Chartres is a small city in the Centre-Val de Loire region of France, approximately an hour south-west of Paris by train. Population is 42,000 although that rises to 100,000 when the surrounding towns are taken into consideration. The main attraction for most visitors to Chartres is the 12th century cathedral, considered by many art historians to be the finest surviving example from the High Gothic period. In the last couple of years a new mayor has overseen the modernization of the center of the town. There has provoked both positive and negative reactions from the “Chartrains”, but there is no doubt that the town is undergoing a certain renewal.

Chartres “Basse ville”

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Map of Chartres

From central Paris, take the A10, followed by the A11 – a driving distance of 91 km (57 miles). It’s also possible to take the A13 (towards Rouen) and then at the Traingle de Rocqencourt to head south on the A12 to Trappes and the RN10. The RN10 is the “old” road from Paris to Chartres (and beyond) and there is no toll. Most of it is dual carriageway, although there are a few tricky 3 lane sections. Usually doesn’t take any longer than the motorway and both arrive side-by-side in Chartres.

There are many daily direct trains from and to Paris Montparnasse. The journey to Chartres averages just over an hour each way and costs €24 1st class, €16 2nd class (adult fares). Prices are the same whether you buy in advance or last minute. Try to take one of the double-decked TER trains if possible, because they are more comfortable, and you have better views of the lovely countryside.

The SNCF station in Chartres has a good news kiosk, and sometimes there is a small cafe open. Bathrooms at the station are open intermittently, but you can find bathrooms in many other places around the city.

There are few “direct” trains and these are at commuter times. Therefore they are quite often “packed” and at peak-time prices. Most trains are direct from Paris to Rambouillet and then they stop at every station to Chartres. Travel time for one of those is 1 hour 15 minutes. Some trains stop only at Épernon and Maintenon (the small chateau is well worth a trip) and these manage the journey in 1 hour. All trains from Paris to Chartres (and beyond to Nogent le Rotrou and Le Mans) are TER (Train Express Régional)

More often than not, you will be taking the “Paris – Chartres – Nogent le Rotrou – Le Mans” line. The front of the train could read EITHER “Chartres”, “Nogent le Rotrou”, or “Le Mans,” as these 3 cities always have the terminus.

If you are in France for a long period of time, it is worth it to buy an SNCF Fidelity card. For people 28 and under there is “Carte Jeune” where one can save up to 60% on ticket prices. There are also cards available for seniors and special vacation passes. These cards are only worth it when travelling extensively through France.

A view of the cathedral

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