Paris Day Trip to Chateau de Fontainebleau
When I lived in Paris, some friends and I decided to leave the city for a little day trip to Fontainebleau, France, a town located little less than an hour from Paris by train. This little city is home to the Chateau de Fontainebleau, also know as the Palace of Fontainebleau or Fontainebleau Palace in English. Visiting the Chateau de Fontainebleau is a great day trip from Paris! Although lots of people visiting Paris like to go to Versailles, Chateau de Fontainebleau is well worth a visit.
How to get to Chateau de Fontainebleau from Paris: Visiting the Chateau de Fontainebleau as a day trip from Paris is pretty easy, as it takes just over an hour in each direction to get there and back. You can take the RER or Metro from anywhere in Paris to Gare de Lyon (a major train station). From there, we took a train to Fontainebleau, which took just under an hour, and then we took a bus to the Chateau. The trip was free for us because we used our Navigo passes (these are transportation cards Parisians or long-term visitors use for transport around the Paris city area and the suburbs), but the cost to get to Fontainebleau by train is about 9 euros for each direction. If you don’t have a pass, the bus ticket to the chateau costs another 2 euro. Basic admissions tickets for the palace of Fontainebleau cost 12 euros. (You can visit the Chateau de Fontainebleau website for more ticket information.) All together, the total cost for someone paying full-price for train tickets and attraction tickets is less than 35 euro, which is significantly less than the 60 euro+ tours that organize transportation to the chateau from Paris. Since I was a student in the EU at the time, I got free admission to the museum!
The Palace of Fontainebleau is a beautiful castle and surrounding grounds where many French royal families lived, from the the middle ages (around 1200) through Napoleon’s reign. This chateau is not as well known as Versailles, making it less of a tourist destination. However, because fewer people visit this castle, we could explore beautiful rooms (comparable to those at Versailles) completely undisturbed by other visitors. Being completely alone in rooms like Napoleon’s bedchamber and the massive grand hall was such a cool experience.
When we arrived, we received our free student tickets (by showing our French school ID cards) and wandered through the grand apartments, Napoleon’s apartments, ball rooms, great halls, and chapels, all decadently decorated in rich fabrics and painted ceilings (shown in the photo galleries below). After our visit inside the Chateau, we decided to explore the gardens. Although no flowers were blooming (as it was mid-January), the gardens were still beautiful and worth a look. We probably spent about two hours visiting the castle and an hour walking through the gardens.B
If you go when it’s warmer, there are a number of fun outdoor activities you can participate in on the grounds for an additional cost. These actives include: hot-air ballooning, carriage rides, and canoeing on the pond. Details about these activities can be found here.
Chateau de Fontainebleau vs Versallies: If you’re in Paris for a while, and you love visiting old French castles, I would try to visit both of these magnificent palaces. Both are historically relevant and beautiful. If you’re trying to decide between the two castles, here are a few things to consider. The castles themselves are both gorgeous with similar architecture from various eras. Versailles is the most famous castle near Paris, and its Hall of Mirrors is iconic, so if you’re after a typical tourist experience, Versailles might be your best bet. One key difference between the castles are the crowds. Versailles has been crowded all three times I have visited, both in the peak season and off season. When I visited Chateau de Fontainebleau during the off season in January, I had entire rooms to myself because there just were not that many people there. We probably saw a total of 25 other people on the day we went. You can wander through the rooms without interruption from other tourists or massive tour groups, which made the experience really magical.
Check out my photo gallery below for some inspiration to visit the Chateau de Fontainebleau! You can see just how quiet it was in the pictures!
Have you visited this French chateau? Which did you prefer: Fontainebleau or Versailles?