Fontainebleau is a picturesque French town steeped in history and named after the fresh water spring that gave rise to it. It is a name that immediately conjures up images of the Forest and Castle.
With 15 million visitors a year the forest is one of France's major tourist and leisure activity attractions. It is particularly known for its unique rock formations and soft white sand that makes it the Mecca of Rock climbers. It has been described as simply "the best bouldering area in Europe if not the world".
In 1998 the Fontainebleau Forest became the 356th Biosphere Reserve within a global network of more than 90 countries. It is 250 km2 of temperate forest - composed mainly of oak, Scots pine and beech - heath lands, open rock areas of sandstone and wetlands, semi-permanent ponds caused by rainfall and impermeable sandstone.
The castle is the 12th century Château, initially a hunting lodge and then the summer residence of many French kings. François I, a great supporter of the Renaissance, rebuilt it in the 16th century combining the Renaissance and French gothic styles to create a new one and invited artists like Leonardo da Vinci to improve it. It was here that the Mona Lisa was exhibited for the very first time! In the 17th century it was the turn of the Sun King, Louis the XIV, to add his touch to the royal residence. The gardens of the Château are the work of his chief landscape designer, André Le Nôtre. The 18th century brought Marie-Antoinette to Fontainebleau. Her apartments were later remodelled and used by the Empress Josephine when Napoleon Bonaparte made the castle his main residence. Before leaving for the island of Elbe on April 20, 1814, he gave his farewell speech in the courtyard which is now called the "Cour des Adieux", the Farewell Courtyard.
Today INSEAD is one of the Château’s preferred partners and is a benefactor to the restoration of Queen Marie Antoinette's Turkish Boudoir. Some of the School’s big events, like the Summer Ball and the PhD Graduation ceremony, are held in halls of the Château that are not open to the general public. This collaboration is a tribute to the beginnings of the school, for it was here, in a wing of this 12th century Château that INSEAD was born half a century ago.
Tucked between nature and history, the town itself is a lively centre for shopping, culture, eating and drinking. Click here to see both a satellite and road map of Fontainebleau.
And Paris is just an hour away.