Here at AmericanConcierge.com, we love taking day trips from Paris, many of the best sights in France are a simple train or car ride away. For us, one of the best day trips from Paris is to the city of Fontainebleau, home to approximately 15,000 people and a gorgeous chateau.
The Fontainebleau chateau dates back to 1137—and centuries of royals have expanded this former royal hunting lodge to a more than 1,500-room estate. It won its claim to fame in the modern-day by being crowned Versailles without the crowds.
The chateau was originally a hunting lodge for the kings of the time, during the fifteenth century, the castle needed some work so in the sixteenth century King Francois I commenced a restoration that began the transformation of the castle. Over the years capétiens, Valois, Bourbons, Bonaparte and Orléans, all members of French ruling dynasties, have lived within the castle walls. Kings and queens, emperors and empresses have all worked to make their own improvements to the chateau built around the original keep. The estate quickly became a huge palace in which many momentous historical events have played out.
The Fontainebleau chateau has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site and has plenty to see including private apartments, gardens, chapels, and an endless supply of galleries. The caste has been continuously inhabited by French royalty for the last seven hundred years, and you can see pieces of each family based on all the architectural elements added. A visit here will take you for a walk through history and the luxurious lifestyle of its previous inhabitants.
Our favorite part of the area to visit is the Grand Lake just behind the chateau, you will find a place to rent boats and row around in the sunshine while taking in magnificent views of the grounds. If you are visiting during one of the warmer months, it’s a great idea to take a bottle of wine and some snacks as you row, basking in the French sunshine.
If you are looking to venture to the castle on your own, there is an easily accessible train from Paris that will drop you in Fontainebleau and from there. Take the RER A from Gare de Lyons. The journey takes about 50 minutes. From the stop, you may walk through the woodland and the town to reach Fontainebleau itself or opt for one of the free shuttles that will take you directly to the castle within 15 minutes. Although there are rarely lines at Fontainebleau, we recommend you buy your tickets online beforehand to skip any chance of waiting in a line.
Once you finish touring the marvelous and intricate galleries of the Fontainebleau chateau, head out into the gardens where pony rides are offered and bike rentals can be found as well. You can even pack a full picnic and pick a spacious shaded spot under one of the many beautiful trees surrounding the castle and canals. There’s plenty of space for all your friends and family to feel as if the chateau is yours alone.
If you are looking to venture deeper into nature, you can head into the forest (Domaine de Fontainebleau). This giant wooded area was originally intended to be the hunting grounds for the kings of its time and is surrounded by many villages and hamlets. Our favorite time to visit is in the fall when all the leaves are changing and the weather is just perfect for a long walk. Even though the castle is never as busy as Versailles, it can get a little busier in the summer months, when more tourists have entered the country in general.
Don’t forget to take a trip around the city itself as well, many people are only aware of the marvelous chateau, but the city itself is a wonderful place to visit. The local market is one of our favorite places there, where you can meet the locals selling fresh produce, cheese, and meat. The name of the market in French is Marché de Fontainebleau and sets up three times a week on place de la République.
The city is also home to an array of antique shops full of inexpensive gift ideas with a real French charm. Also, just nearby is the charming village of Barbizon, home to the -Barbizon School,’ a group of influential 19th-century painters.
If you prefer to skip the picnic and head into town for lunch or dinner here is a list of some of our favorite restaurants.
To experience Fontainebleau in the best way possible we recommend taking a private day trip from Paris (shameless plug). Our certified guides will pick you up directly from your hotel and guide you to the best locations the city has to offer while offering you the interesting history and facts about the region. The advantage of going on our private tour is that you can sit back and relax while our trusted guide makes the trip smooth and fascinating. You can forget about sitting on a bus with 20 strangers, rather enjoy one on one access to this gorgeous chateau for a trip you will not forget.
On the day trip, most of what you’ll see dates back to the 16th century, a combination of Italian Renaissance art and French design, these rooms are some of the most intricate and breathtaking in France. If you would like one of the delicious menu options booked from above we can prepare that for you as well.
Contact us through our form to create a personalized itinerary that includes this day trip, restaurant reservations, and more.
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The Château de Fontainebleau, just 35 miles southeast of central Paris, can proudly claim to have been a sovereign residence for eight centuries. Capétiens, Valois, Bourbons, Bonaparte and Orléans, all members of French ruling dynasties, have lived within these walls. The chateau dates back to 1137—and centuries of royals have expanded this former royal hunting lodge to a more than 1,500-room estate. Most of what you’ll see dates back to the 16th century, a combination of Italian Renaissance art and French design, these rooms are some of the most intricate and breathtaking in France. If times allows, you can enjoy lunch in this charming area.
Tour Length: 5 – 6 hours