City of lights
One hour south of Paris, the cathedral of Chartres is one of the best preserved gothic buildings in the world, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Each year, from April to October, a magical light and sound show brings the city to life every night. It is also home to a very delectable treat: world famous macaroons.
Inhabited since the Paleolithic era, Chartres was already an important city in Roman times, with a forum, aqueducts and an amphitheatre. Chartres has been devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary since the 6th century. Its popularity increased dramatically when Charles II, grandchild of Charlemagne, gifted the church with the Veil of Mary, which she is said to have been wearing at the birth of Christ. A cathedral was built in the 11th century to welcome the many pilgrims flocking to the city. Unfortunately, it burned down in 1194 but was promptly rebuilt taller, larger and in the new Gothic style.
Chartres is also renowned as the city where Jean Moulin was captured by the Nazis in 1940. Prefect of the county, Moulin became one of the most prominent figures of the French Resistance during the Second World War.
The Chartres cathedral is a unique masterpiece, one of the best preserved examples of Gothic architecture and one of the first buildings ever to be listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Its towering spires, over 100m tall, can be seen for miles around in the flat lands of the Beauce plains. Its incredible 2400 m2 of stained-glass windows are like a glass Bible lighting up the interiors with hundreds of vibrant colours.
Message and Pilgrimage
1.3 million visitors come to Chartres every year. Believers come to worship the Blessed Virgin Mary, to reflect, find inner peace and view the sacred Veil of the Madonna on display within the cathedral.
Chartres en lumière – from April to October & September to December 2020
Every evening, from dusk till 1am, the cathedral, gardens and historic buildings of the city are further enhanced by light projections and music. Magical and unmissable.
National stained-glass centre International Stained-Glass Center
50m from the cathedral, in a 13th century listed building, a museum with displays of stained-glass artwork throughout the centuries, including pieces from the Renaissance and modern artists.
A house made out of thousands of small pieces of glass, china and broken crockery, both inside and out. Unusual and endearing.
The biggest aqua park and ice-skating rink in France (1300m2) with 11 swimming pools including 2 Olympic-size pools, diving pool, wave pool, sauna with views of the cathedral as well as a beauty centre.
Pedal boating in ‘Little Venice’
On the River Eure, drift through the city centre itself, a fun family activity in the peaceful leafy area known as ‘Little Venice’.
Château de Maintenon
The castle of the Sun King’s favorite, Madame de Maintenon. 18km from Chartres, the building went through various transformations linked to the many visits of Louis 14th.
From September to December
Chartres en lumière
Every evening, from dusk till 1am, the town puts on an amazing light show on the cathedral, gardens and historic buildings of the city.
A medieval festival taking you back to the 13th century with many events for grown-ups and children alike
July and August
Chartres Summer Festival
Around 50 different events including music concerts and plays on the steps of the cathedral.
International Organ Festival
Every Sunday in summer, the most talented organists come and play on the neo-classical organ of the Chartres cathedral.