
Visit the cathedral tower
Classified as a Historical Monument, the north tower is open for guided tours. Visitors are thus offered the opportunity to observe the magnificent sculptural work adorning the cathedral’s exterior facades up close. They can also admire the stained-glass windows in detail and explore the cathedral’s attic.
Having suffered numerous incidents over the course of its existence, Notre-Dame de Chartres was able to recover from its most significant disaster in 1836: a fire that completely destroyed its wooden frame. Following this tragedy, the frame was reconstructed in cast iron. It is one of the oldest in France. Its inverted boat hull shape offers a spectacle as unique as it is magnificent.
The visit reaches its climax once you reach the top of the north tower, 60 meters high: the Beauce panorama unfolds before your eyes. The blue roof of the media library, installed in the former post office building dating from the early 20th century, rubs shoulders with the bell towers of the churches of Saint-Pierre and Saint-Aignan, while the houses reveal their multicolored roofs to the eye. The sight is well worth the effort: you have to climb no less than 300 steps!
Information & Hours: Chartres Cathedral
Address: 16 Cloître Notre Dame, 28000 Chartres
Hours: Open every day from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm
Admission: Access to the Cathedral is free, however, guided tours are chargeable:
Cathedral (interior and exterior): €8 full price, €5 reduced price.
Crypt: €5, free for children under 10.
North tower and attic: €6, free for visitors under 26 years old. For opening hours in the evening and during masses, and for more information, please visit the official website.
The fine arts museum of Chartres
The Fine Arts Museum of Chartres is a former episcopal palace located behind the cathedral. Surrounded by the gardens of the bishopric, this beautiful place in the Beauce territory houses buildings from the 15th to the 18th century. Classified as a historical monument, all one needs to do is wander through the museum of fine arts to catch a glimpse of the works of Fragonard, Chardin, Soutinedes, Corot, Vlaminck, Rigaud, and Préault. Appreciate its collections ranging from the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century, and discover the works of Henri Navarre: Goldsmith, glassmaker, medal engraver, and sculptor.
Explore Oceania thanks to Governor Louis-Joseph Bouge, a knowledgeable collector and bibliophile. These collections, acquired during his travels to the islands of Tahiti, the Marquesas, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia, were bequeathed to the Fine Arts Museum in 1970.
Les jardins de L’évêché
Located directly behind the cathedral, the gardens were designed on an artificial slope built since the medieval period. They offer a unique panoramic view of the city of Chartres and its surroundings. They also host the Fine Arts Museum, housed in the former Episcopal Palace, right next to the cathedral.
Information & Hours: Museum of Fine Arts of Chartres
Address: 29, Cloître Notre-Dame, 28000 Chartres
Hours: Closed on Mondays – Tuesday to Friday: 10AM-12:30PM, 2PM-6PM – Saturday, Sunday: 2PM-6PM
Admission: Free and no reservation required
Guided tours: Paid and by reservation through the Tourist Office at +33 2 37 18 26 23.
VISITING THE HEART OF CHARTRES CITY
The lower city is built around the Eure River. Visitors can take a stroll along the water and admire the old wash-houses where washerwomen used to wash clothes until the beginning of the 20th century. Among the medieval houses, the ruins of the Guillaume Gate stand out. This former barbican was destroyed during the bombings of 1944.
Dating back to the Middle Ages, the streets of this neighborhood represent different professions. As you stroll through the area, you will come across the Rue du Massacre, named after a former slaughterhouse, the Rue de la Tannerie, where tanners worked, and the Rue de la Foulerie, where wool workers were located.
The Art Path in Chartres
Chartres enjoys blending historical heritage and modernity. The Art Path embodies this: it allows visitors to admire contemporary artworks within buildings that are several centuries old. Therefore, the Saint-André collegiate church, the Saint-Vincent priory, and the Saint-Eman chapel open their doors every year to host free exhibitions from March to December.
Various artists from all over have the opportunity to present their works, including paintings, sculptures, and photographs. All artistic domains are explored. Contemporary works of art and ancient monuments are juxtaposed and mutually magnified, offering a unique cultural experience to be enjoyed during strolls in Chartres.
Information & Schedule: Art Path in Chartres
Address: The path will be revealed at the beginning of the year.
Schedule: Open from March to December.
Information and details are available on the official website of the city of Chartres.
This small church is one of the oldest in Chartres. It is the result of numerous successive reconstructions, blending Gothic style from the Middle Ages with antique Renaissance style architecture. It is worth opening the door and stepping inside: the interior of the chapel is covered with painted frescoes dating back to 1861. The colorful hues of the walls and beams match those of the stained glass windows, mainly from the 16th century.
