A small town in northern central France, Chartres is known as the “Capital of Light and Perfume” due to its location at the heart of Cosmetic Valley.
Chartres is located around a one hour’s drive southwest of capital, Paris. If you are driving to from Paris to the town, take the A10 then the A11, with the total journey a distance of 57 miles. Alternatively, take the older roadway from Paris the RN10, which is toll-free. It usually takes around the same time to reach Chartres taking either route.
Direct train services run daily between Chartres and Paris, with some express services available. A one way first class fare costs €36.30, with cheaper tickets available in second class and if booking well in advance. Discount fares are available for people aged under-25 on the SNCF Fidelity Card as well as for senior citizens.
The Chartres Tourist Office is located at the front of famous cathedral and provides assistance with accommodation and tour bookings as well as a handy walking map of the city. Being just a small town, it is very easy to take in all of the sights on foot.
The city’s main attraction is the cathedral dating back to the 12th century which is considered by many as the finest example of architecture from the period that still standing today. UNESCO has recognised the cultural and historical significance of the cathedral listing it as a World Heritage Site. There are several other historical religious buildings in Chartres including the 13th century abbey of St Pierre, church of St Aigan dating from the 13th-17th centuries and the 12th century church of St Martin of Val.
The town itself has several historical features, particularly the old town with its narrow streets and renaissance-style houses. There are also several ancient bridges, fortifications and ruins around the Eure River.
Chartres is also home to four museums, each containing exhibitions from different fields including fine arts, military history, stained glass, natural science and agriculture.
Today, Chartres is undergoing a period of modernization. The town now provides a base from some of the world’s largest perfume and cosmetic operations including home to perfume and cosmetic giants including Lancaster, L’Oreal, Guerlain, Dior, Channel and Hermes. Chartres also serves as the commercial centre for the Beauce region which is commonly dubbed “the granary of France” with industries including flour-milling, brewing and leather manufacture. The town is also reputed for its local delicacies, in particular game pies.