Courtyard and Gardens of the Château de Fontainebleau, Seine-et-Marne, France

Discover the courtyard and gardens of the Château de Fontainebleau, while walk through the large park and gardens of the Château de Fontainebleau national estate, learn more about the castle’s many fountains, understand the importance of using water in gardens.

In the 130 hectacres of garden, you can see the evolution of the art of the garden illustrated by the Great Flowerbed (“Grand Parterre”), French-style garden designed by Le Notre, the Carp Pond, the English garden, created under the first Empire, the Garden of Diana (“La jardin de Diane”), the Park, the 1200m canal… Remarkable trees, Diana’s Fountain, the Park, exotic essences, the English river… These royal and imperial gardens are witnesses to the evolution of taste since the 16th until the 19th century in terms of landscaping.

The Renaissance gardens created for Francis Ist and Henry IVth were mainly based upon a system of draining canals which started from the different wells and the carp pond and lead to the great canal. The Grand Parterre (Huge flowerbed) was created later in a very humid part situated between the carp pond and the canal. Under the reign of Louis XIVth, this “parterre” (the biggest one in Europe) will adopt a very classical appearance du to André Le Nôtre who conceived a real perspective leading from the pond to the canal with the fountain of “Tibre” in the centre of the parterre. This royal parterre reaches from the Maintenon alley to the cascades, from the ballroom and the quarter Henry IVth to the side perspective of “Saut du Loup” (the wolf hop).

The Diana Garden is the former garden of the Queen. Its name comes from the fountain (17th century) which occupies its centre. This garden is limited by the “Galerie des Cerfs” built under Henry IVth (Deer Gallery), the small apartments (Louis XVIth), the Trinity Chapel, the Real Tennis court and separated from the town by a wall with some openings. The English garden was created in its present shape under the reign of Napoleon Ist. It is organised around an artificial romantic creek. Its valley like landscape integrates some sculptures and rare species of trees and plants. The carp pond, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is bordering this garden. In the centre of the pond the architect Louis Le Vau constructed a romantic pavilion under Louis XIVth (1662).

White Horse Courtyard
The White Horse courtyard, also known as the “Court of Farewells” or “Court of Honor”, ​​rectangular in shape, is a former farmyard then service courtyard, which very soon became a parade courtyard. The complex was built over five centuries, which explains its great architectural diversity. This courtyard acquires its name thanks to a plaster cast of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitol, made by Vignole for Catherine de Medici, installed between 1560 and 1570, disappeared in 1626, and including a small slab, in the aisle central, recalls the location. The statue was covered in 1580 with a roof to protect it from bad weather.

This courtyard was originally enclosed by four wings of the castle, of which the demolition of the west wing (called the “Ferrara wing” because of its proximity to the hotel of the same name ) was planned as early as the 17th century. Closed on three sides since the demolition of this wing replaced by a gate of honor, with Napoleonic decorations (eagles in gilded lead, ornaments around the entrance portal), made by Hurtault in 1808, the courtyard now looks to the west on the city.

The famous Fer-à-cheval staircase was built in 1550 by Philibert Delorme, then rebuilt between 1632 and 1634 by Jean Androuet du Cerceau. Composed of two monumental parallel scrolled flights of 46 steps with an intermediate landing, it breaks with the medieval spiral staircase and has an appearance comparable to that of the Château d’Anet, also created by Delorme. Blackened by humidity and worn by time, the staircase underwent a few cleanings in the 20th century but it was in the 2020s that it was fundamentally restored. After three years of work made possible in particular with sponsorship from the Kärcher company, the renovated structure was unveiled to the public inMay 2022.

Oval Courtyard
The Oval courtyard, in the center of the castle, takes its unique shape from the layout of the old fortified castle, the latter delimiting an octagonal courtyard with rounded corners. It is partly delimited by sandstone facades on which runs a continuous gallery supported by a row of columns. It was considerably modified under Henry IV (he had it enlarged to the east and closed by the Baptistery door).

Fontaine Courtyard
This courtyard is delimited by the wing of the Queens-mothers and the Gros pavilion, the wing of the François I gallery, and the wing of the Belle Cheminée. The fountain, located opposite the carp pond, at the end of the courtyard, gave very pure water, reserved for the king, hence the assignment of two sentinels to guard the fountain during the day and at night. night to avoid poisoning. The fountain, built in 1543 by the Primaticce, was decorated with a statue of Hercules by Michelangelo. The current monument was built in 1812, and is topped by a statue representing Ulysses, executed by Petitot in 1819 and installed at the top of the fountain in 1824.

