A vacation in Paris, France, would not be complete without a day trip to Fontainebleau, a beautiful historical town located 34.5 miles (55.5 km) southeast of Paris. Thousands of Parisians flock there every weekend, and it’s easy to see why. Fontainebleau is easily accessible in less than an hour by car or by train from Gare de Lyon, and it offers a beautiful glimpse into the French countryside.
The cultural center of Fontainebleau is the Château de Fontainebleau, a magnificent palace that the kings of France called home for seven centuries, spanning the medieval era to the reign of Napoleon III. You can spend hours getting lost in the hundreds of lavish apartments and galleries, enjoying refreshments in the tea room or on the terrace, and exploring the surrounding courtyards and gardens, and parks, which offer a variety of activities such as horse-drawn carriage rides, boating, and hot-air balloons rides.
The château is open every day except for Tuesdays, New Year’s Day, May Day, and Christmas Day. The courtyards and gardens are open every day, closing later in the spring and summer months. The park is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
The town is surrounded by the Forest of Fontainebleau, a 65-square mile national park that is home to thousands of plant and animal species. It was once the royal hunting grounds and it has been immortalized on the canvases of painters such as Théodore Rousseau and Jean-François Millet. You can pick up a trail map and explore the hiking trails, perhaps pausing at the stone cross commemorating the encounter between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII in 1804 or visiting the artists’ commune of Barbizon located deep within the woods.
Be sure to experience the local cuisine of Fontainebleau at one of its charming restaurants before heading back to Paris. You can choose from numerous options from Michelin star rated restaurants such as L’Axel (43 Rue de France, 77300 Fontainebleau, France), located just down the street from the ch â teau, or classic French bistros such as Au Bouchon de Bleau (Rue de France 32, Fontainebleau, France) that serve delectable local fare.
For travelers who prefer a guided experience, numerous tour companies such as Paris City Vision and France Tourisme provide all-day guided tours complete with transportation to/from Paris. Check with your hotel concierge or the Paris Visitors Bureau for more information.
Final tip: Be sure to devote a full day for your visit to Fontainebleau and to wear a comfortable pair of shoes.