Chateau de Fontainebleau
Ask on any forum where you should head for a day trip from Paris and at least one person (and probably several) will recommend to you that you head to the chateau at Fontainebleau for a day.
And for good reason!
Chateau Fontainebleau, right beside the the Fontainebleau forest has been a royal residence from the time of Francois I to Napoleon III and the different generations of royal resident have added to the palace both in terms of the decoration, but also with additions to the chateau itself. This gives it a unique feel compared to chateau's that were completed at one time. It was also continuously inhabited for over seven centuries.
With 1,500 rooms, it is also one of the largest chateau in France.
What to see
The visit to the chateau can be split into several parts.
The first part of the visit is the chateau is itself. There are numerous parts of the chateau that are open for visiting. The highlights are Royal Apartments which are in the style of Napoleon III (with the exception of Napoleon I's apartment and Marie Antoinette's bedrooms), the small apartments from Louis XV, and the papal apartments where Pope Pius VII stayed in the 1800's. The chateau is filled with decorations, furniture and tapestries from France's history.
The second part of the visit is the courtyards. There are four courtyards at Fonatainebleau. The main courtyard is the Cour D'Honneur where the main entrance to the chateau is. The Cour de la Fontaine looks over the Grand Parterre. There is also the Cour Ovale, which is the central courtyard of the chateau and the rest of the chateau is structured around. The fourth courtyard is Cour Henri IV which was the administrative hub of the former chateau.
The third part of your visit is the gardens. The main "grand canal" is at a right angles to the chateau. There are a number of formal gardens and statuary that surround the castle. The "English Garden", which dates from Francois 1's time has an artificial river and several statues and fountains scattered throughout it. Apparently Francois 1 never liked this style of garden but had it built because it was the style of the day. The centre piece of the gardens at Fonatinebleau is the Grand Parterre; designed by Andre le Notre (of Versailles fame) this is the largest formal garden in France.
The final part is the forest. The chateau was a royal hunting lodge and the kings of France hunted in this forest. The town of Fontainebleau has been built about the forest. It is easy to access the forest from the chateau. The main race into the chateau comes exists the chateau at Porte Doree. If you head straight from the chateau out of Porte Doree down the path you can exit the chateau grounds and keep walking straight. This will lead you to a hill with a number of walking paths around it. There are also good views over the chateau and the town of Fontainebleau. Once outside the chateau itself it is possible to walk around the outside which will give you a sense of the size and layout of the chateau which you don't get from inside.
Things to do
How to get there
Fontainbleau is linked to Paris by the transilien line trains.
Trains for Fontainbleau leave from Gare de Lyon station regularly and the train ride is about 41 minutes. The train will be heading to Montargis.
When the train arrives at Fontainbleau Avon station there are two options for getting to the chateau. There is a bus that leaves from bus station next door to the train station at the arrival of each train.
It is also possible to walk from the train station, through the town of Fontainbleau, to the chateau. From the station, walk up to the main road (Avenue Franklin Roosevelt) and turn left. Follow Avenue Franklin Roosevelt until it turns into Rue Aristide Briand (at a slight left angle at the end of Avenue Franklin Roosevelt). Rue Aristide Briand joins Rue Grande. continue to walk straight along Rue Grande which turns into Rue Denecourt. At the roundabout, which is at the corner of the courtyard in front of the chateau, turn left into Boulevard Magenta and the entrance to the chateau is on your left. The walk is around 3km/ 2mi should take around 40 minutes.
Approximate Distance from Paris: 61km/38mi.
Time to get there: 41 minutes
Transport Method: Regional Train from Gare de Lyon
Approximate Price: 8.55 Euro for the train and
Worth: At least half a day, probably a whole day
(Available in English)