Chartres is located towards the east of the Loire Valley region and south-west of Orleans.
The town is very famous because of its cathedral, and is also a substantial town with other attractions and highlights for the visitor to discover.
First stop for the many thousands of visitors to Chartres each year is undoubtedly the cathedral. In part dating from the 11th century, the crypt is the oldest part of chartres cathedral with the reminder being added in the centuries that followed.
Apart from its sheer size (140 metres in length and 37 metres high), the highlights of the cathedral are above all the entrance doorways (portails). The curved arches that decorate the doorways are called the tympanum, and along with the statues below these form an astonishing achievement of medieval artistry.
Within the cathedral it is above all the remarkable stained glass windows that will attract your attention.
Note: it is a good idea to bring a pair of binoculars for your visit, to make the most of the detail in both the windows and the ornate stonework
Chartres cathedral is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site.
Chartres old town and other Highlights
The Medieval Centre of Chartres lies in the narrow streets and alleys around the cathedral, and has a good mix of ancient buildings.It is reasonably compact and best explored on foot.
There are also a good number of shops (some quite chic, others less so) to discover and pick up the occasional treat - you might be tempted by the local macaroons, or the speciality sweets of praline chocolate covered with Swiss meringue and known as Mentchikoffs.
While talking of shopping, you might like to try and be in Chartres for the weekly market, held in the town each Saturday; and if you are an antiques enthusiast you are in for a treat - there are many antiques shops to discover, especially around the Rue de la Porte Guillaume, Rue des Changes and Boulevard Chasles.
The Chartres Tourist Offic can help with a map and suggested route that passes many of the highlights of the old town, with an optional audio-guide also available (payment required).
There are a couple of interesting museums in the town centre: the Agriculture Museum and the Museum of Natural Science and Prehistory. They both offer a variety of exhibits and a selection of events are available with a focus on educating children.
Looking to escape from the tourist throngs around the centre? Pick up a baguette sandwich and an almond croissant and head over to the well maintained park on the banks of the Eure river. The park also features animal areas and other children focussed activities.
Another can't-miss place for buying gifts and souvenirs is the Saturday market held in the town center. You can browse manufactured goods of all kinds, and the atmosphere is lively. If you happen to be in Chartres in December, stop by Christmas market in the 'place des Epars'. All year round, you can enjoy hours of window-shopping and decadent purchases in the downtown boutiques. If you're into antiques, search out the dozen or so antique and second hand dealers in Chartres. The best ones are located in Boulevard Chasles, Rue des Changes, Cloître Notre-Dame and the Rue de la Porte Guillaume.