Visit Chartres15 activities to do during a weekend or a day in Chartres.
CHARTRES CATHEDRALIt 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 CathedralAddress: 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 ChartresThe 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’évêchéLocated 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 ChartresAddress: 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 CITYThe 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 ChartresChartres 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 ChartresAddress: The path will be revealed at the beginning of the year. Schedule: Open from March to December. Prices: Free Information and details are available on the official website of the city of Chartres.
Saint-Aignan ChurchThis 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.
Saint-Pierre ChurchLocated 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 ChurchesSaint-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!
Information & Schedule: Chartres en lumièresOpening on April 15, 2023 Schedule: A luminous journey every night, from dusk to dawn from April to January, with a renewed route every year. Prices: Free More information on the official Chartres en lumières website.
THE PICASSIETTE HOUSEOne 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.
Information & Opening hours: Maison Picassiette in ChartresThe 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.