Chartres – a tiny town with a huge cathedral

Andreas and I closed the last pages of 2013 with a quick escapade to France. Not Paris as one would expect, well not directly. Our first stop was Chartres, a town only French can pronounce so gracefully. It is only 90 km away from Paris, yet is such a world apart.

The elegance and glamour of Paris did not reach here, nor did the insane crowds of tourists thankfully, at least not in this season. Chartres had that air of French countryside charm that puts you straight in the idyllic state of mind. It also had some extremely nice residents, who were eager to share a smile or “bonjour”.

Old city charm

The old city waking up to a beautiful morning

The winding streets of Chartres - narrow with a really tiny sidewalk, so watch out for the traffic!

The winding streets of Chartres – narrow with a really tiny sidewalk, so watch out for the traffic!

On early morning walk

On an early morning walk

A day or two is enough to unfold all its secrets, walk its old, cobblestoned streets, and marvel at the imposing beauty of its enormous cathedral both outer and inner literally.

Chartres Cathedral

Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral – this wonder of a site will take your breath away over and over again.

Just seeing and experiencing this cathedral is an enough reason to visit Chartres. This enormous pilgrimage site from the 13th century is the definite landmark and the centerpiece of Chartres. The size is one thing, but take a close look at its spires, they are oddly different.

Imposing towers

Portail Royal – The main entrance to the cathedral is adorned with thousands of statutes and carvings.

Portail Royal - The main entrance to the cathedral is adorned with thousands of statutes and carvings.

From the façade it is mesmerizingly beautiful and tall, from the sides and the back it is massive and no less beautiful. But wait until you step inside. Your breath will be taken away again… Amazing stained glass everywhere on every single one of 172 windows. I spent close to three hours admiring one window after another.

When you look carefully you can see a special blue colour stand out from the crowd. It’s the ‘Chartres blue’.

The mesmerizing Chartres blue

The mesmerizing Chartres blue

Behind the cathedral there is a big park with a panoramic view.

The cathedral from the back

The cathedral from the back

A cute, little park little outside the inner city with a view of the cathedral of course!

A cute, little park little outside the inner city with a view of the cathedral of course!

Getting to Chartres is an adventure in itself. But don’t worry it’s a beautiful and fun adventure. You get to cross through Paris and navigate its crazy web of trains and metros. Put a few hours of travel time in a nutshell from Paris CDG take the RER B (sort of S-Bahn) to Paris, to go to Denfert Rochereau station. From there switch to line 6 direction Charles de Gaulle Etoile, and get off at Gare Montparnasse. From Gare Montparnasse upper platform there is a train every hour that takes one hour to get to Chartres.

Bon voyage!

Photos © Andreas Eriksen & Ani Movsisyan

Here are some of our Chartres highlights.

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