Fontainebleau Travel Guide

by Natalie Becci

Deeply rooted in history, Fontainebleau, southeast of Paris, boasts grandiosity from its royal Château to its famous forest. Just an hour’s drive from the capital, look no further for a trip fit for a king.

It is no wonder why French royalty, for more than 800 years, escaped to this enchanting town less than an hour from Paris. Gorgeous castles steeped in history; astonishing, century-crossing architecture and stunning natural landscapes are known for inspiring artists such as Jean Cocteau, Rosa Bonheur, and Alfred Sisley… Fontainebleau is the perfect quick getaway — although you may end up not wanting to leave. 

Located less than 40 miles southeast of the capital, the town is easily accessible by car or train. Its primary attraction, and for good reason, is its palace: the Château de Fontainebleau; however, the royal escapade does not stop there —  it is just one of the many marvelous properties in the region, draped with charming gardens manicured in both French and English styles.

Juxtaposing and surrounding these châteaux and their carefully fashioned landscaping is the vast Fontainebleau forest. Its well-trodden trails allow visitors to admire the ancient wilderness in all its glory, mere minutes from the quaint medieval villages that dot its border. This combination of nature and culture, linked so intrinsically, is nothing short of magical. 

With so many sites on offer, it is easy to spend an entire day exploring. After long days of adventuring, the monarchy and their entourage would retreat to their stately abodes for rest and relaxation, and luckily, this option remains available today: many châteaux have kept their original purpose and offer rooms for rent in the castle or on the grounds.

While it may no longer serve as an aristocratic playground, today Fontainebleau is a hotspot for antique hunting, outdoor sports, and acclaimed gardens. 

Honor your inner Marie-Antoinette — without the ubiquitous crowds of Versailles — with a trip to fabulous Fontainebleau.

Chateaux To Visit

chateau de fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau — the second largest palace in France — is a must-visit for any history buff. A richly furnished medieval castle, Fontainebleau is the epitome of grandiose taste and from the Middle Ages to the 19th century served as a second home to 34 kings and two emperors. Explore Renaissance masterpieces commissioned by Francis I, lavishly decorated interiors by Marie-Antoinette, the state apartment of Napoleon I, and the preferred “modern” decoration by its final royal inhabitants: Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie.

Château Vaux-le-Vicomte

The château with the gardens that inspired Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte is the largest private estate that is classified as a Historical Monument in France. Travel back in time to experience intimate, historical grandeur with a visit to this family-owned, 17th-century castle, which — along with various year-round events, including an elaborate display of holiday decorations in December — features a magical, 2,000-candle-lit evening every Saturday from June to October.

Château de Courances

The castle and gardens at the Domaine de Courances are a beautiful representation of 17th-century French luxury. Take a stroll through the grounds, in particular, the beautiful, organic potager, then ascend the famous horseshoe staircase inspired by the Château de Fontainebleau before immersing yourself in the history of the private manor with a guided tour. Open only on weekends from April to November (closed in July and August).

Things To Do

Foret de Fontainebleau

One of the most beautiful and diverse forests in France, it is clear why the French aristocracy enjoyed hunting in Fontainebleau for over eight centuries. With over 60,000 acres to traverse, hiking is a very popular activity and routes are accessible from many of the surrounding small towns (the trails around Trois-Pignons, south of Arbonne-la-Forêt, offer myriad vantage points from different elevations). Climbers are also catered for, with more than 30,000 boulders, 270 sectors, and 280 circuits from beginner to expert dotted around the forest.

brocante and antiques

Fontainebleau and the surrounding villages prove fertile hunting grounds for the antique lover. Visit Thierry May in Fontainebleau for original stone fireplaces and other architectural materials, or go further afield to Atelier Gabrielle Deschamps in Macherin for a charming mix of old and new. Le Cour des Adieux offers high-end antique furniture and for a Sunday morning each month, there is a small brocante fair held in the old covered marketplace in Milly-la-Forêt.

sample local specialities

Visitors would be remiss not to try the local delicacies while in town. Fromage lovers — make haste to Fromagerie Barthelemy to taste the signature “Le Fontainebleau” cheese. For those with a sweet tooth, pop over to Frédéric Cassel, a pâtisserie and salon de thé headed by the award-winning pastry chef, for the perfect afternoon pitstop. The area is known for gastronomy, so wander about, and you’ll come across more than enough wonderful shops and restaurants offering delicious goods specific to the region.


Looking for an aquatic adventure? The Association Nautique Fontainebleau Aviron offers an introductory rowing class for visitors looking to see Fontainebleau from the water. With boats available for one or two people, you will learn the basics of the sport and put your new skills to work gliding down the water with the most picturesque of views. 

Where To Stroll


Home to the famous French poet and artist Jean Cocteau, Milly-la-Forêt is a quaint commune near Fontainebleau that dates back to the 12th century. Explore Cocteau’s former home, along with the chapel he was commissioned to decorate; visit the plant conservatory, with its pretty botanical gardens, and walk through the medieval hall in the town center.


