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Has anyone been there from Paris? I don't see it in rick's book. Wondering if it is a good alternative to Versailles thanks sue

Posted by
2030 posts

Though Versailles is undoubtedly the #1 attraction, the Fontainebleau chateau and grounds are quite impressive, and will be less crowded than Versailles. It takes a 40 minute train ride from Gare de Lyon, then a 10 minute bus ride from the train station to the chateau. Cute small town surrounding the chateau.

Posted by
8178 posts

Fontainebleau is good and certainly uncrowded but for something closer to Versailles go to Vaux le Vicomte. Louis arrested its owner and confiscated it and used his architects to construct Versailles.

Posted by
10344 posts

Rick covers Fontainebleau in his Paris guidebook, in the chapter on Day Trips From Paris. Rick says something like (this is a paraphrase of what he says in his book):
See Versailles, you can tell it's #1 in his opinion. He then says, if you want to see another chateau in the Paris area, see one of these three: Fontainebleau, Chantilly, or Vaux-le-Vicomte. His guidebook discusses the strengths of each of these three; he feels they each offer something different.
But he does say that a person who has not seen Versailles should see it first. In recent years the lines have become long at Versailles, especially on some days and times of day--he discusses ways to minimize this.

Posted by
14580 posts


My last trip out to Fontainebleau was in 2010, by accident, since it was not planned and came about because I saw a special exhibit announcement in the Paris Metro on Fontainebleau. Well, I decided to rearrange the Paris stay and make time for going out to Fontainebleau. Between the two it's a tough call for a first time visitor.

With Versailles you think of Louis XIV in terms of its beginnings; with Fontainebleau you think of Francis I and later Napoleon. If you want more Napoleonic history/"stuff," the Napoleonic Museum on rue Saint Honoré is ca a 20 mins walk from the main entrance/exit of the Chateau.

Take the regional train direct to Fontainebleau, the bus right outside the train station goes to the Chateau. It stops in front of the Tourist Office across from the Chateau's entrance. It's about a 45 min walk or so between the Chateau and train station.

Posted by
2008 posts

Versailles makes one thing clear: it´s built to impress, completely over the top and in that way no match for other places. That´s what intrigues most first time visitors (and also those others who can´t get enough of it).
Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleau are both fantastic places to visit and also offer that special unique sence of splendor. The first is built as one complete project in Baroque style, but is in terms of history somewhat limited to the dramatic story of one person, nevertheless intriguing. That story is well explained inside the main building, can´t remember well if someway in English too.

Fontainebleau has had it´s fair share of modifications throughout the ages. It makes it compaired to the two others less coherent in terms of style, but just in terms of history very interesting as you can find back here the royal / political history of France from Renaissance till 19th century. In that respect way more interesting compaired to Vaux le Vicomte and more comparable with Versailles.

Personally I don´t let compete these places to each other too much how much enjoyable they are, as each are worth a visit in their own right to my opinion. You can´t really go wrong, but you can always flip a coin I guess?

Posted by
2008 posts

Janet - Thanks for the explanation.

Posted by
1446 posts

I have only been to Fontainbleau and loved it! We've totally avoided Versailles because of the lines and crowds we've heard about. Probably a mistake, but we don't do well with long lines. There were a lot of people at Fontainbleau but not overwhelming. It was easy to get there too as has been described by others.

Posted by
120 posts

I went to Versailles in summer of 2013. It was really interesting, mostly the information I was given by the guide about the people and their relationships to the rooms of the building -- lots of personal stuff.

That said, every room was packed with people, elbow to elbow. The only way I knew anything about what room I was in and the interesting facts was from my guide. I took a minibus tour from Paris City Vision. Their guide spoke quietly into her mic and we each had earphones on to hear what she said. The noise of the crowd was very loud. If I had not done the audio tour with the guide, it would have been very uncomfortable and I would never have come close enough to read any information about what I was seeing.

So my advice is if you go to Versailles, make sure you have an audio guide.

I plan to do the Paris City Vision tour this summer to Fontainbleau and possibly the one combined with Vaux-le-Vitcomte.

This company is very good and has a large variety of tours available for day trips.

Posted by
165 posts

Thanks for all your help. I have been to Versailles years ago, but I think I'll take my friend (first time in france) to Fontainbleau this trip. sue