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
Things To Do
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.