Located in the lower town, Saint-Pierre Church is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in Chartres. Its square tower is the oldest vestige of the building and reflects its Carolingian origin. Formerly a Benedictine abbey, it survived the French Revolution and became a parish church in 1803. It has retained a very rich collection of 14th-century stained glass windows, which are listed as Historical Monuments.
Information & Schedule: Saint-Aignan and Saint-Pierre Churches
Saint-Aignan Church Address: 12 Place de l’Étape au Vin, 28000 Chartres
Saint-Pierre Church Address: 6 Rue Pétion, 28000 Chartres
Schedule: The churches are open from Monday to Sunday, from 08:30 am to 06:00 pm.
Mass schedules and further information are available on the official website.
Chartres en Lumières (Chartres in lights)
Every evening from April to October, the city center is adorned with a thousand colors. Projectors light up as soon as night falls, and no fewer than twenty-four sites are illuminated for a light and music show. Enough to return to your hotel with stars in your eyes!
In parallel, the north and south portals see their statues colored as they were at the time. Descending towards the old town, visitors can admire the Saint-André collegiate church and the Saint-Pierre church, each adorned with enchanting illuminations. The banks of the Eure River are also part of the show: its bridges and washhouses are illuminated, for a magical stroll along the water’s edge.
The show is entirely free and can be admired at your own pace. The public strolls freely through the streets and can choose to see the same scenography several times. In parallel, the Tourist Office offers guided tours with comments on the main illuminated monuments. The tourist train makes two city tours during the evening to admire all the illuminations without having to climb the stairs to reach the upper town and the lower town. Whether with family, lovers, or friends, it is an unforgettable show not to be missed during your stay in Chartres. To be seen and reviewed without moderation!
Information & Schedule: Chartres en lumières
Opening on April 15, 2023
Schedule: A luminous journey every night, from dusk to dawn from April to January, with a renewed route every year.
More information on the official Chartres en lumières website.
THE PICASSIETTE HOUSE
One must venture away from the city center to discover this curious house located at 22 Rue du Repos. Completely covered in multicolored mosaics, it displays frescoes, rosettes, and rural as well as exotic landscapes across its entire surface.
Nicknamed “Picassiette” by his neighbors, Isidore continued his work for almost thirty years. He built a series of buildings next to his house intended to display new mosaics. A chapel, an inner courtyard, a summer house, and a garden adorned with sculptures were thus created.
Information & Opening hours: Maison Picassiette in Chartres
The house is open from April 15th to November 15th.
Address: 22 Rue du Repos, 28000 Chartres.
Opening hours: Open from March 15th to November 15th.
- Wednesday to Saturday: 10am to 6pm.
- Sunday: 2pm to 6pm.
- Closed on Monday and Tuesday, May 1st and May 8th.
Ticket prices: From March 15th to May 31st and from November 1st to November 15th: full price: €7, reduced price: €4, free for children under 6.
During exhibition periods, from June 1st to October 31st: full price: €9, reduced price: €4, free for children under 6.
For more information, visit the official website of Maison Picassiette
THE FRESCOES OF BEL AIR
Located north of Chartres, the district of Bel Air has become famous for its buildings covered with immense frescoes. Playing on trompe-l’oeil effects, the paintings represent typical scenes of the Beauce landscape: fields being harvested, half-timbered houses from the medieval streets of Chartres, the Eure river with its bridges and flowery banks.
Information: The Frescoes of Bel-Air in Chartres
Address: 3-1 Allée des Saules, 28000 Chartres
For more information, please visit the Chartres tourism office
THE INTERNATIONAL STAINED GLASS CENTER
Located at the apse of the cathedral, the International Stained Glass Center has set itself the mission of introducing the delicate craft of the master glassmaker. The processes of creating and assembling stained glass are explained there through detailed exhibitions. In parallel, the Center has a vast collection of stained glass dating back to the Renaissance.
Information & Hours: The International Stained Glass Center in Chartres
Address: 5, rue du Cardinal Pie – 28000 CHARTRES
Hours: The center is open every day from 2:00pm to 5:45pm.
Ticket Prices: Full price: 7€ – Half price: 5.50€.
For more information, visit the official website.
The COMPA, the Agriculture Conservatory
Unique in France, the COMPA presents a retrospective of agriculture from the 19th century to the present day. Visitors will discover an impressive collection of agricultural machinery. Interactive exhibitions offer a reflection on pre-war peasant life and the ecological challenges of agriculture in the future. The visit concludes with a stop at the bookstore-shop, where books, local products, and children’s toys are sold.
