Chartres: an alternative city break

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When planning a trip to our neighbours across the channel, France. Paris seems like the most obvious and best choice of destination. However, this beautiful country has so many other places on offer, many of which are easily accessible by train from Paris itself. The perfect example is the small, but wonderful, city of Chartres that lies an hour by train south west of the capital. It attracts a considerable number of visitors every year, and not just for its enormous cathedral! Here are the four main reasons why you should visit Chartres next time you want to go to France.

  1. Chartres en Lumières

One of its best attractions is the incredible light show ‘Chartres en Lumières’ which runs every single night 7 months of the year. Buildings all around the town are lit up and projected on to the cathedral is a captivating story accompanied with beautiful music. From this central point, you can take a walk around the ‘old town’ and discover lights on so many buildings and monuments, many of these being also animated.

  1. Cafés

If you wish to watch the animation on the cathedral with a comforting warm tea or coffee, Le Café Serpente, is a cafe perfectly situated to do so. This is just one of the many cafes at your disposal in Chartres. La Chocolaterie, another great café, is just round the corner in the heart of the cobbled streets has every flavour of macaroon you could possibly want and delicious coffee. It’s ideal for afternoon French patisserie treat and to give your feet a break from walking around and discovering all the sites, namely churches, which Chartres has to offer.

  1. Churches

Chartres doesn’t just have the famous ‘Notre-Dame de Chartres’ Cathedral (with a great view from the top of the tower) but it also has two more churches worth exploring. The best hidden gem of this town has got to be the Saint Aignan Church situated just down the street from the cathedral. From the outside, Saint Aignan doesn’t look like much but behind closed doors the church is absolutely beautiful. The decoration is very worn and it is freezing cold inside during the winter months but this all adds to its charm. It is not to be missed.

  1. Art Galleries

Along with its churches, cafes and beautiful streets, Chartres is also a hub for galleries. Le Musée des Beaux-arts is in a gorgeous building behind the cathedral that over looks the picturesque Eure River. Yet this isn’t the only place to see some art, Chartres is bursting with pop up galleries especially for such a small town, and often there are exhibitions in the cathedral grounds too.

So, if you love a good art gallery, want to see spectacular buildings and an incredible light show, Chartres would be well worth your time. It’s perfect for a day trip away from Paris but there’s plenty to do and see that it would be ideal for a weekend get away! Next time you’re thinking about going to France – consider an alternative to the capital!

Published in The Spark Newspaper November 2017

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