Mathurins Courtyard
The Cour des Mathurins is located to the north of the Château de Fontainebleau, and played the role of a service courtyard from the 16th century. Its name comes from the first inhabitants of the place, the Trinitarian monks, also called Mathurins. It is now converted into an administrative car park.

Princes Courtyard
The Cour des Princes or “Court of the Conciergerie” received its rectangular and narrow shape during the gradual elevation of the wings of the Diana gallery, the Chasses apartments and the conciergerie.

Uffizi Courtyard
The courtyard of the Offices or “court of the Kitchens”, built by Henri IV between 1606 and 1609, is accessible through an entrance guarded by two sandstone hermes made by Gilles Guérin in 1640. Rectangular in shape, it is closed by three wings of sandstone, brick and rubble buildings in a sober style, punctuated by squat pavilions.

Diana’s Garden
Diana’s garden, to the north of the castle, was created by Catherine de Medici on an area already laid out by Francis I AND was at the time called the Queen’s garden. The gardens are bordered to the east by the wing of the brick and stone Deer Gallery, and by the tennis court to the west. Laid out in the French style, the garden was redeveloped by Henri IV and partitioned to the north by an orangery. It was again remodeled under Louis XIV. In the 19th century, under Napoleon I and then Louis-Philippe, the garden was transformed into an English garden and the orangery destroyed.

It owes its name to the fountain of Diana, placed in its center, commissioned in May 1603 by Henry IV from the fountain engineer Tommaso Francini. For conservation reasons, the king had removed from this garden the precious antique white marble statue now on display at the Louvre and known as Diana of Versailles. In the name of the king, a restoration contract was signed inFebruary 1602 between the superintendent of buildings Jean de Fourcy and the sculptor Barthélemy Prieur from whom a first bronze print of the “Diane” was also ordered to replace the marble removed from the Fontainebleau garden.

From the month of April 1603, Pierre Biard the Elder, architect and ordinary sculptor to the king, had been responsible for the execution of the four deer heads and the four seated bloodhound dogs in bronze, intended to adorn the pedestal. Placed in the center of a circular tiered pool, this pedestal has a cubic base, covered in black and white marble, topped with a stone drum to accommodate the statue. When, by order of the Directory, all the bronzes and marbles were requisitioned and transferred to the future museum of the Louvre Palace, the Diana Fountain was stripped of the lower part of the pedestal, made of marble, and its bronzes.

Napoleon had it partially restored in 1813 with only the upper (round) part of the pedestal. In 1964, the fountain covered its square pedestal with its seated dogs and its bronze deer heads. Restored to its state at the beginning of the 17th century and topped by the Keller brothers’ Diana with a Doe, close to that of Barthélemy Prieur, the fountain of Diana appears today as the Francini brothers had designed it.

English garden
The garden today is made up of groves and an artificial river. The species currently present in the garden are notably composed of spruces, bald cypresses, Virginia tulip trees and Japanese Sophoras, the oldest of which date from the Second Empire. The garden is decorated with several outdoor sculptures, including two copies of antique bronze sculptures from the 17th century : the Borghese Gladiator and the Dying Gladiator, as well as a work by Joseph-Charles Martin: Telemachus seated on the island of Oygie.

Abandoned after the Revolution, the space now constituting the English garden was recreated in 1812 by the architect Maximilien Joseph Hurtault according to the wishes of Napoleon I. The premises were developed during the reign of François I, who had a “pine garden” built there. This garden, known from the plates of Du Cerceau as the “garden of the Clos de l’Étang”, was located on the site of the former enclosure of the Trinitarian monks. A deal made in 1538 with Claude de Creil provided for several works: the growth of a small cultivated garden, the planting of vines, willows, and the sowing of pine seeds. Already in 1535, two plowmen from Marrac, near Bayonne, had brought maritime pine species.

The king then embellished it with two factories: the pavilion of Pomona (pavilion of rest built in 1530 at the northwest corner, decorated with two frescoes of the history of Vertumne and Pomona by the Rosso and the Primaticce, which was destroyed in 1566 ) and the current cave of the Jardin des Pins. Even after the disappearance of these trees, the name remained, and Henri IV planted the first plane tree there, a rare species at the time. More numerous today, plane trees ( Platanus) sit alongside several bald cypresses ( Taxodium distichum ).

