Château de Fountainebleau, a daytrip from Paris.
Overtourism is a growing problem for many popular destinations around the globe. It can taint the experience of the tourist & residents alike with the crowding of people all trying to have their dream moment. So it is with The Palace of Versailles, a big bucket list item of so many when they visit France. I found my day trip visit very underwhelming; this sea of humanity makes it very difficult to get a sense of the rooms within. Many of these rooms were unfurnished & those that were could not be seen in full or for very long before you are ushered away to make room for the next wave of people. After some pushing, I was able to stand in front of a mirror in the Hall of Mirrors but alas seeing the gardens reflected in them, as is their purpose, was not an option. The gardens did offer a far more spacious visit with plenty of room to amble along & relax after the inside hustle & bustle.
There is an alternative to all that crowding & it’s to be found 55km away from Paris in Fountainebleau, a town that was built up around the chateau.
Château de Fontainebleau is not as well-known but is far more impressive for its display of French art & architecture dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries. It has Royal pedigree having been a residence of 34 kings and two emperors & is the only château that was lived in by every French monarch for almost eight centuries. With some structures dating back to 1137 & situated in a park of 130 hectares, the château forms its buildings around four main courtyards and is at the heart of three historic gardens including the largest parterre in Europe. There are 1500 rooms, including two of Marie Antoinette Boudoirs & the incredible lavish theatre that Napoleon III had constructed, & is the most furnished of the French chateaus. I highly recommend a daytrip here, away from the crowds, to see some truly beautiful French history.
Getting to Fountainebleau does require a train & bus ride which can make it a bit trickier to get to than Versailles however the travel time is the same. From Gare de Lyon take the 40 minute train ride for either Montargis Sens, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes. Get off at Fontainebleau-Avon station, then take the ‘Ligne 1’ bus destined for Les Lilas, getting off at the ‘Château’ stop after a 10 minute journey.