Destination: Château de Fontainebleau, France


Last week, I took a day trip over to the château de Fontainebleau, a medieval castle-turned-palace that’s particularly famous for having housed French royalty from the 16th to 19th centuries. It’s especially famous for its association with Napoleon Bonaparte, who ended up abdicating his throne in 1814. Today, it’s one of France’s largest palaces and a popular destination to visit from Paris, since it’s only located about 55 kilometers (34 miles) away.

Now, I’d actually been to the château de Fontainebleau almost three years ago, when I studied abroad in Paris during college. On one of the weekends, I took a class field trip over to the château and found it quite pleasant, despite it actually being smaller than I’d imagined. I actually hadn’t given it much thought of going this time around, considering that I’d already been. However, when one of my flatmates proposed a day trip over last weekend, I decided to go for it, especially since it’d been a while and I wanted to get out of the house for the day.

My decision turned out to be a pretty spontaneous one, since my roommate had announced the trip just the day before leaving. That said, I quickly bought my round-trip train tickets online (22,50 euros total- not bad) just before leaving, and with that, I along with three of my roommates took the train over to Paris on Saturday morning.

We took the metro to the train station where we would be boarding for our journey to Fontainebleau-Avon, the nearest station to the château itself. It was around 13h30 when we arrived at the train station and while there was the option of taking a bus to the site, we were cheap and opted to walk the 2-3 kilometers over. At first, we were a bit uncertain on which direction to go, but after randomly asking a store worker at a nearby Carrefour (where we stocked up on food and drinks for a picnic), we ended up heading in the right direction, coming across an open entrance that led into the large park of the château, which took us to the Fontainebleau itself.

Around 14h30, we finally arrived at the château de Fontainbleau! Weather was nice that day: although there were a few intermittent clouds, it was warm and there were some blue skies! We took advantage of the good weather to take some photos of the château from the outside before heading inside for a tour of it.

Château de Fontainebleau.

There was a considerable queue to get into the château, but it wasn’t too bad. Another reason why I wanted to return was that it was actually free to enter! I have what’s known as a Pass Éducation, which allows me to get into national sites in France for free. Definitely was a plus!

Any case, we started the visit. I don’t remember exactly where we started, but I believe it was at the Napoleon Museum, where we toured through the Emperor’s Bedroom, along with a very-posh cradle which once belonged to the King of Rome.

Cradle of the King of Rome.
Hallway between the Napoleon Museum and the Apartment of the Pope.

Following that, we headed into the Apartment of the Pope and the Queen-Mothers, where we saw bedroom after bedroom which once housed not the queens themselves, but their mothers. Imagining such a grand palace that can house an entire family! From floor to ceiling, each room was covered with draperies and elaborate tapestries which were so opulent they made me dizzy with wonder.

Bedroom of the Queen-Mother Anne of Austria.

We also passed by the Throne Room (salle du Trône) which once belonged to Napoleon himself, along with the awe-inspiring long corridor Gallery of Diana, lined with bookcases and fulfilling the scholarly nerd in me.

Throne Room.
Gallery of Diana.

In-between all of these rooms, we passed by the Gallery of Francis I, which I believe was one of the two settings of Lana del Rey’s “Born to Die” music video (which I discussed in this post). I, along with another roommate, are obsessed with del Rey, and that was partly why we decided to come to the Fontainebleau. Although the center was roped off for a two-lane visit (which didn’t make the photos so ideal), it was so cool just to be able to be where the music video filming took place!

Gallery of Francis I.

After what seemed like a million more brilliant, opulent bedrooms, we finished our tour at the Trinity Chapel (Chapelle de la Trinité), another place where del Rey’s music video happened. It was devastatingly beautiful, with the sheer amount of ornamentation covering the walls and ceiling. We ended up sitting there for a while on the plush, red benches just to take it all in. One of my favorite rooms ever!

Chapelle de la Trinité.

Finally, our visit inside the château was over, and we headed out to, once again, take more photos from the outside before exploring the gardens a bit. However, we didn’t stay there that long, since they turned out to be a disappointment: nothing really ornate about them and the fact that gates blocked off entrances to them. I remember being unimpressed when I’d visited three years prior, so with that, we took a leisurely stroll along the river banks as we headed back to the train station, taking the 18h00 train back to Paris where we then took the 20h20 train back to Normandy.

Overall, it’d been a long day of traveling and walking, but I was glad to have made that spontaneous decision to get out for the day. Revisiting the Fontainebleau left more of an impression on me than the first time I’d visited; I appreciated the architecture more, and I hope to go back there someday.

Thanks for reading; more travels to come soon!

— The Finicky Cynic

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8 thoughts on “Destination: Château de Fontainebleau, France

  1. Fascinating post!

    I’ve never visited anything like a chateau or palace and I’m actually not so sure I can imagine what it’s like to walk around inside of one. Especially in terms of how the lavish decor might make me feel. Did people really sleep in beds bigger than many urban gardens? Did their huge beds when empty of anyone but themselves ever make them feel lonely at night?

    Maybe the closest I’ve come to experiencing what it might be like to live in a chateau was when my first wife and I briefly lived with her mother and step-farther immediately after our wedding. Her step-father had designed and built the house and — while it was no where near the size of a chateau — it was huge by American standards. You could walk around in some sections of that house and get the feeling no one else had passed through there in a week or more. But the decor was anything but lavish. While marble mostly. It was stark, icy, emotionally colder than a bank lobby.

    1. Interesting thoughts! I never thought about such things, but it’s great to think about them. Chateaux in France are really worth the visit, if you ever go!

  2. I went to Fontainebleau last year, I have exactly the pictures of the Throne Room and the Gallery of Diana. Those two are probably my favourite parts of the visit.
    I had no clue Fontainebleau was the set of some Lana Del Rey’s music videos though 😮 nice to know !

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