Earlier in March, we visited the Château de Fontainebleau. It was actually the first Sunday of the month, so the chateau was free to visit. Since it’s around 30 minutes away from Paris, the chateau was not busy at all and it was a great time to go.
Even though it was originally built in 1137, the Château de Fontainebleau is probably most famous for being Napoleon’s primary residence.
In fact, a great deal of the chateau is more like a museum for the Emperor and it was very interesting learning more about him. When we first walked in, there was a corridor of Napoleon’s clothes. It had items from his coronation, along with a painting of his coronation hanging up on the opposite wall. London especially enjoyed looking at all of the “fancy” clothes.
From there, we explored several of the private rooms that were still fashioned in the way Napoleon would have had them. We even saw the room where Pope Pius VII stayed involuntarily from 1812-1814.
One of the most famous rooms is the Gallery of Francis I. The king had Italian painters decorate in the Renaissance style in the 1530’s. The lower walls have the king’s coat of arms and salamander (the king’s emblem) while the upper walls have beautiful frescos.
My favorite room was the ballroom. In 1552, King Henry II transformed this hallway into a ballroom. At one side of the room, there is a gallery where the musicians would play for the balls and at the other end is a magnificent fireplace. Around the walls are more beautiful frescos.
Soft music played when we walked through and we were lucky enough to be some of the only people in the room. Our girls had fun pretending they were at a ball and it was easy to imagine how amazing it would have been to attend an actual event hundreds of years ago.
The ballroom lead to my husband’s favorite room, the Chapels of St. Saturnin. They were originally built in the 12th century, but Francis I rebuilt them under his reign. It was beautiful inside and definitely has a medieval feel to it.
From there, we wandered around the rest of the chateau until we came to Napoleon’s Throne Room.
The room is very extravagant and was originally the bedroom for the French kings in the past. He wanted continuity with the old monarchy so he placed his throne in the exact spot of the Kings’ bed.
The last room we checked out was the Trinity Chapel. There’s an upper section where the King and his family would sit, along with a lower section where the court would sit.
Unfortunately, it was a pretty cold and wet day when we visited, so we missed out on walking through the gardens. They looked beautiful though and the perfect place for kids to run around after being inside for so long. If we’re able to visit a second time, I’d love to go explore a bit more.
Luckily there were plenty of puddles for the girls to splash in out front before heading home.
Château de Fontainebleau was a wonderful chateau to visit. It wasn’t too far from Paris and was far less crowded than Versailles. It was also very interesting to learn more about Napoleon and his reign over France. Overall, it was a great day for our family!
- The Chateau can easily be explored in just a couple of hours leaving plenty of time to grab lunch/dinner afterwards or to enjoy nicer weather in the gardens.
- The city of Fontainebleau is well established with a University (INSEAD) and plenty of shops and restaurants. We headed straight home after our visit, but it looked like a great place to grab a bite to eat while exploring the city.
- Château de Fontainebleau isn’t particularly stroller friendly, but is a much quicker (and easier) visit than a place like Versailles. Our girls were both fine walking the majority of the time through the chateau.
- There is also a Chinese Museum in the chateau that costs extra to go into. While we didn’t visit it during our visit, it showcases different gifts sent to the Emperor.
- If you’re unable to visit during the first Sunday of the month when it’s free, you can purchase tickets online here.