Most travellers that decide to explore Paris and its surrounding areas will undoubtedly plan a visit to Versailles, France’s most popular caste, or “château.” This is understandable, of course, but there is one more château that is equally worth the visit: Château de Fontainebleau. The main question here is this one: Who are you most interested in? Louis XIV or Napoleon?
A quick introduction to Château de Fontainebleau
Château de Fontainebleau (or the Palace of Fontainebleau) is only a small distance away from the French capital of Paris and it is an officially recognised UNESCO World Heritage site. The château is one of the largest of the French royal palaces. It used to be the home of various French monarchs, ranging from Louis VII to Napoleon III. The château is particularly well-known for the abdication of Napoleon I before his exile to the island of Elba.
The History behind the Château: From the Early Middle Ages to World War II
The earliest signs of a fortified castle at the current site of Fontainebleau can be traced all the way back to 1137. It served as hunting ground and royal residence of the Kings of France, since there was a large forest next to the castle. From then onward, the castle was never abandoned and always inhabited by influential members of European royal families. This continued until the end of the French monarchy and Napoleon’s reign. Can you imagine its history: that’s eight centuries of family history.
During World War II, the château became a German operations site, until the allied forced freed it and turned it into the NATO headquarters. This lasted from 1945 until 1965. Today, it is a popular national museum.
I personally visited the château with my family in the summer of 2013. We were exploring the areas in and around Paris for a few days. If possible, I recommend visiting Fontainebleau outside the summer months, since it will get rather busy with crowds of tourists.
I still find it interesting to take a look inside these palaces. At the same time, I can’t help but simultaneously admire and regret the sheer opulence. What are your thoughts on these extravagant palaces?