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.
The first recorded reference to the Château de Fontainebleau in a royal charter dates back to 1137, the year of the accession of Louis VII, known as Louis the Younger.
It was the Renaissance which saw the first major changes to the Château de Fontainebleau. In addition to the major building extension works, followed by extensive decoration works by Italian artists, there were court visits. Francis I (1494-1547) often came to stay at Fontainebleau, where he liked it so much that when he spoke of going there, he referred to it as “going home”. From 1528 onwards, the date of his first commissioned works there, the king particularly liked to spend the winter at Fontainebleau, to hunt boar and other quarry in the forests. In December 1536, his future son-in-law James V, King of Scotland, came to visit him there.
17th-century diplomatic history was also made at Fontainebleau when the ratification of the peace treaty between France and England was signed on 16 September 1629. Henrietta Maria of France, queen consort of England, Scotland and Ireland and wife of Charles I visited with her son the Prince of Wales, the future Charles II, between 19 and 23 August 1646. Queen Christine of Sweden made two visits in the autumn of 1565 and the autumn of 1657.
Life at the Château de Fontainebleau under the First Empire was closely linked to the rise and fall of the imperial Eagle. He made his own mark on the “True home of Kings”. Napoleon did more than anyone to restore the Château de Fontainebleau, refurbishing it completely immediately after the Revolution, during which the former royal residence had seen its collections broken up and sold off, as was the case for so many other Crown properties.Napoleon would return only once more to Fontainebleau, after his escape from Elba, during the Hundred Days : on 20 March 1815,
Now emblematic of the Château de Fontainebleau, the famous horseshoe-shaped staircase dates from the reign of Louis XIII, based on a Renaissance model, and was the work of Jean Androuet du Cerceau. This sprawling palace is a veritable showcase of French architecture from the 12th to the 19th century.
Covering 130 hectares and extending to the stepped section by the Bassin des Cascades, the easterly edge of the park used to mark the limits of the royal estate. From the village of Avon, it was crossed by the main access road to the château. Its current layout, organised into a network of cascades and radiating pathways, dates from the creation of the canal under Henri IV (1606-1609).
Then after, walk around the lovely city of Fontainebleau. Amazing how many buildings, hotels and monuments like the theater are matching with the history of the chateau. Take a drink or a meal at the “Aigle Noir”.
Discover Fontainebleau, will take you a day,
Château de Fontainebleau
Tel: +33 (0)1 60 71 50 70