Published Date: August 19, 2022
Planning a day trip to visit the Château de Fontainebleau? This majestic 1,500-room castle of the kings (and emperor) rivals any chateau in France and is one of the best ways to escape the city and and enjoy the rich history of France.
With its lavishly decorated interiors, vast gardens, and French Renaissance grandeur, the Château de Fontainebleau is a must-see on your trip to Paris.
In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know for a day trip to Fontainebleau from Paris, including how to get there by train, what to see, and tips on making the most of your visit.
What is the Château de Fontainebleau?
The Château de Fontainebleau is a 1,500 room palace that dates back to the 12th century. The first king to reign here was Louis VII from 1137 during the Middle Ages.
One fact that I found particularly interesting is that all of France’s rulers (monarchs and emperor) considered Château de Fontainebleau to be a home. Starting with Louis VII and ending with Napoleon III.
The chateau was even the place where Napoleon I abdicated the throne and threw a farewell party on his way to Elba where he spent 10 months in exile.
Many renovations took place at the château, the most notable were completed by Francis I. Inspired by the French Renaissance in the 16th century, he hired Italian artists to decorate the main gallery and the ballroom. Both of which are incredibly beautiful and detailed.
Napoleon I added the Napoleonic throne room in 1808, which is the only remaining throne room in a palace in France.
Why you should take a Château de Fontainebleau day trip
So why you you visit the Château de Fontainebleau on a day trip? The most obvious is that it’s an incredible palace that’s only an hour away from Paris!
The other reason is that unlike Versailles that gets around 10 million visitors per year, is extremely crowded, and has huge line. The Château de Fontainebleau only gets 300,000 visitors per year, and you get to take your time walking around the palace without the crowds of people.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t visit the Palace of Versailles because it’s Versailles for a reason! But if you want to visit an equally beautiful palace, in my opinion, and have a more relaxing experience – a day trip to Château de Fontainebleau is for you.
Visiting the Château de Fontainebleau
During your visit to the Château de Fontainebleau, you will tour the Napoleon I museum, the palatial rooms, and the palace gardens.
Unless you book a group tour, the tour is self-guided with arrows marking which way to go. I appreciated the one-way route because it’s often easy to get lost in such large palaces.
We spent several hours visiting the rooms inside of the castle, so plan accordingly with lunch.
Here are a few of the highlights inside of the Château de Fontainebleau.
Napoleon I Museum
The Napoleon I Museum takes you through Napoleon’s 10-year reign as the First Emperor of France. From his porcelain collections to fancy furniture and family portraits, the museum displays all sorts of historical artifacts that represent his time at Fontainebleau.
Francis I Gallery
This ornate and incredibly detailed hallway was designed by Rosso Fiorentino from Florence in the 16th century. Francis I had this portion of the palace renovated in a style that resembled the current period of the time, which was the French Renaissance.
The gallery is a stunning showcase of some of the finest artistry during this time period.
One of the most spectacular rooms in the entire palace is the ballroom. This room, which was also renovated in the 16th century, features frescoes by Italian painter Nicolo Dell’Abbate.
The wood paneling, bronze lamps, and large windows are just a few details that make this my favorite room in the palace.
The Royal Chapel of the Trinity
The chapel resembles a baroque style and was completed in 1633. It’s located to the left of what used to be the main entrance of the chateau.
Make sure to visit both the top floor and the main floor of the chapel to take in all of the details. The views from both levels are wonderful.
The Napoleonic Throne Room
The throne room was built by Napoleon I in 1808, seven years after he became the Emperor of France. It is the only remaining throne room in a palace in France.
The Palace Library
My jaw dropped when I first saw the Palace Library. It’s worthy of being at a top-tier university, and I immediately started day dreaming what it would be like to have a library of this scale in my own home. I’ll keep day dreaming . . .
This library was built during the time of Napoleon III and is located in the Diana Gallery. There are over 20,000 books along the walls of the gallery. Unfortunately, in order to preserve the library, you aren’t allowed to walk through it.
The grounds of the Château de Fontainebleau total 130 hectares (321 acres). I recommend spending the afternoon exploring the gardens and enjoying a picnic lunch on the lawn.
There are several gardens to visit: The Grand Parterre, The Diana Garden, The English Garden, and the park surrounding the Grand Canal.
My personal favorites are the English Garden and the Diana Garden – both surrounded by tall trees and beautiful flowers. If you have a picnic lunch, the English Garden is the perfect spot for it.
Plan to spend at least a couple of hours wandering around the gardens. They are worth exploring.
Tickets for the Château de Fontainebleau
You can either purchase tickets online in advance or in person at the ticket office. The tickets include access to the grand apartments and the Napoleon I museum.
The gardens are free to the public to visit.
