Chateau de Fontainebleau. One of the largest residences of the kings of France

Chateau de Fontainebleau

When I first came to Paris for only 10 days, I didn’t know how to see everything. There are not only many historical places and places of interest that are must see, but also many places and castles, which are steeped in the history of bygone eras.

Any travel company will offer you numerous excursions. This is a trip to Normandy, and visit the castles of the Loire. Also not far from the French capital are small towns like Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh is buried. But I chose to visit the Château de Fontainebleau, where Napoleon I abdicated the throne on the eve of his departure for Elba Island. The same castle where, on the famous horseshoe-shaped stone staircase, the great commander bid farewell to the remaining imperial guards loyal to him.

“Soldiers, you are my old comrades in arms, but now I bid you farewell. For twenty years we have walked together on the road of honor and glory. Even now, and in the days of our prosperity, you have been an example of bravery and loyalty. With men like you, our cause could not have been lost, but the war was still going on, it might have turned into a internecine war, and I could not dare to tear further the breast of France. The interests of the fatherland were more important to me. I am leaving. And you, my friends, continue to serve France. Her happiness was my only concern and nothing more will I ever think of. Farewell, my children, I would like to squeeze you all in my arms, but let me kiss this banner that represents you all. “.

How to get there

I didn’t puzzle over how to get to Fontainebleau on my first visit, and I booked a guided tour. But if you’re no stranger to the spirit of adventure, you can go there on your own, especially since it’s not so difficult.

In total, the road from Paris to Fontainebleau will take you an hour and a half. Count on an hour and a half to account for various unforeseen train delays or long waits for transport.

The train to Fontainebleau leaves from Gare de Lyon (this is the 1 (yellow) and 14 (purple) subway lines, as well as the A and D lines of the RER commuter train). Tickets for the Paris Metro cost 1.80 euros per trip, but I advise you to buy directly at metro ticket offices so called “carnet” of 10 tickets, which costs 14.10 euros, and for children from 4 to 10 years – 7.05 euros. Children under 4 years old travel free of charge.

At the station, you need to buy a train ticket for any of these three directions: Montargis Sens, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes. All trains in these directions pass through Fontainebleau-Avon (Fontainebleau-Avon is the exact name of your station), where you will need to get off before reaching the end.

When you look for the platform number (“voie”) from which your train leaves the station, note that the name Fontainebleau-Avon will not appear on the board, you have to look for the terminal station in which your train is heading. As I mentioned, it can be any of the three: Montargis, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes, depending on which train you took the ticket for. The same direction will be indicated on your ticket. These are the stations you look for on the scoreboard.

Once you get off the train, you will see signs toward the bus stop. You will need to take bus 1 (Ligne A) towards “Lilas” and get off at the stop called “Château”.

Travel time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Train – 40-50 minutes

Bus: 15 to 25 minutes.

Return ticket for the train is 15 euros.

Round trip bus ticket costs 3 euros.

When buying a round-trip ticket at the ticket office, if you don’t understand English, “round-trip ticket” sounds like “aller-retour” in French. The bus ticket is purchased from the driver on the spot.

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Hunting castle

The palace is not just a historical monument of architecture, but the whole 700 years of French history! Built in XII century it had more than one owner over the centuries. Among its owners were such eminent rulers as Louis IX of Saint, Philip the Fair, Philip the Bold, Francis I, Henry IV of Navarre, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Napoleon I Bonaparte. All in all, over the years the castle has served as home or residence for 34 French kings!

Chateau de Fontainebleau is a hunting castle. It owes its role to the vast forests which surround it and what king or nobleman in France would not have loved to hunt. It has been a noble pastime for all the French nobility for centuries.

But the name of the castle comes from the name of the spring, springing nearby – Fontaine belle eau (source of beautiful water). The spring gave its name to both the castle and the city that later appeared around it. Today the spring is located in the modern English park of the Fontainebleau Palace.

The inhabitants of Fontainebleau are not called Fontaineblancers, as you might think, but bellifontains (les bellifontains) all from the same root “source of beautiful water”, so to speak, from the original source, rather than from the later name of the city.

The history of modern Chateau de Fontainebleau began in 1137, when the first representative of the Capetian dynasty, Hugo Capet included the forest lands in the royal domain, and a small castle was built on the bank of a small pond near the forest. The progenitor of modern Fontainebleau was of course considerably inferior to his current heir. Louis IX Saint was the first to greatly enlarge the size of the castle. The king preferred solitude and spent much time alone with himself in the spacious halls of the castle. Louis IX called the castle his monastic cell. One of the donjons of the castle, erected under Louis, is named after him.

After that, for almost 300 years, the palace was neglected and forgotten. Yes, it was visited by both Philip the Fair and Philip the Bold; during their reign small villages even began to appear around the castle, and in the XII century a hospital was built here. However, it did not get any further than that.

