Public transportation is cheap from Paris to see the magnificent stained-glass windows of Chartres Cathedral or take a guided bus tour that could include visiting the Palace of Versailles en route.
Chartres cathedral with the finest collection of medieval stained-glass windows in France is a popular day-trip destination from Paris. Transportation from Paris to Chartres is easy by train or by car. Day-trip tours by bus to Chartres are great time-saving options, especially if adding further sights such as the Palace of Versailles en route. Consider spending the night — hotels in Chartres are cheaper than in Paris and the town is worth seeing after dark too.
Transportation to Chartres Cathedral from Paris
Chartres with its magnificent Gothic cathedral and world-famous medieval stained glass windows is around an hour’s travel to the southwest of Paris. Driving, once outside central Paris, is simple while the train ride from Gare Montparnasse is generally an easier alternative for most foreign visitors. Day-trip tours from Paris are available seasonally and may include visiting the Palace of Versailles en route.
Trains and Public Transportation to Chartres from Paris
Trains are generally the cheapest and easiest transportation option to visit Chartres on day trips from Paris. Local SNCF TER trains run mostly hourly between Chartres and Gare Montparnasse in Paris. All trains are direct and all stops en route at amongst others Versailles-Chantiers.
Traveling time between Paris and Chartres is as quick as an hour but usually slightly longer. It is sensible to add some time to find the correct platform at Montparnasse station, which seems a bit chaotic on a first visit and often requires long walks from other connecting metros. One-way fares from Paris to Chartres are currently just less than €20 in standard class. Online tickets and timetables are available from Trainline.
The Gare de Chartres is immediately to the northwest of the old town area — walking to the cathedral is less than half a mile (600 m) and should be quicker than 10 minutes.
The final train of the day back to Paris departs from Chartres usually around 21:00. This is not ideal to see the lovely light display in summer — staying overnight in a hotel in Chartres may be a lot cheaper than sleeping in Paris and is well worth considering.
Trainline will also offer the much cheaper Ouigo trains. Currently, there is only one connection per day from Paris to Chartres on Ouigo trains (but keep this budget option in mind for other routes too when traveling in France — the savings are often worth the limitations). The one-way fare could be as cheap as €10 if booking ahead and traveling without luggage. Ouigo and standard SNCF tickets are NOT interchangeable so only book the Ouigo train if the timing is opportune — currently, Ouigo times are more suitable for overnight or weekend trips than for a day outing. Also, note that the Ouigo trains do not operate from Montparnasse — currently, the departure from Paris is from Gare-Austerlitz while the return is to Bercy.
Train Transportation to Chartres and Versailles from Paris
All TER trains between Paris-Gare Montparnasse and Chartres stop en route at Versailles-Chantier making it possible to visit the Palace of Versailles and Chartres by train on the same day. Bus tours from Paris combining both the Chateau of Versailles and Chartres cathedral on a day trip are sensible for travelers with limited time but to do both on the same day by train is only for the very strong.
A stop en route at Versailles is more sensible on an overnight trip to Chartres. Paris-Chantiers is the slightly less convenient station to visit the palace but adds only a few minutes of walking to arriving at the more convenient Versailles-Château Rive Gauche. If traveling without luggage, it is easy enough to use either station to / or from Paris. Book luggage storage if necessary online at Radical or Nannybag — note restricted opening hours and locations, as options in Versailles are rather limited.
Trains are available a few times per day from Chartres to Le Mans, which has many further connections, but for most other railway destinations travelers will usually do best to return to Paris first.
Driving to Chartres Cathedral from Paris
Chartres is around 90 km to the southwest of Paris. Driving is simple enough once outside Paris — plan on around 45 minutes once on the toll road A10 to the south of Paris.
Trying to work out parking regulations in French towns is for the foolhardy only. Street parking is saving on the wrong end. It is simpler and safer to head for a parking garage. Q-Park Cathédral is closest to the cathedral while Q-Park Chartres City Heart at Place des Épars is a good alternative and easier in a larger car.
For drivers on a longer French holiday, Chartres is a great stop en route to the Loire Valley but also convenient when traveling towards Normandy and most other destinations to the south or west of Paris. Digital maps will often recommend using the A11 and A10 back towards Paris if traveling to the south but drivers familiar with Parisian traffic, even on the periphery of the city, are more likely to head in the direction of Orleans before crossing east on the A19.
Day-Trip Tours from Paris to Chartres and Versailles
Day-trip tours from Paris to Chartres are seasonal but even during the quieter months tours may be available a few times per week. As always, it is essential to read the fine print and to compare prices — too cheap tours may add transportation costs separately. Private tours allow for more flexibility and may be especially good value for small groups and families.
Some day-trip tours from Paris to Chartres are by train — this is fair enough and could be quicker during busy times but does add some extra walking. Often, even if travelers are collected from the hotel, only metros are used to reach Gare Montparnasse — this is charged separately (many travelers to Paris have transportation cards already) but may also add significant walking.
Day-trip bus tours sometimes include a visit to the Palace of Versailles and Chartres cathedral on the same day. Although this makes for a very busy day from Paris, it is an attractive option for travelers with limited time but the desire to see two of the top sights in the Paris vicinity.
Cheap Hotels in Chartres
Travelers with time available should consider staying overnight in Chartres. Hotel prices are generally much cheaper than in Paris but more importantly, sleeping over allows visitors to see Chartres at night. Chartres has a very good free light display at various historic buildings (and of course the cathedral) that runs for most of the year. The illuminations obviously only start after dark and in summer that may be well after 22:00. Some private tours may offer afternoon visits that could extend into the early evening.
Chartres has an attractive old town center and a lovely location. Even if only on a day trip, try to see more of the town than just the magnificent cathedral and its stained-glass windows. Download a free map from the tourist office for town walks that lead past the top sights and the best panoramic views of the cathedral, town, river, and countryside. Nearby St Pierre church has stained-glass windows almost as old as those in the cathedral while the St Aignan church has more stained-glass windows and an original painted interior (much neglected but worth seeing, especially for travelers finding the recently restored Gothic cathedral interior too pristine).