The Outskirts of Paris: Fontainebleau and Versailles

Some of the most well known destinations for French royal history are just short train rides outside of Paris. The Chateau de Fontainebleau in Fontainebleau, France was the home of French royalty for nearly 800 years. A visit to the castle includes the king's original throne and living spaces (aka apartments) of royals and even Napoleon Bonaparte. The castle also includes the table at which Napoleon signed his abdication. The castle is surrounded by a picturesque landscape of gardens and ponds, and a great crepe stand too.

Getting to the castle is simple. Use Line R from the Gare de Lyon station in Paris, accessible by Metro. Train tickets can be bought at the station or you can buy a day pass that serves zones 1-5 of the greater Paris area. It is about a 45 minute train ride to the Fontainebleau-Avon station. From there you can take a bus to the castle or walk through the chic neighborhood in the town of Fontainebleau-Avon. Past the town is the gorgeous forest with a path leading all the way to the massive castle, like a Hallmark movie that is actually surprising at the end.

The Palace of Versailles is possibly the most well known royal palace in France. King Louis XIV commissioned its construction and wanted it to be incredibly magnificent. And expensive. Even the gardens and fountains show the grandeur of France and Louis XIV. Because of him, France became an art and fashion hub on an international scale. However, his construction plans all over the country and foreign wars took up devastating amounts of money at the expense of the people. Two kings later, the infamous French Revolution occurred. Regardless, Versailles is a testament to French influence, strength, and style. Trains from the Gare de Lyon station can go to Versailles as well. Like Fontainebleau, the chateau is in a separate town around 30 minutes outside of Paris.

Check on the Palace of Versailles website about fountain shows in the gardens. The famous fountains are an important part of Versailles as desired by Louis XIV. Also be sure that the chateau is not closed on the day that you plan to visit. However, even if it is, the gardens are always open for free (but the fountains might not be in operation). Even seeing the outside of the castle and the immaculate gardens and ponds are enough in themselves to make for a great look at French royalty. What makes a trip to either Fontainebleau or Versailles so well worth the time is the fact that you can see a small town, away from the big city life of Paris, which isn't always as authentically French. Most large touristy cities are different from small towns in pretty much every country. Not only do both towns offer incredible, beautiful locations of royal history, Fontainebleau and Versailles are easy ways to see more everyday French life.

Helpful sites:

Detailed instructions to get from Paris to Fontainebleau:

Chateau de Fontainebleau website:

Palace of Versailles website:

Forest of Fontainebleau leading to the castle

Royal living quarters inside Fontainebleau

The Throne

Front side of Fontainebleau Castle

Statue of King Louis XIV in front of the Palace of Versailles

Golden Gate in front of the Palace of Versailles

Fountains in the gardens behind the Palace