It was Francis I who breathed new life into the château, who fulfilled his long-held dream of building a Renaissance château in Fontainebleau. In the sixteenth century, he ordered the old fortress to be demolished and the Fontainebleau, which we can see today, to be built in its place. Francis I built the Golden Gate, a new entrance on the south side of the castle that gave access to the royal chambers. This gate was the central entrance to the castle throughout the 17th century.

It was also under Francis I that a gallery was built, which today bears his name: the Galerie Francis I. The gallery was home to the pearls of world art, and its main asset was Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa. It was in the collection of paintings of Francis I and was kept in the château of Fontainebleau until the reign of Louis XIV, who moved the painting to the Palace of Versailles. The history of the château, however, did not end there and underwent a major architectural transformation under Henri IV and later Napoleon I.

The Palais de Fontainebleau under Henry IV

During the reign of Henri of Navarre, two more galleries were added to the castle, creating the parks around Fontainebleau as we are used to seeing them today.

The Chapel of the Holy Trinity is a credit to the new era of Henry IV in modifying the architectural ensemble of the castle. The main theme of the painting here was the Last Judgment, which is depicted in the many images that decorate the chapel.

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Henry IV’s heir was born at Fontainebleau in what was later named Louis XIII Hall. He was baptized here in the palace’s Oval, and in honor of his birth Henry ordered the construction of the Dauphin Gate, a new entrance to the palace on the east side.

Louis XIII also contributed to the construction of the Château de Fontainebleau. He added a seemingly insignificant element to the architecture of the castle, but, as time has shown, this element of the palace has become a symbol of its time, and to this day it is recalled almost in the first place.

Louis was in charge of building a horseshoe-shaped stone staircase that leads to the Court of the White Horse, or as we know it today, the Court of Napoleon’s farewell to his army (La cour des adieux). The name of the Court of the White Horse comes from the horse sculpture once erected there in the center. In fact it was only part of a sculpture commissioned by Catherine de Medici to depict King Henry. But the commission was never completed and the White Horse in the center of the Courtyard faded into oblivion, leaving behind only its name.

“Fontainebleau is the true abode of kings, the home of the ages,” Napoleon Bonaparte

Louis XIV bypassed the palace as he showed more interest in Versailles, although he stayed regularly at Fontainebleau.

The next epoch in the life of the castle can be called the reign of Napoleon I. Napoleon Bonaparte not only revived the castle and its halls, he immediately made Fontainebleau his imperial residence.

Throne Room under Napoleon I

Some of the rooms of the palace are called the Napoleon Museum. These include the Emperor’s private chambers, the Throne Room, and of course, the infamous (though that’s a matter of opinion!) Red Salon, where the Emperor’s abdication took place, and the Diana Gallery, where the great general spent hours contemplating new conquests before his famous globe, which we can still see in the castle today. There is also Napoleon’s study where, according to legend, he tried to poison himself after his abdication on the night of April 12-13. The museum also houses the emperor’s personal belongings.

The Red Salon. Place where Napoleon I signed his abdication

In addition to the Napoleon Museum, or as it is officially called, the Museum of Art and Military History, the Chinese Empress Museum, the Gallery of Paintings, and the Gallery of Furniture.

The ghosts of Fontainebleau

As with any castle, there are legends that Fontainebleau is haunted. But not all ghosts are meant to be seen by mere mortals (pardon the pun!). It is said that the spirit of the so-called Red Ghost appears only to kings as a sign of their impending death. According to some historians, Henry IV mentioned in his notes shortly before his death that he had met the Red Ghost in Fontainebleau Park.

But the ghost of the Marquis of Monaldeschi may also come across you. As you know, the Marquis was an inveterate gossip and kept many unsolved secrets and intrigues of Fontainebleau Castle. It is not surprising, then, that he was murdered on the orders of his mistress in one of the galleries of the palace.

The parks and forests of Fontainebleau

The palace’s gardens and parks are a kind of a separate open-air museum.

And here it is not without historical curiosities. For example, in the park of Catherine de Medici, who lived in the Fontainebleau palace with her husband Henry II, later installed a sculpture of Diana, goddess of the hunt, although the sculpture does not unwittingly remind of that Diana. At first you would rather think of Diana de Poitiers, Henry II’s lover, who was fiercely hated by Catherine de Medici. Well, in time the park itself was renamed to Diana Park.

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Besides Diana Park, here you can also find the English Garden with a beautiful spring, which gave its name to the castle and the city, a grotto of the Pine grove, as well as the Fountain yard with a huge pond, where swans scatter the water surface in a measured and orderly manner, and peacocks stroll along the park itself, which do not scare many tourists.

