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Fontainebleau: wonderful Renaissance castle, residence of the kings of France

This article is also available in: Italian

Fontainebleau is a small town (about 17,000 inhabitants) located in the Ile de France, in the department of Seine-et-Marne, 65 km south of Paris, in the middle of the forest of the same name, not far from the Seine. The wine that is grown in the area is excellent. The place is famous for the wonderful Renaissance castle and its vast park which was, from 1526 until 1870, one of the favorite residences of the French court.

Initially used as a hunting lodge, it was King Francis I (1515-1547) who elected it as a royal residence in 1526. He hosted some of the most important Italian artists of the time at court, including: Rosso Fiorentino (1530), il Primaticcio (1532), Benvenuto Cellini (1540) and Niccolò Dell’Abate (1552). The presence of such a large group of Italian artists at the French court led to the creation of an autonomous decorative and ornamental artistic style, called the “Fontainebleau school”, characterized by a precious formal elegance, which is reflected above all in the stuccos, frescoes (unfortunately largely lost) and in goldsmith’s products.

The castle became the model for rulers throughout Europe until the construction of Versailles, and represented one of the most notable centers of European mannerism. It is surrounded by a magnificent and immense park which extends over 115 hectares.

Among the artists who worked there: The Florentine Giovanni Battista di Iacopo (known as Rosso Fiorentino), worked together with Primaticcio at the palace of Fontainebleau from 1530, his works are the Pomona pavilion (1532-35) and the gallery of Francis I ( 1534-37). The Bolognese Francesco Primaticcio arrived in Fontainebleau in 1532, here he executed exquisite frescoes and elegant stuccos (of which stupendous preparatory drawings remain), he was the founder of the so-called Fontainebleau school. The Florentine Benvenuto Cellini went to France in 1540 where he worked in Fontainebleau, creating the precious salt shaker in gold and enamel (Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum) and the Nymph of Fontainebleau (Paris, Louvre). Niccolò Dell’Abate from Modena arrived in Fontainebleau in 1552, where he worked together with Primaticcio for almost twenty years and frescoed numerous rooms in the palace including the ballroom (1552-56).

The castle of Fontainebleau was the site of numerous historical acts: In 1685 the Edict of Fontainebleau was issued there, which revoked the Edict of Nantes prohibiting the reformed cult throughout France. In 1814 the Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed, imposed on France by the European monarchies that had defeated Napoleon, the treaty assigned the sovereignty of the island of Elba to Napoleon and the duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla to his wife Maria Luisa of Austria.

In 1981, UNESCO included the Palace and Park of Fontainebleau in the list of world heritage sites.


Today, the Château de Fontainebleau offers visitors its architectural treasures, its decorations, its paintings and the numerous art objects it houses. Part of the castle can be visited on your own, using the ticket for the main circuit (circuit principal), furthermore there are two additional circuits, to be done only with a guided tour, which lead to a visit to the Napoléon Museum and Fontainebleau under the Second Empire (Fontainebleau sous the Second Empire).

The visit of the main circuit, accessible with a free visit, lasts approximately 2 hours, and allows access to the Pope’s Apartment (Appartement du Pape), the Renaissance Rooms (Salles Renaissance), the Chapel of San Saturnino (Chapelle Saint Saturnin), the Grand Royal Apartments (Grands Appartements des Souverains), Diana’s Gallery (Galerie de Diane) and the Emperor’s Interior Apartment (Appartement intérieur de l’Empereur).

The ticket also allows a visit to the Salon and the Chinese Museum of Empress Eugenie (Musée Chinois de l’impératrice Eugénie).

The two additional circuits include the guided tour (in French, English and Italian) of the Musée Napoléon and Fontainebleau under the Second Empire, they last just over 1 hour. Guided tours depart at 10.30am and 3.30pm for the Musée Napoléon, and at 11.30am and 2.30pm for Fontainebleau under the Second Empire (Fontainebleau sous le Second Empire).

The Musée Napoléon, located on the first floor in the Louis XV wing, displays historical memories relating to the figure of Napoleon I and his family. The Second Empire is a targeted visit to the spaces relating to the Second Empire present in the castle, including the Napoleon III Theater and the Chinese Museum (Musée Chinois).

HOURS: The Château de Fontainebleau is open every day (it is closed on Tuesdays, January 1st, May 1st and December 25th). Opening hours: from October to May: from 9.30am to 5pm; from June to September from 9.30am to 6pm. The Gardens are open from 9am to 5pm from November to February; from 9am to 6pm in March, April and October; and from 9am to 7pm from May to September.

TICKETS: €12.5 (full) and €11 (reduced), for two visitors: €19/€16. Ticket for the main circuit only €8 (full) and €6 (reduced). Entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month, and for children under 18. Audio guides are included in the price.

The climate of Fontainebleau.


This article is also available in: Italian

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