Cave of the Pine Garden
This cave, located on the ground floor of the southwest pavilion of the Cour du Cheval Blanc and characteristic of the taste for nymphaea in the 16th century, has arcades with rustic bosses supported by atlanteans in the form of satyrs monstrous opening onto an interior decorated with frescoes (animals in relief, pebbles, shells, etc. ) The architecture, due to Serlio or Primaticce with a certain influence from Jules Romain, was very likely carried out in 1545, while the interior decoration was only completed under Henry II. Thanks to two preparatory drawings kept at the Louvre Museum, we know that Primaticio was the designer of the fresco-painted compartments. The Pine Cave was the subject of major restorations, in 1984-1986 then in 2007, which made it possible to restore the initial composition of the decoration of the vault and to return the floor to its former level.

Blaut Fountain
Located in the middle of the garden, in the hollow of a grove, the Bliaud or Blaut fountain, called Belle-Eau from the 16th century and which gave its name to the castle, flows into a small square basin with cut sides.

Carp Pond
In the center of a vast pond populated with carp, the first specimens of which, around sixty, were offered to Henry IV by Charles of Lorraine, stands the Pond Pavilion, an octagonal pleasure shelter with a low roof, soberly decorated, built under Henri IV, rebuilt under Louis XIV in 1662 and restored by Napoleon I. It finally became a place for nautical festivals during the reign of Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie. Seven of its eight sides of the pavilion are windowed, providing an access point on the north face and thus facing the Cour de la Fontaine. A map from the end of the 17th century attests to the presence of a Pond garden on part of the current body of water, access to which was possible from the courtyard of the Fountain.

Grand garden
The “Parterre” or “Grand jardin”, or even “king’s garden” was created under François I, and retraced under Henri IV then redesigned by André Le Nôtre. The Tiber and Romulus basins take their name from a sculptural group which successively decorated them in the 16th and 17th centuries. Melted during the Revolution, the Tiber, molded again according to the original kept in the Louvre, has today found its place. The central pool was decorated in 1817 with a basin succeeding a rock-shaped fountain called the “boiling pot” which existed at this location in the 17th century.

Enclosed by walls between 1528 and 1533, Serlio had imagined a pleasure pavilion for this garden. Built between 1660 and 1664, it included scrollwork forming the figures of King Louis XIV and Queen Mother Anne of Austria, which disappeared in the 18th century. The terraces were planted with lime trees under Napoleon I. The waterfall basin was built in 1661 – 1662 at the end of the Parterre, but since the 18th century, it only has a basin with niches decorated with marble. The basin has been decorated in its center, since 1866, with an Eagle defending its prey in bronze, the work of Cain (cast made by Vittoz).

The nearly 80 hectare park was created under Henri IV, who dug the 1.2 km long Grand Canal there between 1606 and 1609, and planted several species of trees, notably firs, elms and fruit trees. Previously, around 1530, François I had established the “Treille du Roi” – also 1.2 km long – where the golden chasselas of Fontainebleau was cultivated, on the south face of the wall. The canal, preceding that of Versailles by almost sixty years, quickly became a place of attraction. You could go there by boat and Louis XIII had a galley sail there. It is fed by several aqueducts established in the 16th century.

Outdoor activities
Discover the tradition of carriages with a ride in the forest, a tour of the castle park or picnic days. Inside the Grand parterre, next to the Porte Dorée at the end of the Allée de Maintenon, there is the Carriages in the Fontainebleau forest awaiting. Discover the Grand parterre and the park through a 20min-long ride with commentaries in a carriage driven by horses.

Discover the castle of Fonainebleau in a different way, the small boats of the Carps Pond is a way to enjoy a moment of relaxation as cultural as it is exotic. The pier is located in front of Fontainebleau Castle at Etang aux Carpes. Come and enjoy this idyllic setting by taking a walk on board of rowing boats, from the Etang aux Carpes you can take a distance to admire the grandeur and extent of the Château de Fontainebleau, located not far from the forest. From the Marin D’eau Douce boats you can admire the entire Château of Fontainebleau as well as the gardens and the pavilion of the pond located in the very centre of this pond.

The Jeu de Paume circle is the tennis court in Fontainebleau offers introductory courses, lessons, matches and tournaments. The hall of the Château de Fontainebleau, built in 1601 and renovated in 1732 after a fire, is one of the last historic halls in the world where this once popular sport can be practiced. The tennis club regularly organizes national or international tournaments there and allows fans of this discipline to play throughout the year.