The cost is €13 for adults and free for anyone under 18.
If you want to get in for free, the chateau is free to visit every first Sunday of the month except during the months of July and August.
If you are unsure of your date and don’t want to purchase tickets in advance, you should be fine to purchase them when you arrive. I don’t imagine they sell out very often.
There is a video guide available to rent at the ticket office for an additional €4 fee.
If you prefer a guided tour, they do offer them, but they are all in French. Unless you speak French, I’d recommend the video guide or just simply reading the explanations in each room.
The Château de Fontainebleau is open every day except Tuesdays, Christmas day, New Year’s day, and May 1st
October-March: 9:30 AM – 5:00 PM
April – September: 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM
How much time do you need?
We spent a total of 6 hours at the chateau, plus 2 hours getting from Paris to Fontainebleau and back.
I recommend planning an entire day for your Château de Fontainebleau day trip. Try to arrive right when the chateau opens because you will practically have the entire chateau to yourself.
How to get to the Château de Fontainebleau from Paris
Getting to the Château de Fontainebleau from Paris takes around one hour each way and is fairly straightforward. The journey requires both train and bus, but with these directions you should have no problem getting there easily.
First, I want to explain what train ticket to buy because this was the most confusing part for us. Instead of buying a traditional train ticket, you need to buy a full-day Mobilis pass for zones 1-5.
You can buy your Mobilis pass at any metro, bus, RER, and tramway stations that sell tickets. It looks like the ticket machine in the photo below. There is also a ticket machine directly in front of the train platform at the station.
The pass costs €17.80 per person for the entire day and can get you around the Paris metro area on any type of public transportation. You do not need to buy separate metro/bus tickets – just use your Mobilis pass for the day.
Train from Paris to Fontainebleau
The train from Paris to Fontainebleau departs from the Gare de Lyon station in Paris and arrives at the Fontainebleau-Avon station. It’s a direct route and takes around 40-minute each way.
Make sure to validate your ticket before getting on the train.
Bus from Fontainebleau-Avon to the Château de Fontainebleau
Once you arrive at the Fontainebleau-Avon train station, follow the signs to the “Château de Fontainebleau” bus. The bus stop is located across the street from the station.
You need to take bus line 1, which leaves every 15-minutes from the station, with the exception of a few times during the day. You can see the bus schedule here.
Your Mobilis pass can be used as your bus ticket. There is a machine behind the driver that you can use to validate your ticket.
Get off the “Fontainebleau Bibliotheque” stop and walk 3-minutes to the entrance gates of the château – you’ve arrived!
When is the best time of year to visit?
The best time of year to visit is during the spring, summer, or fall months. I often don’t recommend visiting places during the high season (summer), but we visited at the very beginning of August and there weren’t any crowds.
The grounds are beautiful in the summer with the green grass and flowers in bloom. I imagine the spring gardens are even more beautiful.
Where to eat in Fontainebleau?
For a quick meal, I recommend getting a sandwich (or salad) from the sandwich shop in the main courtyard that leads to the gardens. We bought sandwiches for €6.50 each and ate them in the English Garden. The sandwiches were delicious.
Because we visited on a Sunday in August, almost all of the shops in town were closed, so we didn’t get the opportunity to try anywhere else. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Fontainebleau that will have good options if you visit during another time of year.
If you want something quick and cheap, there is a Paul near the chateau. This is a popular chain restaurant that sells sandwiches and salads.
Getting back to Paris from Fontainebleau
To get back to Paris from the Château de Fontainebleau, the nearest bus stop is located just across the street from the main gate. If you’re wandering around town before heading out, there are several stops in the city as well. You can use Google Maps to find the nearest one to you.
You need to get off at the “Plateau de la Gare” bus stop and walk an extra 3-5 minutes to the train station from here. Keep this in mind when you are trying to time your bus to catch the train in time.
From here, the trail will drop you off at the Gare de Lyon where you can enjoy the rest of your evening in Paris!
Tips for your day trip to the Château de Fontainebleau
- Arrive when it opens – You’ll have the chateau to yourself and will be able to take some nice photos of the front of the chateau before everyone else arrives for the day.
- Bring or pick up a picnic lunch – This is the best way to enjoy the gardens!
- Plan to be there for a least 6 hours – Take your time to see the chateau, wander around the property, and explore the town. It’s worth the entire day.
- Pack sunscreen – If you plan to spend a few hours in the gardens, pack sunscreen because it’s not all shaded.
- Bring water – Bring water because it costs €3 to buy a small bottle at the chateau.
- Use the restroom in the chateau – This may seem a little silly, but the restrooms inside of the chateau are much nicer than the ones by the ticket booth.
- Don’t visit in August – From our personal experience, I recommend visiting during another month when the shops in town are open. We would have liked to explore the town more.