If you’re in search of a fantastic day trip from Paris, then you may well consider visiting one of the many French Château that litter the Île de France region. After all, between regally royal history and fairytale aesthetics you can’t go wrong by frequenting one of the many former palaces and mansion houses that this European region has to offer. But what many visitors to the French capital have trouble with is deciding whether they should head to Fontainebleau or Versailles. Here’s your ultimate guide to Versailles vs Fontainebleau!
Château de Versailles
Situated just over three quarters an hour away from Paris, there’s no denying that the Château de Versailles is easily one of the most iconic day trips from the French capital. Once a royal hunting lodge, the regal palace was significantly renovated under the reign of the Sun King, i.e. Louis XIV.
At this time, the grounds were expanded and gold gilding was used liberally. The resulting masterpiece (or monstrosity, depending on who you ask!) is what you can expect to see today. This includes the Palace of Versailles, the Grand Trianon (where the King would go to escape the court of Versailles), the Petit Trianon (where Marie Antoinette once resided), the less visited Hameau de la Reine and of course, the sprawling André Le Nôtre designed grounds and gardens.
How to get to Versailles from Paris: The easiest way to reach the Château from Paris is by taking the RER C. Hop aboard at Gare de l’Austerlitz and the journey is between forty-five and fifty minutes. There are several stations at Versailles and so be sure to descend the train at Gare de Versailles Château Rive Gauche and follow the signs to reach the Palace!
Château de Fontainebleau
Easy to reach as a day trip from Paris, much like Versailles, Fontainbleau began life as a royal hunting lodge (much like the much more famous and fairly close by Versailles). However, as my grandma first described the Château to me, Fontainebleau is ‘Versailles without the crowds’.
What this means for your visit is a less crowded experience should you opt to visit Fontainebleau over Versailles, especially during the school holidays or at weekends during peak season (i.e. summer). Once there, you can expect to discover the papal apartments, a large lake you can rent a boat on, and of course, plenty of stately rooms from the time when the French royalty were still in power.
Elsewhere in the vicinity, there’s a grand horseshoe staircase from which Napoleon last addressed his troops. For those who enjoy stepping out into nature, there’s no denying the beauty of the forest of Fontaibeleau, which stretches as far as the eye can see.
How to get to Fontainebleau from Paris: If you don’t have access to a car (and I would highly recommend not renting a car while staying in Paris!) then the easiest way to reach the Château at Fontainebleau from Paris is by taking the train. Simply hop on the train at Gare de Lyon towards Montargis Sens, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes. The stop you need to descend at Fontainebleau-Avon. You then have to take bus line 1 towards ‘Le Lilas’ and descend at ‘Château’.
Versailles Vs Fontainebleau: Which Should You Visit?
Truth be told, the château you should head to on your next French adventure depends entirely on what you’re looking to get out of a day trip! On the one hand, Versailles is one of those French bucket list attractions that remains at the top of everyone’s European itineraries, while on the other hand the day trip to Fontainebleau is a little less ‘discovered,’ meaning fewer crowds and better photo opportunities.
With this being said, it must be said that it’s certainly easier to reach Versailles than Fontainebleau! After all, there’s a train directly from the city centre to reach the Palace, as opposed to Fontainebleau where you have to take a regional train, followed by a bus.
It’s also worth noting that while the city of Versailles has plenty of cafés, bookshops, and the like to entertain visitors, there are few attractions and things to do close to the Château de Fontainebleau. If you have time in your itinerary, then I would personally prioritise Versailles but also visit Fontainebleau if time so permits!
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