Fontainebleau Castle and Forest in France
The Fontainebleau Castle (also known as the Royal Château of Fontainebleau) is the largest of the French royal châteaux in France. It is located in the midst of the beautiful Fontainebleau forest, a 25,000 hectare forested area surrounding the city of Fontainebleau and nearby villages about 50 kilometers south-east of Paris.
During the 12th century the area was a royal hunting ground and the Fontainebleau Castle was the centre of royal activity during hunting season. Over a period of almost eight centuries of French history (1137-1870), various occupants made additions to the original buildings, resulting in a profusion of different architectural and decorative styles which makes the Fontainebleau Castle so unique. During the Renaissance, extensive alterations and extensions were carried out, firstly by Francois I and continued by his son Henri II and later by his wife Catherine de Medici. Henri IV left his mark on the castle by commissioning the brick and stonework wing which faces Diana’s Garden.
Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette undertook some alterations which included redecorating her suite in keeping with the trends of the times. After the French Revolution, Napoleon (1769-1821) found the palace stripped of its furnishings and he undertook the refurnishing the entire castle before the Pope visited in 1804 to crown him. The castle became one of the favorite residences of Napoleon and his throne room remains intact for visitors to view. Even during his last exile at St. Helena, Napoleon spoke of Fontainebleau Castle with fondness.
Apart from the immense historical and cultural value of the Fontainebleau castle, there are many enjoyable activities to keep visitors busy in the forest and surrounding areas. The hilly terrain of the Fontainebleau forest has been described as a “mini-Alps” and is a popular area for hikers, climbers and nature enthusiasts. Climbers can make use of the designated climbing circuits while calling upon the expertise of the Ecole de l’Escalade (climbing school). Hikers can make use of the special hiker’s map to ensure that they get the most out of their excursion, without getting lost in the labyrinth of trails leading through stunning flora to places of exquisite beauty. Bird watchers can expect to see a wide variety of birds, including six species of woodpeckers, crested tit, woodlark and short-toed tree-creeper.
The beautifully preserved Fontainebleau Castle in France is a very popular tourist attraction where visitors have the opportunity to gain unique insight into a bygone era of royal splendor while enjoying the magnificence of the natural surroundings of the Fontainebleau forest.