Contributor: Veronica Ayala
From the long list of beautiful castles and gardens on your Paris vacation, you must include the Chateau de Fontainebleau. As if the Palais de Versailles and the Mussée du Louvre aren’t already breathtaking, this castle is another site that will leave you speechless.
It is located in Fontainebleau, a commune which is 55 kilometers from the center of Paris, easily reachable by RER train. This castle was inhabited for eight centuries by kings, queens, emperors and French nobility. It is also known as The House of Centuries because it spans across such a large period. It was the home for Louis VII and also of Napoleon III. It is categorized as one of the largest French chateaux. Today it is a national museum and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is named after the fountain Bliaud which is located in what is today known as the English garden of the castle.
You’d be surprised to hear that this is where the Mona Lisa was hanged on a bathroom wall. It truly survived, its neighboring other paintings did not however!! At that time Francis 1st had bought the Mona Lisa from Leornardo in Amboise in the Loire Valley and had brought back the vanvas in Fontainebleau.
At first sight, you will see the gardens in the entrance, behind black and golden fences, which lead into the main building. It has the famous escalier en fer-à-cheval (horseshoe staircase) located at the very center. The entrance to the visit is to the right. There you will buy a ticket and proceed to the visit. The beautiful rooms and salons are a clear example of the richness of the country during the monarchy and empire eras. The doors have golden edges; the curtains, chairs and beds are of silk; the rooms have extravagant chandeliers and the ceilings are works of art. Just by walking by the corridors of the chateau, you will feel like royalty.
Once outside, you may enjoy the tranquility of the beautiful gardens. You will be walking around three different types of gardens. A French Renaissance Garden, a type of garden inspired in the Italian Renaissance garden. Also, you will find the French Formal Garden, which is a style you will also find in Versailles. Finally, the French Landscape Garden which is inspired in the English Garden. All of these were created at different times and by different French monarchs.
Other strong aspects of the Fontainebleau castle is the richness of the art and the decorations. Most of its contents are said to be strongly influenced by the French Renaissance. Amongst the famous decorations you will find the ceiling of the ballroom which was designed by a famous French architect, Phillibert Delorme. The design is of three interlaced crescent moons and Henri II’s cypher which is a crowned H. Do not miss the breathtaking Francis 1st gallery, it is all carved in wood, very impressive! The Chateau is also characterized by its beautiful “apartments” which is the section of the castle with a long corridor full of rooms. As for the pieces of art, the Nymph of Fontainebleau is one of the most famous pieces from the castle that now you may find in the Musée du Louvre.
The castle has four different museums. There is the Chinese museum which was created by the empress Eugenie in 1863 and it is filled with oriental art. Besides there is the museum of Napoleon, which contains paintings, furniture, sculptures, jewelry and objects that belonged to the Bonaparte family. Other museum is the Gallery of Paintings. Finally, the gallery of furniture, which contains all types of beautiful furniture displaying various styles related to designer trends at the time and created to print the reign of a monarch.
As for historic periods, the castle has foreseen the development of French Monarchy. From the 12th century to the Third Republic and now a historic site, the castle has been well kept and undamaged even through times like the French Revolution.
Also, as you walk out of the chateau to your right, do not miss the “Jeu de Paume” which is known as the ancestor of tennis courts. If you’re lucky you might get to witness some players practising, it’s not often you get to see this in your lifetime!
Remember that that in each royal town there is often a great boulangerie or Royal pastry shop. I can confirm this to you. Have a picnic, enjoy the gardens, the royal croissants and royal coffee eclairs.
Last but no least you may also explore the forest of Fontainebleau which is probably the most beautiful within the paris region. Also great for horseriding.
Enjoy this beautiful destination. Submerge yourself in the history of France while you enjoy of the beauty and peace of the place. Take a book, a friend, a partner and don’t miss the Chateau de Fontainebleau.