Fontainebleau Forest

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Fontainebleau Forest
Fontainebleau forest.
Etching by Karl Bodmer around 1850.
Le rocher l'Éléphant rock formation near Larchant

The forest of Fontainebleau (French Forêt de Fontainebleau ) in France is one of the largest contiguous forest areas in Western Europe . It is named after the city of Fontainebleau in the middle . The painters of the Barbizon School found many of their subjects in the Fontainebleau forest. The Fontainebleau forest has been on France's list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1996 .


It is located about 50 kilometers south of Paris in the vicinity of the city of Fontainebleau (15,000 inhabitants), which is widely famous for its magnificent Renaissance castle , which was built in the 16th century by King Henry II .

The forest extends over an area of ​​25,000 hectares and is at an altitude of 42 to 144 m. The A6 motorway, the former national roads 5 (from 1978 to 2006 as number 6) and 7 , and the Paris-Lyon (-Marseille) railway run through the forest . Particularly noteworthy are the often bizarre sandstone formations, which are often used by climbing enthusiasts.

The composition of the forest by species: 45% oak , 40% pine , 10% beech . There are also 3,000 different types of mushrooms and 7,000 animal species, including 5,000 insect species.


Abstract scratches

On the abrises and in the caves of the massif of Fontainebleau there is an abundance of engravings from the Stone Age (from around 8000 BC) that were researched by the German amateur archaeologist Marie EP König (1899–1988). Around the year 1000 the forest was still referred to as the "Forest of Brière". A royal residence has been occupied here since 1167. Since in the middle of the 17th century only about 20% of today's area was forested due to intensive use, Colbert , the Minister of the Sun King, made sure that there were large-scale new plantings; in 1716 alone, 6,000 hectares of forest were created. Pine trees were introduced here in 1786 , and an additional 6,000 hectares of pine were planted in 1830. During this time, the French Romantic artists discovered this refuge, which, although largely artificially created, has in part retained the charm of an unspoilt natural landscape to this day. From 1849 the railroad led to Fontainebleau, making the area a popular destination for Parisians too. A first nature reserve to preserve the forest was established in 1861.


The sandstone has been used commercially since 1330. It is traditionally used as a road surface for the city of Paris. In 1831, 3,000,000 paving stones were delivered. For reasons of nature conservation, however, this use, which had given work to 2,000 people, was severely restricted towards the end of the 19th century. In addition, the use of the sand for glass blowing, which is continued to this day, has a tradition that goes back over three centuries.

Since the 19th century, the use of this forest, which had previously been left in its natural state, was also promoted as a recreational area through the establishment of hiking trails and corresponding signage. Today the length of the marked trails is 365 km. The Amis de la Forêt de Fontainebleau association is particularly committed to preserving the forest.

Climbing on the sandstone formations of the forest - so-called bouldering - was invented here. Even today it is one of the most famous bouldering and climbing areas in the world. As early as 1900 the "Bleausards" (that's what the local boulderers call themselves) climbed the sandstone cliffs. The so-called bouldering course was invented in Fontainebleau in 1947. This is a series of individual bouldering problems, the difficulty of which shows a certain homogeneity. The course is numbered, color-coded and climbed one after the other. Some courses are designed in such a way that the ground does not have to be stepped on when walking through them. Rather, it is possible to stay in constant contact with the rock by climbing down, crossing and jumping over.

Boulderer on the sandstone cliffs at Place du Cuvier


Some of the famous buildings in the region include:

  • The Denecourt tour , built in 1851 and rebuilt after being partially destroyed by an earthquake (1878), allows a panoramic view of the forest from a height of 136 m.
  • The Aqueduc de la Vanne , which previously supplied the Réservoir de Montsouris in Paris with water, is now the Réservoir de l'Haÿ-les-Roses in the suburb of the same name.
  • The Aqueduct du Loing.
  • The Millet Rousseau monument, which commemorates two painters who belong to the Barbizon school , named after the village of Barbizon where the monument is located; this group, to which Corot also belonged, can be regarded as the forerunners of the Impressionists . The forest provided them with numerous motifs.
  • Franchard Abbey.
  • The Georges Mandel monument commemorating the murder of this minister on July 7, 1944.

useful information

An image of the forest of Fontainebleau can be found in the courtyard of the Bibliothèque nationale Site François Mitterrand in Paris. There the flora of the forest with its corresponding tree population was replanted.

The first act of Giuseppe Verdi's opera “Don Carlos” takes place in the Fontainebleau forest. It also served as the backdrop for Bernard Werber's film trilogy "Fourmis" .


  • Jean-Pierre Hervet, Patrick Mérienne: La Forêt de Fontainebleau . Edition Ouest-France, Rennes 1997, ISBN 2-7373-1939-0 .
  • Association of Amis de la Forêt de Fontainebleau (ed.): Guide des Sentiers de promenade dans le massif forestier de Fontainebleau . 2004

Web links

Commons : Fontainebleau Forest  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Le massif forestier de Fontainebleau. UNESCO World Heritage Center, September 20, 1996, accessed January 15, 2018 (French).

Coordinates: 48 ° 23 ′ 49 ″  N , 2 ° 41 ′ 32 ″  E