Information & Hours: The COMPA – Agriculture Conservatory
Address: Pont de Mainvilliers, 28000 Chartres
From April 1st to October 31st: Tuesday to Friday: 9:00am-12:30pm – 1:30pm-6:00pm – Weekend: 2:00pm-7:00pm
From November 2nd to March 31st: Tuesday to Friday: 9:00am-12:30pm – 1:30pm-6:00pm – Weekend: 2:00pm-6:00pm
Ticket Prices: Adults: 5€ – Reduced price: 3€ – Children from 6 to 18 years old: 2€ – Children under 6 years old: free
For more information, visit the official COMPA website
The Maintenon Castle
If Chartres has its Gothic cathedral, Maintenon has its castle of the purest Renaissance style. Witness of the attention that Louis XIV paid to this estate, the Maintenon Castle was marked by one of its most prestigious owners: Françoise d’Aubigné, known as Madame de Maintenon, who was the marquise and secret wife of the Sun King.
Open to visitors with or without a guide, the castle reveals its apartments, lounges, and elegant galleries where its distinguished owners succeeded each other. Among other things, visitors will discover the bedroom where Louis XIV slept when he visited his wife, the small oratory of Madame de Maintenon, and the splendid library containing books that belonged to the marquise. Castle visits include an exploration booklet for children, for a fun and educational visit to this monument steeped in history.
Maintenon is located about twenty kilometers north of Chartres. It can be reached by car (a thirty-minute drive) or by train by taking the direction of Paris (a twenty-minute journey).
Information & Horaires of Chateau de Maintenon
Address: 2A Place Aristide Briand, 28130 Maintenon
From April 1st to September 30th: Tuesday to Sunday and holidays, from 10:30 am to 7:00 pm.
From February 1st to March 31st, from October 1st to December 20th: Tuesday to Friday, from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday, from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm.
Prices: Adult: €8.50 – Reduced rate: €6.50 – Young people from 7 to 18 years old: €4 – from 18 to 25 years old and students: €4.50
More information on guided tours and group visits on the official website of Chateau de Maintenon
Marcel Proust Museum – Aunt Léonie’s House
A small town located about thirty kilometers south of Chartres, Illiers-Combray has become famous thanks to the writer Marcel Proust. He spent several summers there during his childhood, hosted by his great-aunt. The memories that the author kept from his stays there served as inspiration to write what would become a masterpiece of French literature: In Search of Lost Time. Proust’s childhood home has become a museum dedicated to the life of the author.
The family furniture has been preserved, and generous donations have made it possible to restore many objects that belonged to Marcel Proust. The house as it is described in his novels comes to life, and visitors can stroll through the emblematic rooms of the work: the oriental living room, Aunt Léonie’s kitchen, and even young Marcel’s bedroom. A part of the museum is dedicated to the Belle Époque and the Parisian high society that Proust frequented during his adult life. Notes from the author are also on display.
Information & Hours for the Marcel Proust Museum – Aunt Léonie’s House
Address: 6 Rue du Dr Proust, 28120 Illiers-Combray
Hours: Tuesday to Friday 2:15 pm – 5 pm
Admission: Full price: €7 – Half price: €5
More information on the official museum website
Activities in Chartres with children
Explore Chartres and its surroundings by bike
Cycling tourism has developed intensively in Eure-et-Loir in recent years. Bike lanes and paths now form an extensive network linking the main towns of the department. Chartres is also one of the stages of a major cycling route: the Véloscénie. Connecting Paris to Mont Saint-Michel, this route offers 450 kilometers of secure paths in the majestic setting of the Eure Valley.
Don’t have a bike? No problem, you can rent what you need at La Maison du Vélo: city bikes, bikes for children, electric bikes, baby seats, trailers… La Maison du Vélo also offers suggestions for bike rides in the heart of Chartres.
Parc des Bords de l’Eure
Ideal for a wooded walk along the water, the Parc des Bords de l’Eure is very close to the city center. Nicknamed “Little Venice” by the people of Chartres, you can find a multitude of activities there: an animal park with chickens and goats, a playground for children, a mini-golf course, pedal boat rentals, and a open-air café open from spring to autumn.
Information & Hours Parc des Bords de l’Eure in Chartres
Address: Rue du Faubourg La Grappe 28000 CHARTRES
Hours: From May 1 to August 31: 7:30 am – 9:00 pm – From September 1 to October 31: 7:30 am – 7:00 pm – From November 1 to February 28: 7:30 am – 5:30 pm
More information on the tourism office
The Odyssée aquatic center
Looking for some fun? The Odyssée is an aquatic center and ice rink. This park, one of the largest aquatic centers in France, is open to you! Relax in the hammam, have fun in the wave pool, swim outdoors in the outdoor pools, or unwind in the jacuzzi. Activities are organized for children during school holidays.
Information & Opening hours for L’Odyssée complex
Address: Rue du Médecin Général Beyne, 28000 Chartres
More information on opening hours on the official website of L’Odyssée