INSEAD’s MBA programme offers two starting locations – the Asia campus in Singapore and the Europe campus in Fontainebleau, France. The way of life varies widely between the two locations, so for those who are interested to study at our Europe campus in Fontainebleau, here are 10 things to know about this charming town just outside Paris.
1) Where is it?
Fontainebleau is a quaint town 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Paris, an hour by road and 45-minute ride by train. The town is situated in the Forest of Fontainebleau, surrounded by lush greenery and fresh air.
2) Enjoy nature in the Forest of Fontainebleau
The Forest of Fontainebleau is recognised by UNESCO as a Nature Reserve Biosphere of World Importance. The forest is the second largest forest in France. Home to approximately 7000 animal species, the forest has well-marked pathways that are ideal for walks, biking and horse riding. The forest is particularly famous as one of the largest bouldering areas in the world with its massive rock formations, making it a popular training ground for avid climbers.
The average temperatures in Fontainebleau generally range between 3°C during winter and 25°C in summer. If you are looking to experience the great outdoors at Fontainebleau, the months of June through August are perfect to soak in the sun. During winter, glistening frost and snowfalls paint the city and its surroundings into picturesque sights.
4) Away from the hustle and bustle
You will find yourself surrounded by nature and away from the buzz of corporate life. Our MBA students often speak of how the tranquillity allows them to not just focus on their studies and spend quality time with their classmates, but also find pockets of time for self-reflection and introspection.
5) Driving through the woods
While driving along the forest is an enjoyable and relaxing affair, you might want to keep a foot on the brake just in case a deer or a wild boar dashes onto the road. In France (and many other countries with roads along the woods), vehicles will have to stop or slow down and meander around animals on the road to avoid any casualties.
6) Greet, greet, greet
Remember to say "bonjour" (good day) or "bonsoir" (good evening) when entering a shop or encountering a neighbour in the hallway - these small acts of politeness are very ingrained in society.
7) Visit the Fontainebleau Chateau
Royal Chateau de Fontainebleau is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is an enormous palace built, modified and expanded by French monarchs from the 12th to the 19th century, and one of the most visited château in France. It was home to over 30 French monarchs from the Middle Ages until Napoleon III and has one of the longest histories amongst royal residences in France. Housing 1530 rooms, four courtyards, and 130-hectare (320-acre) park, Fontainebleau chateau attracts millions of visitors each year and ranks among Europe's largest palaces. You might want to factor €11 for a ticket into the palace.
8) Experience Marché de Fontainebleau
If you want to truly experience life in Fontainebleau, you have to hit the open-air market set up at the grand square next to the Fontainebleau tourist office (Place de la République). The market is set up three times a week – Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays mornings – and you will find an array of local and regional products. From cheeses, fruits, vegetables, flowers and meat stalls to clothes and accessories, you will be spoilt for choices.
9) Land of cheese and wine
There is no way you can miss France’s two top products when you are in Fontainebleau. With a wide variety of wine and cheese to choose from, there are plenty of opportunities for you to experience and savour the French gastronomy. Experiencing a food tasting tour is highly recommended!
10) Explore France and the rest of Europe
Neighbouring countries such as England, Germany, Spain or the Czech Republic are easily accessible. With flights from Paris well under two hours, a weekend getaway to other parts of Europe is one to consider. If you prefer road trips, there are many beautiful places in France to explore. A 2-hour drive will bring you to Epernay, a town of vineyards and home to famous wines. Provins, a fortified medieval town within an hour’s drive away, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that will bring you back in time with architecture built between the 11th and 14th centuries. Versailles, The Chateaux of the Loire Valley, Burgundy and Reims are also recommendations to add to your list of road trips.
Interested to know more about life at INSEAD’s Asia Campus? Read Studying in Singapore: 10 Things to Know Before Moving Over.
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