Chartres

Chartres, France
Chartres, France

Chartres is one of France’s most popular tourist destinations. Largely to thank for this popularity is the city’s amazing cathedral. The Chartres Cathedral is quite simply regarded as one of the finest examples of the French High Gothic style of architecture. Also lending to the allure of Chartres are the city’s quaint historic center and its wonderful Museum of Fine Arts. Together, these three things combine to make the city an especially ideal destination for walking tours. When a break from strolling about town is in order, Chartres visitors can take some time out to sample the various delicacies that the city is known for. Among these delicacies is the famous pate de Chartres. Many people treat Chartres as a day-trip destination, though there is reason enough to consider staying longer. Either way, its location approximately 60 miles southwest of Paris makes it easy to pair with visits to the French capital.

History

History
History

Present-day France was once part of the region of Gaul. This region was recognized during the Iron Age and the Roman era. As a result, what is now the city of Chartres was formerly a part of Gaul. The city was more specifically a principal town of the Carnutes, a powerful Celtic people who inhabited the central part of Gaul. As the Romans started to establish themselves in the region, what is now Chartres became a roman settlement known as Autricum. The name was changed again to Carnutum and then eventually to Chartres, which derives from “Carnutes.” Later on, the Normans burnt the city in 858 and then tried to besiege it in 911, an effort that was unsuccessful. During the middle ages, Chartres was a chief town of France’s Beauce region before being sold to the French crown in 1286. From 1417 to 1432, it became a possession of England, and as is true of so many European cities, it changed hands on several other occasions throughout its history. It also suffered considerable damage over the years due to war, particularly during World War II. Thankfully, the city’s stunning cathedral was spared. 

The Chartres Cathedral

The Chartres Cathedral
The Chartres Cathedral

The Chartres Cathedral, it should be noted, is largely responsible for its home city’s popularity as a pilgrimage destination. Christian pilgrims have been visiting Chartres since the Middle Ages. These days, the association Notre-Dame de Chretiente organizes an annual pilgrimage from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres. Those who take part in this pilgrimage cover the 60-mile distance on foot. From a distance, the city of Chartres can be seen rising up from its surrounding terrain, which is largely comprised of wheat fields. Dominating the skyline is the famous Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres. This historical and architectural gem was mostly built between 1194 and 1250 and remains in an exceptional state of preservation. As mentioned, the Chartres Cathedral figures among the finest examples of the French High Gothic style. Major features include amazing stained-glass windows, numerous sculptures that serve to adorn the exterior and flying buttresses that allowed architects to increase the size of the windows. Visitors can also admire the ancient floor labyrinth that is built into the floor of the nave. Pilgrims would walk this 858-foot pilgrimage path, and some even navigated the labyrinth on their knees in an act of repentance. Plenty of other great features also help to make the Chartres Cathedral such a famous France attraction, and it is easy to understand why the structure became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. General admission is free.

Other Attractions in Chartres

Other Attractions in Chartres
Other Attractions in Chartres

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres is clearly the most popular attraction in Chartres. It isn’t the only reason to visit the city, however. Next to the cathedral is the Museum of Fine Arts. It occupies a former Episcopal palace that partly dates from the 15th century. The museum building itself is a joy to admire, as is the collection of art housed inside, which largely covers the 16th to 20th centuries. A few other museums are also found in Chartres. One specializes in military things. The others put the focus on such things as stained glass art, natural science and agriculture. Exploring the cobbled streets of the Old Town district is also worth enjoying while in Chartres, and this important market town is well-known for its local farmers market. The farmers market operates on Saturday mornings in the Place Billard.

Chartres Hotels & Lodging

Chartres Hotels & Lodging
Chartres Hotels & Lodging

Being that Chartres is a major tourist destination, it only makes sense that the city is home to an ample amount of good hotels. Examples of reliable lodging establishments that in Chartres include the centrally-located Mercure Chartres Centre Catherale, the well-priced Hotel du Boeuf Couronne and the charming Hotellerie Saint Yves (pictured). Should these hotels be booked, such other Chartres hotels as the Ibis Chartres Ouest Luce and the Best Western Le Grand Monarque are worth keeping in mind. Travelers who are headed to the Chartres area should also know that there are tempting bed and breakfast inns to select from, with examples including the La Maison Paradis and the Les Conviv’hotes. Rounding out the area lodging options are a few vacation rentals and the camping area that is known as Les Bords de L’Eure. From the camping area, guests can walk into the city along the Eure River.

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