Set right in the center of the charming town of Fontainebleau is its famous and fabulous chateau. But visiting the chateau is not all you can look forward to during your visit. There are museums, gardens, restaurants and shops galore to keep you busy.
Getting to Fontainebleau from Paris is easy by car, but you can also take a Transilien train from Paris-Gare de Lyon to station Fontainebleau-Avon, which takes about 40 minutes.
The palace of Fontainebleau was built for Henry II and Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. Francois I rebuilt Fontainebleau, which is now part of his remarkable legacy that includes the Loire Valley chateaux Blois and Chambord, as well as the Louvre in Paris.
Over the centuries, subsequent monarchs have developed and embellished the structures at Fontainebleau. However, the Renaissance style of Francois I and his Italian artists-in-residence (such as Cellini and da Vinci) is beautifully prevalent. Today the palace buildings display a broad range of period styles including Medieval, Renaissance, Classical, Romantic, and Empire. In earlier times, Fontainebleau’s luscious forest setting harbored the abundant game hunted by sport-loving royals and aristocrats.
At Fontainebleau, visit the Escalier du Fer a Cheval (Horseshoe Staircase) in the Cour du Cheval Blanc, where Marcus Aurelius sits astride a platinum horse. After signing his abdication at Fontainebleau, Napoleon I said farewell to his troops on April 20, 1814 in the Cour de Cheval Blanc, also known as the Cour des Adieux (Farewells). You will want to see Primaticcio’s spectacular Salle de Bal (ballroom) with elaborate Renaissance emblems, and the Galerie Francois I, embodying the king’s passionate wish that his Fontainebleau express the grandeur of Florence and Rome.
For your added enjoyment, there are numerous posted walks in the forest of Fontainebleau after your tour of the chateau.
Chateau de Fontainebleau
4 rue Royale
Garden of Diana
Le Notre designed the elegant, ornamental Garden of Diana which is located behind the Chateau de Fontainebleau. The Jardin de Diana is named for the central statue of the goddess Diana. The eastern side of the park is arranged in an English manner while the western side is arranged in the customary French style.
Open: Sunrise to sunset
Napoleonic Museum of Art and Military History
The Museum of Military Art and History was created after the death of L.E. Prost, a famous collector, by his son Louis Prost. Bought by the Municipality of Fontainebleau, the museum was moved to the villa Lavaurs. Then, the “chamber of uniforms”, was created by the talented painter Hugo de Fichtner, to combine with the Napoleonic Museum, making it the third largest Military Museum in France.
National Museum of Prisons
Upon its closure in 1990, the Fontainebleau gaol (jail) was chosen by the penitentiary administration as the site for the National Museum of Prisons, where the history of incarceration can be retraced from the 17th century to the present.
Where to Stay in Fontainbleau
Hotel de l’Aigle Noir 3-Star
The 55 rooms offered at this three-star Fontainebleau hotel are elegantly decorated in a variety of styles. Each room comes with flat screen TV, DVD player, safe, ironing board & iron. A courtesy tray with coffee / tea / herbal tea /biscuits, mineral water is also available in every room.
You can relax in the heated pool or enjoy the gym and sauna, practice your swing on the driving range, or enjoy some horseback riding.
27 pl Napoleon-Bonaparte
Average Price for a room for two: 170 – 300 Euros
Hotel Mercure Royal 3 -Star
The Grand Hotel Mercure offers 91 brightly decorated rooms with plenty of comfortable features. It is located near the chateau and the rooms have a lovely view of the park. Also visit the restaurant and partake of their quality list of fine choices on the menu.
41 rue Royale
Average Price for a room for two: 150 – 200 Euros
Where to Eat in Fontainbleau
La Caveau Des Ducs $$$
This 17th century building is decorated in a rustic style and the cuisine is traditional and truly French. Enjoy some great seafood or snails while taking in a great view of Chateau de Fontainebleau.
24 rue de Ferrare
Tel: +33 1 64 22 05 05
Restaurant Croquembouche $$$
This charming restaurant serves French cuisine with a Mediterranean touch. Using the freshest seasonal ingredients, Restaurant Croquembouche is committed serving simple but unique dishes.
43 rue de France
Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com