Chateau de Fountainbleau, one of the largest chateaus in France is located about 70 km from Paris and was continuously inhabited by royalty for a period of 800 years. The chateau was originally constructed in 1137 and each King, Queen, Emperor and Empress has added and embellished it until it reached its current size of 1500 rooms. The chateau sits on approximately 130 acres of parkland and gardens.
This Chateau was not on our of places to visit, but after seeing it in a brochure at our accommodation we decided to go and have a look. We were blown away with the chateau, each room exquisitely decorated with carved woodwork, tapestries, paintings with the stucco frames, brocade fabrics and luxurious silk clad walls. Fontainebleau receives about 400, 000 visitors a year in comparison to Versailles who receives over 7 million this means you can peruse the rooms with very few other tourists. I’m so glad we came, it is truly an amazing chateau second only to Versailles in turns of opulence, but without the crowds.
Gallery of Francis I
The gallery was constructed between 1533 – 1539 in Italian Renaissance style with its intricately carved and painted gallery. Italian artist, Giovanni Battista di Jacopo (Rosso) lead a team of Italian, Flemish and French painters, sculptures, gilders and stucco workers to create the gallery. It is believed that Rosso may be the first artist to use stucco to create the sculptures of people, fruit, flowers intertwined with the paintings.
The Francis Gallery used Italian artist Rosso to create a renaissance gallery which combines detailed woodwork, stucco, gilding and painting to create the masterpiece.
The stucco cherubs frame the paintings throughout the gallery
Diana by Rosso
Elephant, by Rosso in 1536
The ballroom was originally a passageway during Francis I reign, but in 1552, Henry II enclosed it with a coffered ceiling and high windows and used it for balls and celebrations. There is a balcony at one end of the ballroom where the musicians played during the balls and at the other end is a fireplace with bronze statues.
Located next to the royal bedchamber was the guard room. The guard room was built in the 1570s but has undergone many changes over the years. Louis Phillip turned the guard room into a salon in the 19th century and added the large vase manufactured in 1832. Napoleon III used this room as a dining room.
Galerie de Diane (Diana Gallery)
The Diana gallery is the longest room in the chateau at 80 m in length and is lined with bookshelves that were created by Henry IV at the start of the 17th century. Although the gallery has had many modifications through the reigns of both monarchs and Emperors, its most recent restorations were undertaken by Napoleon III. Napoleon III converted the gallery to a library, removed most of the paintings and had a large globe placed at the entrance in 1861.
Throne Room (Formerly the King’s Chamber)
In 1805, Napoleon I had the King’s Chamber converted into his throne room. The dais for the throne replaces the former king’s bed. The throne room is the only room in its original state.
Emperor Napoleon’s Bedroom
In 1808, Napoleon I had the former dressing room of the King converted to his bedroom, there is even a hidden door behind the drapery which enabled Napoleon to go to his office or private library. The red room is where Napoleon signed the papers for his abdication of the throne in 1814.
The Chapel of the Trinity
The chapel’s construction began at the end of the Reign of Francis I and completed under Henry II. The chapel is actually two stories, the upper section or tribune was the seating area for the king and his family.
The biggest difference between Versailles and Fountainbleau is the gardens. Versailles gardens are vast, spectacular and accentuated with statues and opulent fountains. Fontainebleau’s gardens are serene and nice for a walk through but nothing like Versailles.
Fontainebleau is amazing and definitely worth a visit, definitely an under appreciated chateau.
Tourist Information Chateau de Fontainebleau
- Open daily except Tuesday, closed on January 1st, May 1st and December 25th
- October to March – 9.30 am – 5 pm (last entry 4.15 pm), Ballroom closes at 4 pm
- April to September – 9.30 am – 6 pm (last entry 5.15 pm), Ballroom closes at 5 pm
Courtyards and Gardens:
- open daily
- November to February – 9 am – 5 pm
- March, April and October – 9 am – 6 pm
- May to September 9 am – 7 pm
- Jardin De Diane closes 1/2 prior the rest of the gardens.
- Jardin Anglais closes an hour prior to the rest of the gardens.
- open daily, 24 hours a day
Entrance to Chateau and Gardens for self-guided tour:
- Adults – €11 (one hour prior to closing the ticket is €7), Concessions – €9
- Under 18 – free
- 18 – 25 EU residents free
- Group visit of 20 or more people – €9 per person
- Free on the first Sunday of each month (except during July and August)
- Video guide – €3
Entrance to Chateau and Gardens on guided tour:
- Under 12 – free
- Chateau with guided visit 1/2 hr – 1 hr – €14 per person
- Chateau with guided visit 1 1/2 hr – 2hrs – €16
- Chateau with guided visit for a Family of up to two adults and two children (12 – 18 yrs) – 1/2 – 1 hr : €31 or 1 1/2 – 2 hrs : €35
- Reduced fees area available for guided tours for under 18s and EU residents aged between 18 – 25 years.
Official Website: http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/