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“Similar to Versailles with Fewer Tourists”

Chateau de Fontainebleau
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Chateau de Fontainebleau Skip-the-Line Ticket
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Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: This grand palace was a favorite of Napoleon, who dramatically remodeled the old château during his stays there from 1807 to 1809.
Reviewed July 23, 2013

We loved Versailles, but it was an arduous action to get through the lines and dodge the hordes of tourists. Fontainebleau is like a mini Versailles with almost no crowds. We visited in April and just walked in, got our tickets, and started our viewing of the magnificent Chateau. We loved the ability to take pictures close up without dodging onlookers. We parked on the street just about a block from the main entrance (be sure to pay at the blue parking kiosk and put your parking ticket on your dashboard). It was raining the day we visited so we did not linger outdoors, but thoroughly enjoyed the Chateau with much less exhaustion than our Versailles adventure.

1  Thank wetravellight11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 18, 2013

Fontainebleau's location is good for trip from Paris only one hour by train and bus. We recommend to buy the audio guide (should be included full ticked - but was not?). For us it took about two hours to walk around audio guided tour. Chateau wasn't that crowded like Versailles was. The park wasn't that big or interesting, except one long canal that you can walk around (we didn't because of heat - 30C).

2  Thank Anniina S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 17, 2013

A very good relaxing day trip to the chateau and away from all the city hustle. The trip from Paris was very easy. We took the metro from our apartment to Gare Lyon for the short train ride to Fontainebleau Avon. From there we took the bus line 1 to the chateau. First we strolled through the Jardin Diane and grounds before entering the chateau.The chateau is old and not quite as elaborate as Versailles, but much more enjoyable. There was no crowd and the audio tour was outstanding. We took our time and spent the full afternoon there, took in the history and marveled at Napoleons grand apartment. We really enjoyed our visit here 100 times more then Versailles. So peaceful and no pushing shoving crowds. You should use the toilets before starting your tour.

4  Thank CDM49
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 15, 2013

"With over 1500 rooms at the heart of 130 acres of parkland and gardens, Fontainebleau is the only royal and imperial château to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. A visit to Fontainebleau opens up an unparalleled view of French history, art history and architecture."

So says the blurb on the website www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr

I did not understand the true meaning of this statement until I visited the Chateau in June. Room after room of history and grandeur. The Imperial Theatre is under restoration and should be a stunning addition to a wonderful historical building.

The gardens are beautiful but not as well kept as I would have expected. I loved the Jardin de Diane . Also visited the Lawn Tennis pavilion and saw the " original" game as it used to be played .

Where good walking shoes -- cobblestones abound and the walks are long. Plan to spend half a day if you really want to do justice to this place.

The restaurant was disappointing and I had lunch at a cafe outside the grounds which was quite nice too.

1  Thank Roshni2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed July 12, 2013

Although many of us think of Fontainebleau in relation to Napoleon I, it was actually the result of additions to a building constructed by King Francis I several centuries before. A later campaign of extensive construction was undertaken by King Henry II then Catherine de' Medici. King Henry IV added the court that carries his name during his reign as well as a 1200-meter canal. Philip the Fair (Philip IV), Henry III and Louis XIII were all born in the palace, and Philip died there. Christina of Sweden lived there for years as well, following her abdication in 1654.

But during the French Revolution, Fontainebleau was emptied of many of its treasures to raise money for the new government. Within ten years, however, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte transformed Fontainebleau back into the lavish royal palace we see today. Perhaps that is why I've always thought of it as Napoleon's palace rather than a luxurious secondary residence for Bourbon royalty.

The palace is actually in a small town that shares its name but it is surrounded by gardens and a large man-made lake that set the palace apart. The French, unlike the National Trust folks in England, allow photography so I set about trying to capture as much of the beauty of Fontainebleau and examples of 19th century decadence exhibited there as I could.

Surprisingly, there is far more period furnishings at Fontainebleau than I saw at the Palace of Versailles in 2008. Many of Versailles' rooms were practically empty except for walls full of portrait paintings. Fontainebleau, however, was filled with spectacular brocade-draped beds, glittering chandeliers, intricate tapestries, beautifully preserved clothing, colossal paintings with mythological themes, swords and dueling pistols, silvered toilet articles, lavishly carved and gilded woodwork and even Napoleon's original bathtub as well as a replica of his command tent from his military campaigns.

There was the glint of gold everywhere at Fontainebleau although the empire style furnishings prevalent in most of the rooms were more elegant, in my opinion, than the over-the-top heavily gilded Baroque and Rococo furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries. There were a few Baroque pieces left in the State Salon, though.

Napoleon's throne room was an interesting blend of the more subdued empire style combined with breathtaking carved and gilded ceilings. This can be attributed to the fact that the throne room once served as the king's bedchamber in the Bourbon period. Napoleon's admiration for ancient Rome and his military achievements also appeared to influence his choice of decor here as his somewhat modest velvet-upholstered throne was flanked by two gold standards emblazoned with his iconic "N" topped with imperial eagles.

When I viewed Napoleon's bath I read a placard that explained Napoleon was very meticulous in his grooming habits and enjoyed a bath every day. I wondered if he adopted this custom after learning about it in his studies of the Romans?

My friends had to keep urging me to move along as I tried to not only photograph as much of Fontainebleau as I could but even capture some room panoramas with my new Sony NEX 6 camera. This was particularly challenging as there were a number of tour groups crowding the galleries even though tourist season had not yet gotten totally underway.

My companions were getting anxious as we still had quite a few miles to go to reach the medieval town of Troyes where we will spend the night. So, reluctantly, I walked out to the man-made lake that adjoins Fontainebleau and took a few last panoramic images of this incredible place.

Our visit was a little over two hours but to view this magnificent palace and its treasures at a more leisurely pace I would recommend allowing about half a day. The gift shop is also well stocked although I found only two books about the chateau in English among a wealth of French publications. I subsequently discovered this is unfortunately common at French historical sites outside of Paris.

10  Thank mharrsch
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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