If you are in France, chateaus are a must. Whether you pick Versailles, The Loire Valley, Pierrefonds, or – Fontainebleau! Museums, palaces, and some other monuments like the Arc de Triomph are free on the first Sunday of the month. The fee for Versailles is slightly steep, so I would recommend saving that for the first Sunday.
The 45 minute journey from Paris to Fontainebleau is pretty straightforward. There are trains leaving from Gare de Lyon. You can buy your tickets at the yellow Ile de France machines (if you have a chip and pin credit card) or from the ticket counter. You are actually taking the RER D and it leaves from the platform upstairs and not underground. Look for trains going to Laroche-Migennes, Montargis, Montereau, or Sens. Fontainebleau Avon should be one of the stops on your journey. The TV monitors on the platforms will display a list of stops for each journey. The Savy Backpacker says that your Navigo valid from Zones 1-5 should work as well, but we didn’t try. Right outside the Fontainebleau Avon station, a bus will be waiting to take you to the castle. There is only one bus, so you really can’t get confused. It costs about a euro-fifty and you can buy the ticket on the bus.
You can buy your tickets to the chateau at their website to avoid the long queue once you reach there. An alternative is to buy the tickets at the Tourism Office. Office de Tourismus is right opposite the castle and opens at 10am. They have free WiFi !!! Okay, so here you can get your free maps for the castle grounds and the forest trails.
Be prepared for your first view of the chateau. If this is your first experience, it is going to take your breath away. I like Fontainebleau the best – and it is not only because it was my first. I think the horseshoe entrance did it for me. For your day, you can start with the castle, followed by a walk in the castle grounds, and then if you still have time – you can try one of the trails suggested by the Tourism Office.
The 11€ ticket does not include the audio guide. You can purchase it separately inside the castle for 5€. I would recommend taking the audio guide. It is one of the few guides that is GPS enabled, which means that you don’t have to constantly look at your map to key in numbers – the device starts the relevant audio track based on your location. Cool, isn’t it?
Flavia and I were overwhelmed by the sweet locals we met on the bus and were already in love with the town before we reached the palace. The bus dropped us a street away from the chateau and the Tourism Office was right there. Btw – these guys are super punctual. They open at 10 and we were there at 9:59. So, they asked us to come back a minute later!
The tour of the palace didn’t take very long and we were done by 1PM. We decided to take a stroll in the gardens behind the chateau and take some pictures. FT wanted to be back in Paris before evening so we left by 3 and skipped the forest trails suggested by the Tourism office.
Fontainebleau, November 29, 2014.
Up Next: Versailles