Less than an hour from central Paris, the Château de Fontainebleau was inhabited by French royalty for seven centuries and is a marvelous mélange of architecture and design, as each successive inhabitant—from François I to Napoleon Bonaparte—left their mark on the estate. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about a visit to the château, classified a UNESCO World Heritage site, is that it’s often uncrowded. Here you can stroll the parquet floors, gaping at the gilded artistry, the ornately carved walnut doors, the Renaissance frescoes painted by great Italian artists, the ancient tapestries, Napoleon’s throne room—with nary another soul in sight.
On a recent visit, I was delighted to learn about a recently completed restoration project. After seven years of work, Marie Antoinette’s Turkish Boudoir has reopened to the public. Originally created by the Rousseau brothers in 1777, the boudoir is the last remaining example of the “Royal Turqueries”– reflecting the Orientalism style that was fashionable at the time. Designed with symbols inspired by the Levant, the décor and fabrics are just exquisite. Even the original textiles were restored, what the chateau explains was the “work of master goldsmiths”, and the silk velvet upholstery were rewoven.
The chateau is open every day except for Tuesdays; January 1st, May 1st, and December 25th. The staff recommend visiting early in the afternoon and allowing time for a two-hour visit. The full ticket price is €11. Guided tours are also available at an additional cost. Note: It’s free to access the exquisite gardens– conceived by landscape designer extraordinaire André Le Nôtre. For more information, visit the website: www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr