Fontainebleau is a lovely historical town south of Paris, France (55.5 km – 34.5 miles). It is renowned for its large and scenic Forest of Fontainebleau, a favorite weekend getaway for Parisians, as well as for the historical Château de Fontainebleau of the kings of France, which attracts crowds of tourists
Getting there is very easy from Paris.
You can go by train from Paris Gare de Lyon with at least two trains an hour. At Gare de Lyon, the train ticket should be purchased to the destination Fontainebleau Avon from the green colored Billet Ile-de-France machines and not from the yellow colored SNCF machines. As of August 2008, the adult return fare is 15.60 Euros and the ride lasts about 35 minutes and stops only in the towns of Melun and Bois-le-Roi before arriving in the green town of Fontainebleau (you will feel the fresh forest air as soon as you come out). Later, upon your return back to Gare de Lyon, note that you may continue using the same train ticket to get to any Metro destination within Paris.
From the Gare de Fontainebleau Avon you can use a Line A bus, operated by Veolia Transport to get to the Chateau (about 15 minutes) although buses seem to stop around eight in the evening. The bus ticket costs 1.60 Euros.
To find the last stop, you can either look for the Place Napoléon Bonaparte or the Castle as each stop is in the centre.
The total distance from centre to centre is about 65 km or an hour. From Paris, follow signs towards the south, then signs for Lyon and the A6. After about 35 minutes you will see signs for Fontainebleau. Once entering the city there is a tall apartment block which is a remnant of some architectural style a lot in the city would like to see disappear. However, it still forms part of the town’s history – as much as the castle even if in much less splendour.
Orientation in town is very easy as there is only one main artery called the “Rue Grande” which goes from the Castle to the other end of town, passing by the central “Napoléon Bonaparte” place. Many shops, bars and restaurants abound on either sidewalk for every possible taste. Walking is by far the best option as the most you’ll walk without stopping (very difficult thing to do considering all the pretty windows to look at) would be 20 minutes.
Activities and Sightseeing
The town is so close to Paris and yet so protected by its forest that Harvard professors in the sixties started the now world renowned INSEAD MBA school. This unique environment attracted other top universities and grandes écoles such as ESIGETEL Engineering School.
The Chateau de Fontainebleau also hosts a summer music institution. It is a combination of a music conservatory and an architecture studio in a historic chateau setting. Courses are taught in English by predominately French musicians, composers, artists, and professors. Nadia Boulanger, a young composition and harmony professor led the school until 1979. The school has influenced such composers as: Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, Louise Talma, Samuel Dushkin, Elliott Carter, Beveridge Webster, Kenton Coe and many others.
LES ECOLES D’ART AMERICAINES DE FONTAINEBLEAU http://www.fontainebleauschools.org/
There are many cultural, sporting, entertainment or shopping activities one could do. For more information on this, the best available and updated website is http://www.fontainebleau-tourisme.com
The town is also famous for a horse race track and its Sunday morning food market.
As if the town didn’t offer enough as it is, there are many other attractions in the surrounding region. Towns like Barbizon (home of the artists), Milly-la-Foret, Samois-sur-Seine, and many others…
The Forest is also full of sandstone boulders perfect for climbing. www.bleau.info has lots about the climbing
There are plenty of shops from high-end pastery shops to the latest French fashion cloth wear and jewellery.
The town boasts many different restaurants from Mexican to Japanese, Pizza to Fish-only. Of course there are Brasseries (the most authentic being, quite unknowingly called the “Franklin Roosevelt”) and very good French restaurants (the best one being in the Hotel Napoleon).
There are plenty of places to drink, from modern ambient bars to traditional French bars, English pubs and Mexican bars.
There are plenty of places to sleep in Fontainebleau but the three best places are the Aigle Noir Hotel, the Napoléon Hotel and the Hotel of London.
See the listing of the Hotels in Fontainebleau