Château de Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a lovely historic town 55.5 km south of Paris, France. It is renowned for its large and scenic forest that surrounds one almighty château, once a hunting lodge beloved of the kings of France. Built in the 12th century, this chateau is also a fabulous relic of French history, from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Over nearly eight centuries, 34 emperors and two monarchs spent time in the estate, inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage list since 1981.

The Château de Fontainebleau enlarged in particular by François I, the residence of Fontainebleau is the only château that was lived in by every French monarch for more than eight centuries. With 1500 rooms, it is one of the biggest châteaux in France, and the most furnished in Europe. Testimony to the life of the official and initimate courts of the monarchs across the centuries, it embodies better than anywhere else the French ‘art de vivre’.

Surrounded by a vast park and neighboring the Fontainebleau forest, the castle is made up of elements of medieval, Renaissance, and classical styles. The overall effect is awe as successive monarchs added their own personal touches. Fontainebleau is an inspiring place, full of rich details. The most furnished chateau with the decor like Renaissance frescoes, precious porcelain, exceptional furniture through the Second Empire. A stroll in the sprawling gardens and along the canal designed by architect André Le Nôtre is a must.

It bears witness to the meeting between Italian art and French tradition expressed both in its architecture and in its interior decorations. This specificity is explained by the desire of François I to create in Fontainebleau a “new Rome ” in which Italian artists come to express their talent and influence French art. This is how the School of Fontainebleau was born, which represents the richest period of Renaissance art in France, and inspired French painting until the middle of the 17th century, and even beyond.

Famous for witnessing many of the emperor’s important turning points, “The true home of kings, the house of ages,” Napoleon once said about this vast castle built in the Classical and Renaissance styles. The Napoleon Museum will unveil numerous major and unique acquisitions, discover at the same time the statesman, the war leader, the head of the family and the promoter of the arts. Napoleon had locked up the pope of the time there for a long time, Napoleon also signed his first declaration of abdication here Appreciate the double-horseshoe staircase in the main courtyard, the Cour d’Honneur, also known as the Farewell Courtyard, after Napoleon bade farewell there on 20 April 1814, before leaving for the Island of Elba.

Fontainebleau is not only famous for its part in Napoleon’s imperial adventures. Discover the Renaissance masterpieces commissioned by François I, the major projects of Henri IV, the refined decoration of Marie Antoinette, Napoleon I’s apartment, the splendour of Napoleon III and Eugenie, etc. Head toward the west wing, where you’ll find the Renaissance rooms and the Galerie de François Ier lavishly decorated by Rosso Florentino, a master of the School of Fontainebleau. Admire the dramatic chimney in the Guard Room, the original Saint-Saturnin Chapel, and Napoléon’s luxurious Throne Room.

Discover the Chinese Museum created by Empress Eugénie, and its precious antiques originating from China and Thailand. Explore rooms normally off-limits to the general public, like the luxurious theater created under Napoleon III in 1857, similar in its refined style to that of the Chateau de Versailles. There is also Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir, with its fabulous Oriental exuberance.

Situated in a park of 130 hectares, the château spreads its architecture around four main courtyards and is at the heart of three historic gardens including the largest parterre in Europe (11 hectares), the work of André Le Nôtre. Go boating on the Carp Pond, admire the Grand Parterre, also known as the French Garden, designed by Le Nôtre and Le Vau, or take a walk in the English Garden. The botanical and architectural imprint of each monarch promises a truly royal stroll in the park.

Rich in a first-rate architectural setting, the Château de Fontainebleau also has one of the most important collections of ancient furniture in France, and preserves an exceptional collection of paintings, sculptures, and art objects, dating from the 6th century in the nineteenth century. A favourite weekend getaway for Parisians, which gives a remarkable quality of air and life in the Paris region.

A little train and carriage rides are available for a fun jaunt around the grounds with the family, while initiations at hot air ballooning will soaring over the chateau and the Fontainebleau forest, one of the largest forests in the region. Take a break at the Café des Mariniers on the Cour de la Fontaine is well deserved. Appreciate a stop at the restaurant Les Petites Bouches de l’Empereur located in the heart of the château, in the wing known as the “belle Cheminée”, a stone’s throw from the Porte Dorée decorated by Primaticcio.