Chartres: A short train ride from Paris
Chartres is ideal as a day trip from Paris. The French capital offers excellent possibilities for day trips, but the city’s charm in particular unlocks everything I have always loved about taking day trips while traveling. Take your Eurail Pass but leave your luggage at the hotel, because the one-hour train trip leaves you all the time you need to discover the city in full and return to Paris on the same evening.
How to get to Chartres by train
I took the train to Chartres at Gare Montparnasse, the epicenter for trains heading southwest. Seated by the window in my first-class car, I watched the scenery change from the ornate white architecture of Parisian buildings to endless fields of green grass.
Things to do
Chartres is best known for its cathedral. It’s one of the largest gothic cathedrals in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cathedral is a short walk from the train station – after about a two-minute stroll, you’ll see it rising to your left.
The cathedral, imposing on sight, is equally impressive from the moment you walk in. The aisles are enormous; the sculptures are beautiful. The stained glass windows are incredible – most of them have been preserved beautifully since the 13th century. Few places in the world have stained glass older than this.
After my cathedral visit, I set out to explore the town. Chartres is a city of endless charm. My walk took me past half-timbered houses, over canals and along narrow hillside streets with lamps suspended on cords and fresh flowers blooming all over the place. The cathedral may have brought me to Chartres, but it was the town that won my heart. This was a wonderful way to see country life in France.
A few hours in Chartres is all you need to visit the cathedral and town, take a lengthy walk, have lunch, and do a bit of shopping at the cool boutiques around town.
Most of the trains from Paris Gare Montparnasse go directly to Chartres and take approximately one hour. Other trains require a change in Maintenon and take closer to two hours. Take the direct train if possible. You don’t need to make a reservation, so just hop on.