The enormous forest of Fontainebleau attracted the greatest French hunters (including Parisians) along with many French kings. Nowadays, it’s a good alternative to Versailles for an excursion from Paris.
Philippe Auguste built a palace in Fontainebleau and Philippe Le Bel was born and died there. This one of the most Renaissance châteaux visited in France. Many guided tours from Paris are av to discover this magnificent royal domain.
During the 15th Century, sovereigns were established in the banks of the Loire. However François 1er, won over at his first visit of Fontainebleau, turned the place into huge royal residence and began the building of the palace that Philippe Auguste will finish later.
His successors extended it and Henry IV and Louis XV showed a particular interest in the gardens. Others, however, showed no consideration for the place. Louis-Phillips is a great example as the 16th century suffered irreparable damages from his restoration.
Excursion to the buildings and the gardens of Château de Fontainebleau
The whole site is worth attention so make sure you take a good look at it before entering the castle.
Cour des Adieux
You will enter through the fine gateway of the Cour du Cheval Blanc or Cour des Adieux. Before leaving the Elba, Napoleon made his last inspection of the Old Guard in this courtyard. The building at the rear has been very much altered since the Renaissance, and only the original pointed roofs and tall windows survived.
Louis III had the two ornamental curved staircases built on to leap up to the main floor.
François I Gallery and surroundings
If you pass to the right of these stair cases, you arrive into the court de la Fontaine. The buildings were erected in the 16th century for Catherine de Medici who lived in the left wing. At the far end of the terrace is the François I Gallery. It will certainly be one the greatest moment of your excursion to Fontainebleau. François I Gallery kept Rosso allegoric paintings, foundation of the Fontainebleau School.
Facing this gallery is the four acre pool, famous for its carp. According to tradition, it is supposed to be 100 year old. It’s rather optimistic since during the last war, the Germans emptied the pool of all its occupants.
Read also our guide of best excursions around Paris
The Parterre and the former entrance, the Porte Dorée, are located below the right wing in a two storey section built by Urbin following an Italian style.
Henry IV built the Porte Dauphine in 1608 in order to make the Cour Ovale, the oldest part of the palace, look more stately. The Porte Dauphine is a master piece with its large dome and its beautiful columns
On your left, you will be able to observe the glass facade of the Ballroom.
If you go back to the Cour des Adieux and you can take a conducted tour of the interior apartments. We’ll only point out two of the most interesting rooms.
The Salle du Conseil was decorated under Louis XV. The celling shows “Phoebus, Victor of the Night” and “The Four Seasons” by Boucher. The figures on the walls and doors are by Carle van Loo and Pierre. Fine Empire style furniture.
The apartments of Marie-Antoinette have their original furnishings. The desk inlaid with mother-of-pearl, the boudoir and the Games Room are unrivaled in their elegance. The bed and its magnificent silk draperies of the Chambre de la Reine are a must see.
The fireplace of the François I saloon is exceptional. It was designed by a group of French and Italian artists (led by Primastice and Rosso). They also decorated the Escalier du Roi with a magnificent group of frescoes surrounded by women. This is very characteristic of Primatice along with cherubs, masques and garlands of fruit. They were able to preserve the decoration of the bedroom of the Duchesse d’Etampes while doing it.
The Emperor style is well represented in the series of small apartments furnished by Napoleon 1er but decorated under Louis XV. Make sure to take a look at the Theatre by Lefuel (1875) whose studied curves heralds the Modern Style.
Visit the Napoleon 1er Museum
The Napoleon 1er Museum is devoted to the reign of the emperor of France and the king of Italy. The museum is located in the Château de Fontainebleau and contains many furnitures, paintings, and pieces of the Napoleon’s family.
How to get to Fontainebleau
Located 65 km southeast of Paris, Fontainebleau is easily accessible by car when there is no traffic congestion. It is also accessible by train. Many interesting guided tours are available to visit the domain efficiently. It is the perfect spot for a short excursion or for a day-trip from Paris.
Access by car: take the Highway (Autoroute) A6 through Porte d’Orléans – direction Lyon – and Exit at “Fontainebleau”
Access by train: about 35min by train from gare de Lyon (departure every 30min). Stop at Fontainebleau and take the bus number 1
For further infos about guided tours:
guided visit of Fontainebleau by Pariscityvision (€59, €36 for child)
The fontainebleau forest is also a very good spot for hiking, climbing, you can do canoe at Moret sur Loing where the impressionist painter Alfred Sisley lived. You have the Choice: Culture with impressionism and Barbizon painting school, sport with hiking, climbing or biking and History with Chateaux de Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomnte