Fontainebleau

FRANCE ILE DE SEINE ET MARNE Fontainebleau 

Fontainebleau is the largest region in Ile de France and is home to about 16,000 Bellifontains. Best known for its Renaissance château and its Fôret de Fontainebleau (a royal hunting ground many centuries ago), the city is a popular tourist destination and weekend getaway for Parisians. The city was initially known as Fontaine Belle eau or Fontaine Belleaue variously, until it took on its current name in 1169. The area soon became the home of the royal country house and eventually saw the construction of the famous palace. Today, Fontainebleau functions as a tourist magnet and a tertiary education centre, thanks to the INSEAD business school that is located at its borders.

 

 

FONTAINEBLEU MAP

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1. Tourist Office  2. Bus Station (connects to train)  3. Entrance  4. Grands Appartements  5. Jardin de Diane  6. Jardin Français  7. Jardin Anglais  8. Fôret de Fontainebleau (west of map limits- zoom out 3 clicks)

 


FRANCE ILE DE FRANCE SEINE ET MARNE Cheateau Fontainebleau 

The crown jewel of Fontainebleau is its spectacular Château de Fontainebleau [+33 160715070 www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr ad/ch €6.50-8/5-6 (vary with sections that are being visited)]. Probably not as celebrated as Versailles, the Fontainebleau Palace has quite a reputation, nonetheless.  Occupying 130 acres of the city’s parklands, the château has a rich history, dating back to the Medieval Era. Having been a royal residence for 8 centuries, the exquisite palace has housed almost every royal family of France, from the Capétians to Napoleon- and each and every one of them has left their mark on the building. 


The building started off as a modest château–cum-chapel in 1137, with a large keep being built by Louis VII. This edifice was expanded by Louis IX and Charles VII. However, few of these medieval features were preserved when François I acquired the palace. Responsible for the Renaissance façade of the palace, François I regarded Château de Fontainebleau as home. He commissioned several fine artisans (mostly Italians like Sebastiano Serlio and Giovanni Battista) to work on various features of the building. This massive reconstruction introduced Renaissance architecture to France, blending the Italianate and French styles to create the First School of Fontainebleau. During this period, the Fontainebleau palace housed many Renaissance paintings- the Mona Lisa was one of them. 


The next major reconstruction was carried out by Henry IV and Catherine de Medicis- they created the Second School of Fontainebleau with their incorporation of Flemish artistes’ works. During this period, the palace saw many key events such as the signing of the 1629 France-England peace treaty and the arrest of Marshal Biron and Charles Count of Auvergue. Soon after, the château gardens were designed by Le Nôtre under the commission of Louis XIV. The palace continued to be well-loved even by Napoleon I and III. 


FRANCE ILE DE SEINE ET MARNE FontainebleauA vi
sit to the palace will not be complete without sighting the 
Grands Appartements – 2 strings of opulent rooms which remain oddly welcoming despite their rich furnishing and décor. These rooms are connected to the Cour Ovale (Oval Courtyard, which is now U-shaped due to the 18th century renovations) –the oldest courtyard in the palace, dating back to the medieval period. The largest courtyard however, is the Cour d’Honneur (previously known as Cour du Cheval Blanc) which leads you to the château. This greeting place was where Napoleon bid his guards farewell before being exiled to Elba in 1814. The grand, Baroque-style Chapel of Trinity overlooks this courtyard. This chapel was where the historic marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leczinska took place. 


FRANCE ILE DE FRANCE SEINE ET MARNE Château de fontainebleauThe Palace is also home to four museums, the oldest being the Musée Chinois de l’Imperatice Eugénie. This museum was created for Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) in 1863 to exhibit her oriental art collection. Other museums in the vicinity are Napoleon I Museum (displaying his personal belongings and artefact collection), Galerie de Peinture (exhibiting paintings that used to hang on the walls of the palace rooms) and the Furniture Gallery (displaying the château’s furniture, textiles and objets d’art). Guided tours of these museum are available in French daily (check the notice board at the entrance for slots). However, self-guided tours are also allowed and can last between 2 to 4 hours. 

It is recommended that you round off your Fontainebleau Palace visit by popping by the château gardens, which comprise of the Jardin de Diane (north), Le Nôtre’s Jardin Français (east) and Jardin Anglais (west, near the ancient Grand Canal).



FRANCE ILE DE FRANCE SEINE ET MARNE forest of FontainebleauThe Fôret de Fontainebleau 
- a deciduous forest that lies mainly within the borders of Fontainebleau, occasionally creeps into the Essonne department. This 280km² forest was a famous hunting and logging ground for the royals, thanks to its quiet beauty. Today, it still remains pretty, connected with several walking trails, which allow visitors to sight its diverse ecosystem and interesting rock formations. The forest is home to over 200 species of birds, thousands of plants and animals like boars, deer, and rodents. The Fôret de Fontainebleau is also popular amongst rock climbing enthusiasts, as it is home to numerous sandstone cliffs, ridges and gorges. You can get hold of a brochure from the tourist office, which marks these features according to their difficulty levels with colour codes (ranging from white- suitable for kids to black-for advanced climbers).