Travel Guides

Fontainebleau | Adventure Destination Guide

What you need to know about Fontainebleau, one of the world's ultimate bouldering destinations

Inspired by the success of people like Alex Honnold, bouldering and indoor climbing is big business in the cities at the moment. If you count yourself as someone who’s very much on that bandwagon, it might be time to take all the techniques you’ve picked up on artificial walls in converted warehouses and see how you get on outside. With that in mind, where better to see how you get on bouldering outside than the Forest of Fontainebleau.

“Over the last few decades, Fontainebleau… has become synonymous with bouldering”

Over the last few decades, Fontainebleau Forest in France has become synonymous with bouldering and it now stands tall as one of the world’s most popular climbing destinations. Known colloquially as either ‘Font’ or ‘Bleau’, depending on who you’re talking to, bouldering began in these parts at the end of the 19th century as a training base of sorts for Alpine climbing. Here’s some useful information to help you plan your trip there in the 21st century.

How To Get There

To make the most of your trip to Fontainebleau, you’re going to want a car on hand. This is because the best spots are spread out over a big area. Without wheels, you’ll be unable to maximise your time in the ‘Font’. And so, realistically, it boils down to you either renting a car from Orly Airport (south of Paris, 40 minutes away) or Charles de Gaulle Airport (north east of Paris, roughly one hour and 15 minutes away). These airports are serviced by at least some of the following airlines: British Airways, Flybe, CityJet, and Easyjet. Ryanair do flights to Paris Beauvais Airport, but it’s an hour north of Paris and well over two hours from Font.

If you’re in the mood for a proper road trip, and are coming from the UK, you can of course take your own car across the Channel with the help of Euro Tunnel or ferry operators such as P&O and DFDS. From London to Fontainebleau by car, you’re looking at a drive time just under seven hours.

Things To Do In Fontainebleau

We’ve not exactly been subtle about this, have we? The main reason you want to go to Fontainebleau is for the world class bouldering. The forest, which lies 50km south of Paris, is littered with thousands of sandstone boulders of various shapes and sizes. The area offers over 20,000 problems – right across the grade level spectrum.

Font’s sandstone boulders serve up a variety of features: slopes, crimps, roofs, high-balls, rounded mantles, dynos, aretes, slabs, compression problems – you name it, this place has got them in abundance.

“Font’s sandstone boulders serve up a variety of features”

If you hate queueing up at the walls at your local indoor bouldering centre, you’ll love the scale of Fontainebleau. With a number of different bouldering areas to choose from, and so many boulders to tackle in each, it’s pretty easy to find your own patch of solitude. That being said, the more popular areas like Roche aux Sabots and Bas Cuvier do get busy during holidays and at the weekends so maybe tackle these spots mid-week if you want to make the most of them.

For those of you not really into bouldering, or maybe you are but you just like to mix it up with the outdoor activities a bit, you’ll no doubt be glad to know that Fontainebleau, with its 400km of marked paths, is also a great hiking destination. What’s more, you can also go mountain biking in these parts.

Where To Stay

Fontainebl’hostel is situated in La Chapelle-la-Reine. It offers both dormitory and private rooms, as well as the option to camp in their garden. There’s a nice kitchen, a nice common room (table football anyone?), and you can rent bouldering mats from it. It’s also situated adjacent to a patisserie which does pastries and baked goods as French and delicious as you’d imagine.

As it’s such an outdoorsy place, it’ll come as no surprise to you that the Fontainebleau area is home to a number of campsites. La Musardiere at Milly la Forest, with its swimming pool and walkable distance from bouldering, and Le Pres at Grez sur Loing are two of the best ones. There’s also a pretty good campsite at Malesherbes that’s worth a look. It’s open all year round, there’s a boulder pad rental service, and the owner speaks good English.

In terms of hotels (ooh la la Monsieur Fancy Pants), there’s a Formule 1 in Moret-sur-Loing and an Ibis hotel in Fontainebleau itself. Both decent options.

Eating and Drinking

This is France we’re talking about here so it goes without saying that you can eat some very tasty food when visiting Fontainebleau. As well as the patisseries and restaurants dotted about the place, be sure to check out the local outdoor markets while you’re visiting. They’re a great opportunity to sample French wine and French cuisine, as well as the work of various different microbreweries.

Speaking of beer, while you’re in Font be sure to check out a couple of breweries (you know, between climbing and stuff). More specifically, check out Biosarde and Pachamama Brewery.

Those camping in Fontainebleau, or going for a self-catering option, should spend a few hours stocking up at the planet-sized Carrefour near Villier-en-Biere (near Bas Cuvier). It’s enormous.

Check out our other adventure travel destinations for 2020.

This destination guide was brought to you in association with outdoor fashion retailer Blackleaf.

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