10 Reasons to Visit the Chateau de Fontainebleau, South Of Paris


[Sponsored Article] Whether you’re a history buff or an art lover, just passing through or a regular visitor, a little adventurer or a big fan, discover the 10 good reasons to come and visit the Chateau de Fontainebleau and its gardens!

1 – A Testimony to French History

Fontainebleau is not just one monarch’s palace; it belonged to them all. Thirty-four kings and two emperors passed it down from generation to generation from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. A thousand years of History took place within the walls of this Chateau, earning it the description, “True home of kings, house of centuries,“ as Napoleon liked to call it. Inhabited by great historical figures like Catherine de Medici, Louis XIV, and Marie Antoinette, the Chateau de Fontainebleau is an outstanding testimony to French history.

2 – A UNESCO World Heritage Site

Since 1981, the Chateau de Fontainebleau and its domain have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The registration on that list sanctions the universal and exceptional value of a cultural or natural property so that it is protected for generations to come.

3 – 320 Acres of Parks and Gardens

Sitting on a 320-acre estate, the various buildings forming the chateau are spread over four main courtyards, three gardens, and a park. The gardens, as well as the buildings, are plentiful and varied. Diana’s Garden and the English Garden, designed under Napoleon I, adopted English landscape styles. The Grand Parterre, designed by André le Nôtre, offers a totally different experience in terms of space and perspectives. It extends, beyond the Bassin des Cascades, through a long park that Henri IV’s Grand Canal cuts through for its entire length.

Copyrights : François Lison

4 – The Largest Parterre in Europe

The creation of the Grand Parterre between 1660 and 1664 – the largest in Europe (34 acres) – by André Le Nôtre and Louis Le Vau, reflects Louis XIV’s desire for open spaces at Fontainebleau. In 1817, a square pool, known as the “pot bouillant” was added to this French-style formal garden at its center, while to the south, on the forest side, a statue of the Tiber was added to the round pool. Since the time of Louis XIV, four sandstone sphinxes, goddesses with bodies of lions sculpted by Lespagnandelle in 1664, have marked the boundary between the Parterre and the park.

5 – One of the Most Well-Furnished Chateaux in Europe

Extravagantly furnished throughout the centuries, pillaged during the French Revolution, refurnished by Napoleon I and Joséphine to receive Pope Pius VII, and continuously enriched by his successors, the Chateau de Fontainebleau has an extraordinary collection of historical objects. Today, more than 40,000 works of art are present there: period furniture as well as paintings, frescoes, and original artifacts. The richness of its collections allows for each room to be completely refurnished according to various styles. Take the Boudoir d’Argent, for example: it is furnished sometimes according to Marie Antoinette’s period, sometimes Josephine’s, and even Eugénie’s.

6 – The Only Throne Room Preserved under its Original State in France

The Throne Room of the Chateau de Fontainebleau is the only historical throne room preserved in France. The King’s bedchamber no longer looks like it did during the Ancien Régime: after the Revolution, in 1808, Napoleon I turned it into a Throne room. The throne took the place of the bed in the alcove. The purple dais with its golden bee motif is an impressive setting representing Napoleonic symbolism: an imperial monogram, eagles from antiquity, and laurel crowns reflect Napoleon’s desire to display, using heraldic language, his power at the very core of the “house of centuries.”

7 – An Exceptional Testimony to the French Renaissance

King Francis I desires to make his residence a ‘New Rome’. To accomplish this, he adorns the Chateau de Fontainebleau with the finest decor of the Renaissance. Within the Ballroom – mentioned by painter Ingres as the ‘French Vatican’, the Francis I Gallery, or the Hall of the Golden Gate – paintings, woodworks, and sculptures merge to make the Chateau an extraordinary artistic center. The final result is a style called the ‘School of Fontainebleau’. Famous painters like Rosso Fiorentino and Primaticcio created elaborate ornamentations in an artistic style that was completely new in France, making the Chateau the cradle of the French Renaissance.

Copyrights : Sophie Loyd

8 – The Imperial Theatre: the Last Court Theatre of the Second Empire

In 1853, Napoléon III and Eugénie decide to build a new theatre at the Chateau de Fontainebleau. A 400-seat hall is designed and inaugurated in 1857. It bears testament to a court theatre that has preserved all its historic features, a unique case in France.

9 – The Horseshoe Staircase: the Chateau’s emblematic icon

The Horseshoe Staircase was built between 1632 and 1634 and is an unrivalled architectural achievement which very quickly became imitated throughout Europe. As the scene of Napoleon I’s famous farewell to his guard on April 20, 1814, the Horseshoe Staircase has gained legendary status and become the emblem of Fontainebleau.

10 – A Historical Jeu de Paume Room (Tennis Court)

The Chateau de Fontainebleau owns one of the rare historical and still active Jeu de Paume courts in France. Henry IV, like other sovereigns and the best players of their time, played memorable matches on that court. Do not hesitate: you can also play a match! Discover the origins of that ancestral game and a host of historical anecdotes during a session led by our Jeu de Paume Master.

👉 I want to (re)discover le chateau de Fontainebleau


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