Fontainebleau is a city 60 km southeast of Paris, known primarily for its magnificent Renaissance palace, the residence of many rulers of France. Built in the style of Italian Mannerism, the palace most of all resembles a row of intricate crystal wine glasses of various heights and shapes: squat pot-bellied outbuildings are heavy whiskey glasses, elegant wide outbuildings are solid vessels for red wine, and graceful slender turrets between them are frivolous champagne glasses. And the very name of the city is very coquettish: “fontaine bleau” means “beautiful fountain”.
The inhabitants of Fontainebleau refer to themselves as “les bellifontains” (Bellifontaines), and it is also recommended to use the adjective “bellifontain” when describing local phenomena.
The palace is surrounded by a wonderful park, and it, in turn, is a vast forest. In addition, Fontainebleau is one of the equestrian capitals of France: the hippodrome is located here and the largest international competitions in all disciplines of equestrian sports are held. See educationvv.com for education and training in France.
How to get to Fontainebleau
To personally appreciate the beauty of the palace and parks, you must first get to Paris, the nearest major city to Fontainebleau. Up to 10 joint Aeroflot and Air France flights from Sheremetyevo land daily at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. How to get from the airport to the city center, see the Paris page.
In Paris, go to Gare de Lyon and take the train towards Montargis Sens. After about 44 minutes, get ready to get off at Fontainebleau Avon station. Trains run from 0:34 to 22:46 from Paris to Fontainebleau and from 05:24 to 22:40 in the opposite direction. The fare is 5-8 EUR.
You can also come to Fontainebleau from Marseille by high-speed TGV train. Travel time is about 4 hours.
From the station, the center of Fontainebleau can be reached by bus line AB, leaving every 15 minutes. Tariff – 2 EUR. To get to Fontainebleau Palace, you need to get off at the Château stop.
How to navigate in the city
The city of Fontainebleau is very compact and easy to navigate. The main street – rue Grande, connecting the palace with the opposite end of the city, passes through the central square place Napoléon Bonaparte. Most of the shops, restaurants and cafes are also located here. From the center of Fontainebleau to the palace complex – no more than half an hour’s walk.
In addition, you can rent bicycles at the Tourist Office of Fontainebleau (rue Royale, 4) for EUR 5 per hour.
Cuisine and Restaurants of Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau has many restaurants, eateries, cafes and bars, most of which are located on rue Grande. The cuisine is very different – from classic French (for example, in the restaurant at the Napoleon Hotel, one of the best in the city) to Mediterranean, Mexican and Japanese. For just a bite to eat, head to establishments under the sign “brasserie”, it is customary to order more solid dishes in restaurants. Be sure to try the local pastries and sweets.
Shopping and stores
Local agricultural products are a matter of special pride for the people of Bellifontaine. The stalls of the food market, held on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays near the Church of Saint-Louis, are literally bursting with reference specimens of vegetables, fruits, root crops and greens. They also sell cheeses and dairy products, meat gastronomy, cakes, pies and buns for every taste.
In 1996, the National Culinary Association awarded the food market of Fontainebleau with the honorary title of Marché d’exception – an exceptional market.
In addition to souvenirs depicting the Palace of Fontainebleau, you can bring glassware, paintings, mosaics and stained glass, cheese and chocolate from here.
Entertainment and attractions
The palace complex of Fontainebleau is without a doubt the main attraction of the city. This includes the palace itself, courtyards and gardens and the palace park.
In the Fontainebleau Palace, a huge number of rooms are open for visitors, and it is simply impossible to get around them all. Among the pearls are the 16th-century Renaissance halls, the Grand Sovereigns’ apartments of the 16th-19th centuries, literally bursting at the seams with luxury, gold and glitter, Napoleon’s Inner Apartments and the Small Apartments (used by Napoleon, his wife and closest associates). Look also into the cozy boudoirs of Marie Antoinette and the apartments of the Pope (meaning Pius VII, who stayed here twice).
In the Palace of Fontainebleau, you can learn the old ball game – jeu de paume, a kind of volleyball with rackets.
In addition, there are four museums in the palace: the Chinese Museum of the Empress, the Napoleon Museum, the Painting Gallery (pay attention to the fresco “Royal Elephant”) and the Furniture Gallery with a magnificent chest of drawers by Beneman.
To thoroughly understand the salons, boudoirs, galleries and bedchambers of the palace, take an audio guide (offered in 8 languages, including Russian). The duration of the audio tour is 1.5 hours, the cost is 1 EUR.
Leaving the palace, go for a walk through the courtyards and gardens, arranged for any mood: the strict and slightly gloomy Oval Courtyard, the Fountain Courtyard with a motionless water surface of the pond, the English Garden immersed in greenery, Diana’s chamber garden and the pacifying Pine Grotto.
And finally, for the tireless explorers of sights, the Fontainebleau complex has in store a 130-hectare park with an artificial canal, numerous bridges and marble statues of goddesses and nymphs.
Nature lovers can enjoy walks in the forest of Fontainebleau. There are 300 km of walking, equestrian and cycling routes for any level of physical fitness. A variety of species of animals, birds and plants will enchant even the most dedicated fan of urbanization. Thrill-seekers can practice rock climbing.
Alisier de Fontainebleau – “Fontainebleau tree” – a special type of mountain ash that grows only here.
Equestrian sports are another highlight of the region. Races and races are regularly held at the Hippodrome de la Solle, and prestigious international competitions in show jumping and dressage are held in the arenas of Le Grand Parquet. For non-professionals, horse riding lessons and horseback riding in the surrounding area are offered.
In the city itself, you can also visit the Museum of Military History and the only Prison Museum in Europe (pay attention to the letters from the dungeons of eminent prisoners: Francois Villon, Mirabeau and the Marquis de Sade).
Address: 77300 Fontainebleau.
Castle opening hours: from October to March – from 9:30 to 17:00 (admission until 16:15), from April to September – from 9:30 to 18:00 (admission until 17:15). Days off – Tuesday, January 1, May 1, December 25.
Entrance: 12 EUR (1 hour before the closing of the castle – 7 EUR), children under 18 years old – free of charge.
Opening hours of the courtyards and gardens: from November to February – from 9:00 to 17:00, March, April and October – from 9:00 to 18:00, from May to September – from 9:00 to 19:00.
Park opening hours: 24/7.