Located around 50 km south of Paris and boasting no fewer than two dozen listed historic buildings, the charming town of Étampes boasts all of the delights of a small countryside French town, all the while still being in the Île de France region. Here’s your guide to the best of Étampes, including city highlights, how to visit, and things to know before you go!
How to visit Étampes
As Étampes is best visited over the course of a few hours, the easiest way to get to the city is by taking a direct train from Paris. Trains cost just over €8 each way and the best way to reach the city is by hopping on the RER C at Gare d’Austerlitz. The train journey takes around an hour each way and, once in Étampes, the best way to get around is on foot (so be sure to wear some comfortable shoes).
Highlights of Étampes
The first attestation of the city of Étampes goes all the way back to the 7th-century, though it did not gain true prominence until the 12th-century, when a council hosted in the town recognised Innocent II as the legitimate and true pope. During the middle ages, Étampes was a royal town and today many buildings boasting its heritage can be found dotted across the French town.
If you’re arriving in Étampes via train, then one of the first historical sites that you’ll see in town is that of the Guinette tower, which stands high above the town and now largely lies in ruin. The tower dates back to the time of Louis VI in the 12th-century and now offers one of the best views of Étampes.
Tour Guinette was once actually part of a fortified complex and is now all that remains of the Château d’Étampes. Originally constructed during the 900s, the castle was built in the motte and bailey style (favoured by the Normans and the same style as which can be found in Totnes, England) before eventually being replaced in around 1150.
Château d’Étampes was incredibly badly damaged during the Hundred Year War and was eventually ordered to be demolished by Henry IV of France during the 16th-century. Today, though there is little of the tower left, you can visit for free and admire the view over the city. During the festive period (in winter), the tower is illuminated with multicoloured lights.
Churches of Étampes
As you might expect from a settlement with a rich, there are over half a dozen churches, chapels, and other ecclesiastical buildings are scattered across Étampes, with the most prominent of them being that of the Église Saint-Martin which is acclaimed for its leaning tower.
Église Saint-Basile d’Étampes
One of the largest churches in Étampes is that of Église Saint-Basile d’Étampes, which is built in the French gothic architectural style. Dedicated to Saint Basil of Caesarea, this ecclesiastical building was constructed at the behest of Robert II in around 1020 before being completely reconstructed just over a century later. During the French Revolution, the building was used as a hospital.
Collégiale Notre-Dame-du-Fort d’Étampes
The other main church in Étampes is the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame-du-Fort. Once associated with the now demolished Château d’Étampes, the church was founded around the same time as the church of Saint-Basil and also by Robert II.
At the beginning of the 13th-century, the church was fortified, which explains why the edifice of the ecclesiastical building now boasts architectural features such as crenelated parapets and an elevated walkway just below the rooftop.
All in all, these later additions mean that the collegiate church is one of the most fortified and complex in the Île de France region. Today, the church is the main Catholic church for Étampes and regular services are held there.
Chapelle de l’Hôtel-Dieu
One of the more prominently placed chapels in Étampes is that of the Chapelle de l’Hôtel-Dieu on account of its position at 37 rue de la République (i.e. on the main thoroughfare which snakes its way through town), as well as the fact that it’s located right next to the Collegiate church of Notre-Dame-du-Fort d’Étampes. Constructed during the 17th and 18th-centuries, this was once used as the chapel for the town’s hospital.
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