You can also take a walk in the forest of Fontainebleau, which not once crossed on a dashing horse in pursuit of prey almost all the kings of France. Today, the French rest here from the bustle of big cities, sitting in the shade of trees for a picnic or just reading a book. Active tourism thrives here, too: Lovers can ride their bikes or do some Nordic walking. However, our guide still in the bus warned us that as soon as it starts to get dark, very advised not to linger and leave the cozy forest, because at night there is not safe and you can get lost.

Mode of operation and ticket prices

If you buy tickets at the ticket office of the castle, keep in mind the lines when you plan your visit. Although they are certainly less than for, say, the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, I would advise to have 15-20 minutes to spare.

The Fontainebleau Castle is open every day except all Tuesdays, January 1, December 25 and May 1.

Chateau hours:

October through March, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (admission stops at 4:15 p.m.).

April through September from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (admission stops at 5:15 p.m.).

A quickie: every first Sunday of the month admission to the castle is free. So if you can plan your trip so cleverly to get here on the first weekend of the month, why not take advantage of the opportunity.

Note: A visit to all the open rooms of the castle takes about 1.30, but access to some rooms is not possible an hour before the palace closes, so it’s better not to arrive at the very closing time. But the caring French have also provided for this. An hour before closing the castle at the ticket office you will be offered a ticket at a special rate to visit half of the castle. That is, only for the rooms that will still be open. The price of such a ticket is 7 euros.

You do not have to visit the Fontainebleau Palace on the day you buy your ticket. The fact is that it is valid for 1 year from the date of purchase. If you enter the palace, it is valid for the whole day. Thus, you can stroll around the castle all day, go out to its surroundings, and then come back and explore the halls of the palace again.

The cost of a ticket to the palace is:

  • 11 euros (full fare);
  • 9 euro (discounted fare.

The following categories of visitors are eligible for a discount ticket:

  • Families with many children;
  • Non-European Union citizens who are residents of the European Union but are between 18 and 25 years of age;
  • journalists (upon presentation of a press card);
  • drivers accompanying tourist groups;
  • holders of a general ticket for the Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte visits.

Admission to the Fontainebleau Palace is free for visitors under the age of 25.

Read more details on the official website of the Château de Fontainebleau here, which is available in French and English.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

Chateau de Fontainebleau

The palace is open from October to March 09:30-17:00 and from April to September 09:30-18:00. The palace is closed every Tuesday, January 1, May 1 and December 25.

Regular ticket is 13 euros, discount ticket is 11 euros. An hour before closing time the cost of the ticket is 8 euros. You can visit the Fontainebleau Palace for free on the first Sunday of the month, except July and August.

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The Château de Fontainebleau was once the residence of French kings. This majestic palace was built during the Renaissance. It has been rebuilt and expanded many times. Today, the Fontainebleau Castle and the adjacent park are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The palace was built by French ruler Francis I in the 16th century. For the construction of the castle were invited J. Le Breton, Primatuccio and B. Cellini. Cellini. Work on the construction of the palace took place under Henry II. In XVIII century Napoleon Bonaparte made adjustments in the appearance of the residence. The design of the palace became a landmark in the history of art.

Inside the Fontainebleau palace on Google maps

The chateau and park of Fontainebleau are located in the commune of the same name, which appeared here due to the construction of the royal residence. The palace is located almost in the center. Fontainebleau is located in the Seine and Marne department.

Prices in the Château de Fontainebleau for 2022

Admission to the gardens, courtyards and park is free for all visitors. A Grands Appartements ticket can be purchased for a self-guided tour of the Château de Fontainebleau. This ticket includes a visit to the Papal Apartments, the Renaissance Rooms, the Chapel of Saint-Saturnin, the Chapel of the Trinity, the Royal Apartments and the Napoleon I Museum.

Buy a ticket on the official page of the palace. The cost of an individual ticket to the Chateau de Fontainebleau:

  • Regular – 13 euros;
  • Reduced rate – 11 euro;
  • one hour before closing – 8 euros.

You can visit the Fontainebleau Palace for free on the first Sunday of the month, except in July and August.

The palace offers guided tours. The price depends on the duration of the tour. The cost of a tour lasting 0.5-1 hours is 5 euros, 1.5-2 hours – 7 euros. You can also go on a group tour of the royal chambers, which take place in groups of 20 people or more. The cost of the ticket is 10 euros.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

Buy a ticket for a tour of the Fontainebleau Castle

Priority entrance to the palace, a tour of all the exhibitions and rooms:

You can also visit the palace with a guided tour in English or combine a visit to Fontainebleau with a trip to the Vaux-le-Vicomte palace. Tours and excursions include transfers from Paris and back.