Walking through this cobblestoned village, you will feel as though you are inside an Impressionist painting. To understand just how impactful the Bourron-Marlotte scenery was for painters of this period, take the Artist Trail Tour to see where artists, like Paul Cézanne, lived and painted. You can compare artistic representations directly with the subjects in the Town Hall Museum, where many works depicting the village are on display.


Running along the Loing River, Moret-sur-Loing is a royal medieval city once voted the most beautiful commune in Île-de-France. The landscapes here have inspired great artists, such as Rosa Bonheur and Alfred Sisley. Take a stroll along the river and admire nearly 200 miles of vines covering the town’s walls.


On the edge of the Fontainebleau forest, Barbizon encapsulates scenes of the landscape artists who painted in situ, gathering inspiration from the surrounding nature. This “painter’s village” was home to many artists in the early to mid-1800s and subsequently became dubbed the Barbizon School. Visitors can view a grand collection of works presented in the Musée Peintres Barbizon and in other artist-specific museums in the area.

Where To Stay

l'aigle noir

27 Place Napoléon Bonaparte, 77300 Fontainebleau

For more than 200 years, L’Aigle Noir Hotel has been an important staple of Fontainebleau. Anchored in French history, the hotel in the heart of the town has welcomed some of France’s most distinguished names, from Napoleon Bonapart’s generals to Jacques Prévert. The décor exudes the illustrious energy of the nearby château, while also incorporating the essence of the surrounding nature.

Château de Bourron

16 Avenue Blaise de Montesquiou, 77780 Bourron-Marlotte

Channel your inner princesse with a stay in a real castle! Château de Bourron is a charming, 16th-century property built on the site of a former fortress surrounded by moats. Stay in one of the opulent rooms (each named after royals who inhabited them), or rent out one of the quaint houses or delightful pavilions on the sprawling grounds… the ultimate royal treatment.

Domaine de Courances

15 Rue du Château, 91490 Courances

Scattered throughout the Domaine de Courances are cottages belonging to its private château. Choose one that overlooks the Japanese gardens or Renaissance park for a tranquil experience in nature, or get your fill of culture in one of the exquisite historical buildings, such as the old millhouse, carpentry workshop, Estate’s gatehouse or tenant farmer’s lodge.

Hôtel de Londres

1 Place du Général de Gaulle, 77300 Fontainebleau

Looking for the best view of the Château de Fontainebleau? Hotel de Londres is located just across the street from the palace. This boutique hotel has been family-run for three generations, since 1850. Located in the center of the town, this chic yet cozy establishment is the perfect place to recuperate after a full day of exploring.

Where To Eat

Le Relais de Barbizon

2 Avenue du General de Gaulle, 77630 Barbizon

At Le Relais de Barbizon, simple decoration and furniture are a subtle backdrop for delicious, fresh and local food. It specializes in seafood and uses only the highest quality ingredients bought straight from the market. On chilly days, cozy up by the crackling indoor fireplace; in warmer weather, retreat to the back terrace under the shade of the trees.


43 Rue de France, 77300 Fontainebleau

Steps away from the Château de Fontainebleau, Michelin-starred restaurant L’Axel offers Japanese-inspired gastronomy. Discover an upscale and unique flavor journey crafted by Chef Kunihisa Goto in the atmospheric salon, where the artistically-crafted plates and tableware are as impressive as the food itself.

La Dame Jouanne

Rocher de Dame Jouanne, 77760 Larchant

If hiking is your thing, then La Dame Jouanne is the ultimate spot to rest and refresh. The rustic restaurant in the center of the forest is bustling with chic country folk who come by on foot, horseback or car. The delicious food and laid-back Parisian weekend atmosphere makes for fascinating people watching as you enjoy a meal.

Le Bistro du Broc

5 Rue Murger, 77780 Bourron-Marlotte

For a more casual restaurant experience, head to Le Bistro du Broc for classic French country dishes, where it is all too easy to find a bottle from the bistro’s wine cellar that will complement the comforting cuisine. They also offer takeout for those who wish to take food to go for a picnic somewhere out in the Fontainebleau nature.

Frédéric Cassel

71-73, rue Grande 77300 Fontainebleau

Award-winning pastry chef Frédéric Cassel opened his patisserie and salon de thé in Fontainebleau in 1994. His creations are at the same time delicate and generous. He marries surprising flavors for an exciting taste journey. Stop in to try one of his revisited French classic pastries over tea time.

Restaurant Hotellerie du Bas Bréau

22 Grande Rue, 77630 Barbizon

At the Hôtellerie du Bas Bréau, you will find fresh, gourmet French cuisine celebrating the richness of the region’s gastronomy – expect seasonal dishes made with the freshest of local ingredients. Depending on the weather, diners enjoy the taste of Barbizon on the large terrace or inside the hotel dining room.

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