Featured image of Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau- The House of Kings

LocationFontainebleau, Centre of Paris, France (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byState-Owned
Official WebsiteChâteau de Fontainebleau
Rooms AvailableYes (Filming)

Officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage SiteChâteau de Fontainebleau is an architect’s paradise. It is one of France’s grandest castles and draws visitors’ flocks every year.

History of Château de Fontainebleau

This royal hunting lodge was used by the kings of France from the 12th century and became the chief palace of the kings for nearly 350 years. The hunting lodge fell into despair by the fifteenth century. The present château dates from the rebuilding and Francis I started in 1528 and from the modifications undertaken by subsequent sovereigns until 1868. As a result of this piecemeal construction, Fontainebleau is a complex, irregular structure of different dates and styles.

The construction of the palace began in 1528. The modifications undertaken later by François I’s successors were carried out on different scales until the 19th century and have left their imprint on the physiognomy of the present complex. Today it comprises five courtyards placed irregularly and surrounded by an ensemble of buildings and gardens.

Several monarchs and emperors called the Château de Fontainebleau home. Henri II lived in the castle between 1547 and 1559, and Catherine de Médicis and Henri IV between 1589 and 1610. Catherine and Henri IV had their Flemish and French artists create a second school of Fontainebleau. Napoleon Bonaparte also spent some time at the palace and did a few renovations to his liking. Another Emperor that loved the château was Napoleon III.

Château de Fontainebleau Architecture

Château de Fontainebleau Architecture
Château de Fontainebleau Architecture”, by Oeil de verre, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Château de Fontainebleau, officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981, is enormous and has a seemingly endless supply of galleries, apartments, chapels, gardens, and more to explore. However, one of the most exciting buildings on the site is the military stables. Visitors get the opportunity to tour the stables accompanied by a member of the French military.

Château de Fontainebleau’s interior houses masterpieces of the Renaissance commissioned by Francis I, the refined interiors of Marie-Antoinette, the state apartments of Napoleon I, and décors reflect the taste of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. A hunting lodge and retreat bear witness to the sovereign heads of state’s lives, both official and private, and perfectly embodies the French art of living.

This gorgeous, unique castle is the historical hub of Fontainebleau, and it’s evident why. It is the only château in France to have been continuously inhabited by royalty for over seven hundred years. Each family has added fragments of their own architectural flair while living at the palace.

To visit Fontainebleau in France is to venture back in time to one of the country’s most famous, historic, and luxurious French residences. Inside Château de Fontainebleau, visitors will find the palace more or less as Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie left it in 1868, except for the inner apartment of Napoleon I, which visitors see as it was during the First Empire. The boudoir of Marie-Antoinette is shown more or less as it was in the eighteenth century.

Château de Fontainebleau gardens have undergone significant transformations over the centuries. The Grand Jardin to the east initially comprised a series of square flowerbeds separated by a canal Le Nôtre redesigned. They were simplified little by little before it was adopted in their present design, with their four flowerbeds and lawn bordered by flowers.

The Château of Fontainebleau is open to the public, allowing visitors to view what Napoleon once called the “true abode of kings, the house of ages.” If you are going on an independent tour, tickets for the Grands Appartements will cost you €12 (Reduced rate: €10). It includes the Pope’s apartment, the Saint-Saturnin chapel, the Renaissance rooms, the royal apartments, the Diana Gallery, Napoleon’s inner apartment, and the Napoleon Museum.

However, if you opt for an unguided visit, the tickets will cost you €9 per person, a minimum of 20 people. Château de Fontainebleau’s opening hours are 9.30 am-5 pm (October to March) and 9.30 am-6 pm (April to September) from Wednesday to Monday. The last entry into the palace is 45 minutes before closing time. The courtyard and gardens are open every day from 9 am-5 pm (November to February), 9 am-6 pm (March, April, and October), and 9 am-7 pm (May to September). The palace park is open every day for 24 hours.

Château de Fontainebleau facts

Here are some Château de Fontainebleau facts to amaze you:

  • Château de Fontainebleau is the only château that every French monarch lived in for almost eight centuries.
  • With 1,900 rooms, it is one of the biggest châteaux in France and the most furnished in Europe.
  • Château de Fontainebleau has conserved the mark of each reign and each style which involves- François I, Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XV and Louis XVI. They have devoted their efforts to embellishing this royal palace, which Napoleon I preferred above all others.
  • Louis XV got married to Marie Leszczyńska at Château de Fontainebleau.
  • Château de Fontainebleau was once a German headquarter during WWII. The allied forces liberated it, and part of it became the headquarters of the Allied forces, while NATO used the other from 1945 to 1965.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get to Château de Fontainebleau from Paris?

Château de Fontainebleau is only 55km outside of Paris. You can take the train from Paris Gare de Lyontowards Montargis, Montereau, or Laroche-Migennes, and get off at the Fontainebleau-Avon station. 

Who lived in the Château de Fontainebleau?

Château de Fontainebleau has been a base for the French royal family, particularly its kings, since its beginnings as a hunting lodge and is known to have been a favourite dwelling of King Henri II, King Henri IV, and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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Nitesh Kuchhal, an IIM Calcutta graduate, is more than an educator—he's a mentor. With a passion for leadership and entrepreneurship, and travel. He has explored over 20 countries. Beyond teaching, he dives into psychology and discusses social issues. Though he is not a history expert, he enjoys learning about it through books, adding a historical touch to his many interests.

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