Chartres: A Short Train Ride from Paris
Chartres makes for an ideal day trip if you’re staying in Paris. The French capital offers several great possibilities for day trips, but the charm of Chartres is undeniable. It unlocks everything I have always loved about taking day trips while traveling. Take your Eurail Pass and 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 Parisian architecture 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 is imposing on sight, and equally impressive once you’ve walked through the doors. The aisles are enormous and the sculptures are beautiful. Most noteworthy are the stained glass windows, that been preserved since the 13th century. There are few places in the world that have stained glass older than this.
After my visit to the cathedral, I set out to explore the town. Chartres is a city with charm around every corner. 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. Although the cathedral was the reason I came to Chartres, 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 town and the cathedral, 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 1 hour. Other trains require a change in Maintenon and will take closer to 2 hours. Since a reservation is not required for these trains, you can just hop on!