5 Must-see Essentials in Chartres
CATHÉDRALE NOTRE-DAME DE CHARTRES
Superlatives abound in this ﬁrst example of High Gothic architecture, located on the Compostelle route to Tours – 4,000 sculpted statues; 5,000 ﬁgures in the medieval stained glass; and the largest crypt in France (third largest in Europe after St Peter’s Basilica and Canterbury Cathedral). On Fridays between Lent and All Saints’ Day, walk the 12th-century circular labyrinth on the ﬂoor of the nave. www.cathedrale-chartres.org
CHARTRES EN LUMIÈRES
An annual event since 2003, Chartres en Lumières 2019 runs nightly in October, nightfall to 1am. Download the free app or book a specialist tour. ‘Chartres en Lumières Privilège’ includes a visit to the crypt by candlelight and highlights of the illuminated sites. The ‘Enchanté’ tour starts with dinner in a prestigious restaurant, followed by a stroll round the light installations with music by soprano Veronica Antonelli.
CENTRE INTERNATIONAL DU VITRAIL
The International Stained-Glass Centre, 5 rue du Cardinal Pie, is housed in a former tithe barn. Open daily – for times, see www.centre-vitrail.org – it combines a permanent exhibition upstairs, with temporary exhibitions in one of the most remarkable Gothic cellars in France.
OLD TOWN TRAIL
Follow one of the ﬁve tertres or ‘mounds’, medieval passages that connect the upper town around the cathedral with the lower town beside the Eure where tanners once plied their trade. Admire the many ﬁne buildings including the 16th-century Maison du Saumon, decorated with wooden sculptures and now home to the Tourist Oﬃce.
CHÂTEAU DE MAINTENON
Thirty minutes’ drive northeast of the city, this 16th-century castle in the centre of town opens from early February to mid-November (afternoons only out of season; always closed on Mondays) and hosts a wide range of special events including a spring tulip festival, historical re-enactments, and a glittering Christmas event. www.chateaudemaintenon.fr
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