Château de Fontainebleau opening hours

You can take a walk in the park any day. It is open to visitors all 24 hours. The courtyards and gardens of Fontainebleau Castle are open to visitors every day:

  • November through February 09:00-17:00;
  • March, April, October 09:00-18:00;
  • May to September 09:00-19:00.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

The palace is open daily except Tuesdays, January 1, May 1 and December 25. Manor hours vary depending on the season:

  • October through March 09:30-17:00 p.m;
  • April through September 09:30-18:00.

The ballroom closes at 4:00 p.m. from October through March and 5:00 p.m. from April through September. The Papal Chambers and the Chinese Museum may be closed between 11:30 and 2:30 p.m. A visit to the castle may take about 2 hours.

What to see

The Château de Fontainebleau has majestic gardens and courtyards, many apartments, galleries and a 400-seat theater. There are 2 chapels and 4 museums on the grounds of the palace. There are a large number of works of art.

Apartments

The Royal Apartments are located on the first floor of the main building and consist of several adjoining rooms. The interior combines popular styles of the 17th century.

Next to the Royal Suite are the Renaissance chambers, consisting of three rooms: the Gallery of Francis I, the room of the Duchess d’Etampa, and the Ballroom. The Petits-room appeared during the reign of Louis XV and served as the King’s private office.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

The Two Marie Antoinette Boudoirs were a gift from Louis XVI to his wife. Decorate the interior of the rooms Turkish motifs. The Pope’s apartments are the second most important after the royal ones. The creation of these rooms dates back to 1804.

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The Hunters’ apartments (Des Chasses) are on the first floor and occupy several rooms. They derive their name from the 40 hunting paintings dating from the 18th century that were installed here during the renovation.

The guest apartments were created during the reign of Napoleon III. They are on the 2nd floor of the building and were intended for a very close circle of visitors to the castle.

Galleries and theater

The Gallery of Francis I gave rise to such a phenomenon in art as the Fontainebleau school. The Diana Gallery was built on the orders of Napoleon I and is the longest room in the castle.

The deer gallery is decorated by plaster heads of these animals with real antlers mounted on them. Since 1960 there are ancient sculptures created by Primaticcio. The Hall of Columns was created under Louis-Philippe I. The hall was built in the Renaissance style, decorated with columns and mirrors.

In the castle there is the Imperial Theatre. It was designed by G. Lefuel. The theater can seat 400 people. The Court Theater was opened in 1857.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

Chapels

The Chapel of the Trinity was annexed to the residence of the French kings during the reign of Francis I. The chapel was reconstructed under Henry II. The interior of the chapel features Baroque elements.

The lower chapel of Saint-Saturnin was rebuilt during the reign of Louis-Philippe I. The upper chapel of Saint-Saturnin is a two-story building, built following the restoration of the lower chapel. The upper chapel was soon attached to the Ballroom.

Museums

The Chinese Museum of Empress Eugenia houses a collection of unique objects from the Far East. The museum was established in 1863. The Napoleon I Museum houses furniture, artwork, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, weapons, documents, and other valuable items and artifacts related to the reign of the emperor.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

The Museum of Paintings has a collection of oil paintings that used to decorate the rooms of the castle. This collection can be seen in the Diana Gallery. In the furniture museum, there are objects of art made of wood and textiles. Today, some 17th and 18th century objects are on display in the hunting apartments.

Yards and gardens

The estate includes several courtyards: Cour Ovale, Cour de la Fontaine (courtyard by Carpe Lake), Cour d’Honneur (main or White Horse courtyard), Cour des Offices (known as Cour des Cuisines and “Quartier Henri IV”).

The Grand Parterre garden was created by A. le Nôtre and L. le Voie for Louis XIV in 1660-1664. The English garden appeared under Napoleon I. The garden is decorated with rare trees and plants. An artificially created river runs through it.

The garden of Diana is created in the English style. It takes its name from the statue of Diana installed here during the reign of Henry IV. The park of the Fontainebleau Palace occupies about 130 hectares. It was created to mark the boundaries of the residence.

Chateau de Fontainebleau

How to get to the Château de Fontainebleau

From the railway station “Fontainebleau Avon” to the residence you can take a local bus number 1 or walk on foot. The walking route from the railway station will take 30-35 minutes.

Fontainebleau Avon railway station – Fontainebleau Chateau on foot

You can get to Fontainebleau from Paris by car or by train. To get to Fontainebleau by train you need to take a train Transilien line R. By car, the trip can take just over an hour if you drive through the A6.

Paris-Chateau Fontainebleau by car

Other ways to get from Paris to Fontainebleau can be found here.

To get around Fontainebleau, you can use local cab services. The following operators operate in the city: “Taxi services 77”, “Chauffeur Taxi Fontainebleau”, “Aux taxis de Fontainebleau”.

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