A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of France’s largest châteaux, the magnificent Château de Fontainebleau boasts a rich resume of royal inhabitants, including Henry IV, Louis XV, and Napoleon. Built in the 12th century, the palace displays a remarkable variety of architectural styles, all set within 130 hectares (321 acres) of parks and gardens.
Visitors can discover the Château de Fontainebleau on a guided tour or take a self-guided tour of the Grands Appartements accompanied by an audio guide. Most Fontainebleau tours run from Paris. Although it’s possible to take in the highlights on a half-day tour, a full-day tour will give you free time to explore the vast parklands. In summer, popular activities include Segway tours, horse-drawn carriage rides around the palace grounds, or boat cruises around the lake. You can also soar overhead in a hot-air balloon.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Plan at least two hours to visit the castle and gardens.
- Visitor facilities include cloakrooms, lockers, and restrooms.
- The palace is wheelchair accessible, and lifts are available for entrance to the Grand Apartments.
How to Get There
The Château de Fontainebleau is located at the heart of the Fontainebleau Forest, 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of central Paris—about an hour-long drive. From Paris, trains run from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon station, from where the Ligne 1 local bus takes you right to the château entrance in about 10 minutes. Coaches also run from Paris to Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte, another nearby castle.
When to Get There
Fontainebleau is open daily (except Tuesdays) year round. The most popular time to visit is in summer, when you can enjoy a picnic in the park and make the most of the seasonal activities and events. The castle itself can get busy, especially in July and August, so aim for an early-morning tour to avoid the crowds, then set off to explore the park just as the tour buses roll in.
A Tour of the Royal Palace
With an incredible 1,500 rooms, there’s plenty to explore at Fontainebleau; tours typically include the the Renaissance rooms, the Papal apartment, the Francis I gallery, and Marie Antoinette’s boudoirs. Visitors can also brush on up French history at the palace museum, peek into the private apartments of Napoleon I and Josephine, his first wife, and stroll around the idyllic gardens.