Chartres activities, tours, classes, and other experiences to move your vacation beyond sightseeing
The Basilique Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres, the crown jewel of Gothic art and architecture, is located in the picturesque French countryside, just over an hour from Paris by train. Known for its exquisite stained glass, labyrinth floor plan, and extensive exterior carvings, Notre-Dame de Chartres remains an exemplary physical textbook on the Gothic style. On this four-hour Chartres tour, a day trip from Paris led by a medievalist or art historian, we'll use the cathedral as a conduit for exploring not only Gothic architecture, sculpture, and stained glass, but also Medieval religious, secular, and intellectual life as it relates to the cathedral.
- Explore a stunning Gothic cathedral.
- Chartres tour led by a medievalist.
- Small group size—six participants maximum.
Starting from the Montparnasse train station in Paris, we'll meet our docent and board the train for our short journey to Chartres. On the train, our docent will recount the cathedral's riveting history, equipping us with the historical context necessary to appreciate the intricacies of the cathedral's Gothic charms. Home to the Sancta Camisa, a tunic believed to have been worn by the Virgin Mary at the birth of Christ, Chartres has a long history of receiving religious pilgrims. Suffering a series of fires, this site has had at least five different incarnations of the cathedral over the centuries. Indeed, in a dazzling display of architectural unity, the bulk of Chartres Cathedral was rebuilt after the crippling fire of 1194, from which the precious relic of the Virgin's tunic miraculously survived. Less than 30 years later, most of the present-day cathedral was complete.
Arriving at the cathedral, we will begin by examining at the exterior. Each of the three heavily decorated entrances (west, north, and south) are comprised of three doorways, showing the stylistic transition from Early to High Gothic through their jamb and tympanum sculptures. The sculpted voussoirs, which display figures such as Aristotle, Euclid, and Pythagoras, are testaments to the presence of the prestigious Cathedral School of Chartres, the most famous school in the West during the twelfth-century Renaissance.
After getting a deeper appreciation of the exterior, we will enter the cathedral. Here, we will see more original thirteenth-century stained glass than anywhere else in France. In addition to the fascinating narratives about Biblical figures and saints, many of the lower panels of the windows depict different tradesmen: wine-makers, shoe-makers, furriers, butchers, bakers. This is particularly fascinating regardless of their (often varied) interpretations, as they give us a wonderful glimpse into medieval daily life beyond the church.
"Our docent's enthusiasm for the wonders of Chartres was infectious. She pointed out aspects of the windows, stone carvings, and architecture that I would never have noticed on my own. The cathedral is quite overwhelming, but she wove it all into a coherent narrative."
Exiting the cathedral, we will reflect upon the cathedral's role in both medieval and secular life during the Middle Ages. As our walk comes to a close, we will depart with an understanding of the Gothic style. With our newfound awareness of the characteristics that make up this notable architectural style, from rose-window stained glass to the flying buttresses and their ingenious arches. While our half-day tour ends with the guided visit of the cathedral, we encourage you to have lunch or spend the rest of the afternoon visiting the charming town and all of its attractions on your own.
This is an excellent excursion to take after our Notre Dame Tour, as it builds on ideas first explored there.
- Skip the line entrance tickets included
- English speaking licensed tour guide speaking to you personally (this is NOT a tour with audioguides)
- Other languages available on request for this tour
- pick up and drop off at your accommodation in Paris
- transportation in a luxury van
This tour is not available : Dec 25th & Jan 1st
Your tour guide will meet you at the lobby of your hotel or in front your apartment.
Usually we pick you up at your accommodation at 8:00am or 2:00pm (please send us your exact address in Paris when booking)
You will have a guided tour of the Chartres cathedral, Included in the UNESCO World Heritage List and one of the most visited tourist destinations in France. It is a monument of religious art with many different aspects to discover: architecture that became a model for great Gothic cathedrals, an exceptional ensemble of stained-glass windows from the 12th and 13th centuries - the largest amount in the world, and three outstanding sculpted portals where medieval thought becomes visible.
- 4 hour Chartres cathedral guided tour from pick up to drop off in Paris
- Skip the line entrance tickets included
- Private tour guide speaking to you personally and ansering your questions (this is NOT a tour with audioguides)
We offer the most comfortable door-to-door service from your accommodation in Paris with our luxury Mercedes air conditioned vans.
Keep in mind, this is your private tour and you may customize it the way you like.
Your tour starts with pickup at your hotel in Paris for the 1-hour drive in a private vehicle to Chartres. Located about 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Paris, the town is best known for the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world.
Ornamented with more than 4,000 sculptures, the cathedral has been an important destination for travelers since the 12th century; many pilgrims come to see its relic the Santa Camisa, said to be worn by Mary at the birth of Jesus, and others come to admire the 176 stained-glass windows that create a relatively dark but richly colored interior where light filters through the many narrative and symbolic panes.
The labyrinth, in the center of the nave, and the crypt beneath the cathedral are two other can't-miss features you'll see inside before heading outside to focus on the structure itself: its towers built in different styles, its facade with detailed sculptures and statues, the astronomical clock from the 15th century, the flying buttresses, the bishop's garden where you can enjoy a view over the old town, and the labyrinth garden from the 18th century.
After your visit of the cathedral with your private guide, you can enjoy a stroll around town before heading back to Paris, where your tour ends.
Your tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chartres begins when your guide meets you to escort you there personally on the short 1-hour train ride from Paris. When you arrive in charming Chartres, you’ll visit this historical treasure with your guide, and explore the old town and visti France’s largest cathedral.
On your 6-hour tour of Chartres you’ll go back in time to learn about its storied Roman and Celtic history, take in the ancient granite walls that still surround the city, and visit the 12th-century cathedral that is the largest in France.
Your Chartres exploration uncovers what makes the legendary cathedral so rare and shares the sacred religious stories that are depicted throughout the cathedral in the stained glass and stone.
Of course, your tour of Chartres will do much more than simply show you the cathedral. Your guide will also take you through the ancient old town, built into the hill leading to the Eure River and escort you through the historical past of the town, when it was a village of mills. It is at one of those very mills, which charmingly overlooks the old town, where you will have the wonderful opportunity to have a local lunch and refreshments if you choose, before you return to Paris.