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 remainder 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 and the magnificent carved stone screen which surrounds the choir.
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.
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). Starting at the cathedral and the lovely buildings surrounding it head south on the Rue des Changes and take a look at both the Saint Aignan church with its remarkable painted interior and the Saint Pierre church with its tall gothic columns.
Next you will walk back northwards along the edge of the river Eure where there are lots of attractive buildings to admire. The impressive Porte Guillaume, a fortified bridge is about halfway back towards the cathedral and near here are a number of medieval half-timber buildings.
Walk up Rue Saint Nicolas to the Musee des Beaux Artes and notice the good views of the Jardins de l'Eveque below.
As you are exploring you will find a good number of shops (some quite chic, others less so) where you can 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.
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.
The incredible Maison Picassiette is on the edge of Chartes and is a house and garden that has been entirely covered in pottery mosaics.
Chartres is reasonable distance north of the main sights of the Loire valley. It is due north of Blois and north west of Orleans.