15 Best things to do in Melun (France)

Melun, a remote suburb southeast of Paris, is a town with a rich heritage. In Melun’s backyard is the sumptuous, awkward palace of the Viscount Waller and Fontainebleau. Not only are these properties stunning, but they’re all steeped in enough intrigue and political maneuvering to keep you enchanted for hours.

But you can also choose from a wide variety of nearby museums that showcase the history of aviation or the iconic French institution, the Gendarmerie. Combined with the idyllic banks of the Seine and the lush countryside of Brie, Meren is a peaceful town just 30 minutes by train from the capital.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Melun:

1. Vaux-le-Vicomte

Viscount Waller

The ambitious and super-rich Nicolas Fouquet commissioned this dazzling Baroque castle in the mid-1600s.

In addition to its size and absurd grandeur, the property is historically significant, as it is the first large-scale project that horticulturalist André Le Nôtre and decorator Charles Le Brun have collaborated on.

This is the birthplace of the Louis XIV style, which was later perfected at Versailles.

It is said that when Louis XIV first met Vaux-le-Vicomte in 1661, he was so jealous that he invented the charges against Fouquet, which cost him the last 20 years of his life in prison.

2. Vaux-le-Vicomte Gardens

Viscount Gardens

The castle’s gardens are cut off from the rest of the world, and shockingly, three complete villages were demolished to make way for the lands.

In its heyday, the palace employed 18,000 people to tend the gardens, which for a short time were the venue for Fouquet’s lavish parties.

The trails are lined with circular manicured areas, and the huge arabesque pattern consists of precisely trimmed boxwood hedges, fountains and water flower beds.

Special dinners in summer to taste the garden evenings that Fouquet will present here.

3. The Palace of Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau Palace

The historical value of this palace is almost impossible to sum up in one sentence, but we will try it: the Palais Fontaine Blue and its predecessor castle, the residence of French rulers for hundreds of years, starting with King Louis XII from the 12th century Napoleon III in the 1870s.

This is exactly where Napoleon abdicated before exile in Elba.

Originally a fortress, the palace was brought together in the 16th century on the orders of François I, and the Cour des Adieux, the Ballroom and the Gallery of François I belong to this phase.

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Get ready room after room of gilded plaster, lavish furniture, paintings, tapestries, ornaments and awesome artifacts like the sword worn by Napoleon for his coronation.

4. Forest of Fontainebleau

Fontainebleau Forest

The Forest of Fontainebleau is not only a hunting ground for kings, but also a place where nature and culture combine.

There are 25,000 hectares of oak, beech and pine woodland and more than 1,600 kilometers of hiking trails.

These routes are even more exciting for the many sandstone boulders in the forest, some high enough to be used to climb walls.

For a magical panorama, head to the rocky canyons of Francard and contemplate paintings by Monet, Camille-Corot, Sisley and Cézanne, Balzac, Georges Sand, Flaubert and more described scene.

5. Gendarmerie Museum

Military Police Museum

The French Military Police Academy is located in Melun and opened its archives to the public in 2015.

There are 30,000 objects and 10,000 images and documents depicting the history of the unit, dating back to 1791. If you’ve ever been confused about the difference between the police and the gendarmerie, this museum has the answer, explaining the remit of this force. Gendarmerie and outlines a day in the life of one of its officers.

There are also fascinating temporary exhibitions, such as the recent “Science of Crime,” which puts you in the eyes of an investigator and introduces you to the world of forensics.

6. Musée Aéronautique et Spatial Safran

Safran Air and Space Museum

A true Aladdin cave for aviation enthusiasts, this museum has assembled aircraft engines from the early days of flight to the present day.

The manufacturers represented here are the historic Gnome et Rhône and SNECMA brands, both of which are now part of Safran.

You will examine the inner workings of piston, jet and rocket engines.

Also on display are some complete aircraft such as the SA103 Emouchet glider, the Dassault Mirage III C jet and the Blériot XI, the same model as the first heavier-than-air craft to cross the English Channel in 1909.

7. Notre Dame College

Notre Dame College

The church looks much older than its Renaissance facade. It was built by King Robert II in the first few decades of the 11th century, and the base of the tower, the nave and the transepts are derived from this original building.

Churches are known for things that don’t actually exist anymore.

The extraordinary Melun Diptych, a Gothic painting by Jean Fouquet from 1452, remained in churches until 1775, when the panels were sold separately, and is now in Berlin and Antwerp.

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There are photo reproductions in the south aisle and some beautiful tomb slabs from the 14th and 15th centuries against the wall.

8. Brandy-Letour Castle

Brandi-Letour Castle

After marveling at the splendor of Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau, see a fortified military fort in stark contrast.

Located 10 minutes from Melen, the castle dates back to the 14th century and dwarfs the surrounding hamlets.

There are moats, tall buildings, hexagonal walls, five muscle towers and drawbridges.

After centuries of neglect, the entire site was renovated in 1992 and is completely open to visitors.

You can climb the five-story castle or contemplate the surrounding medieval village and Bree countryside from the battlements.

9. Église Saint-Aspais

Église Saint-Aspais

If you know Paris very well, you may have seen the Saint-Jacques Tower in the rue Rivoli in the 4th arrondissement.

Once part of a church destroyed during the Revolution, this solitary building was designed by 16th-century architect Jehan de Félin.

Félin’s only other work of note is the lovely Saint-Aspais church in Melun.

You’ll notice how the building’s profile is irregular as it has to adapt to uneven ground.

Félin was a master mason, as you can tell from the filigree on the western and eastern portals.

Inside you must see four carved stone altars, a mix of ornate Gothic and Renaissance styles.

10. Museum of Art and History

Museum of Art and History

The Municipal Museum of Melun is located in the noble setting of the 16th-century Hôtel de la Vicomté, listed as a historic monument.

Nicolas Fouquet purchased the property in the 17th century so that he could oversee the construction of his palace in Vaux-le-Vicomte.

The museum is small, but its paintings, ceramics and works by the allegorical sculptor Henri Chapu will grab your attention for about half an hour.

Most of the paintings are from the 18th and 19th centuries and document Melon’s cityscape on the Seine or scenes in the forest of Fontainebleau.

11. Abbaye Royale du Lys

Abbaye Royale du Lys

Now a dry but fascinating ruin, the Abbey of Lys was once a pilgrimage site for the French monarchy.

Almost every king from the 13th century Louis IX to Louis XVI visited this Cistercian abbey at least.

The place has some fascinating stories: One was that Marie Mancini caught the attention of the young Louis XIV, who was banished to the convent here after Mancini’s mother forbade her from marrying the king.

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12. Paris

Paris

In Melun, you are on the outskirts of Paris and the city center is close enough for an afternoon out or whirlwind tour.

On the train, you can reach the Gare de Lyon in 30 minutes.

From there you can take a quick metro ride to the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame Cathedral, the covered arcade, the Champs Elysees, the list is almost endless.

If you’re pressed for time, you can head straight to Pont Neuf and board the iconic cruise ship to see all the sights along the Seine in one go.

13. The banks of the Seine

banks of the Seine

More than 8 kilometers of the banks of the Seine are open to the public, so you can take excursions beside this fabulous river.

In the old days, the river bank was the center of trade of the town, and now it is the place to enjoy the panoramic view of the town and the island of Saint-Etienne.

Once you leave the Merun, the river becomes peaceful and idyllic and you will see waterfowl such as moorhens, ducks, swans, herons and cormorants.

Located on the left bank between Melun and Samois, facing the river, Les Affolantes is a romantic medieval villa of the 19th century.

14. Bridmoren

Bridmoren

Melun’s Brie has had its own AOC since 1980 and has strict production guidelines.

Only produced in a few towns and villages near the Seine-et-Marne, Aube and Yonne can it be called bridmelen, and it takes three months to mature, more than other varieties of brides Cheese is much longer.

This makes for stronger flavors and aromas, like Bridmore, which is in season from April to September.

There is no better way to enjoy yourself than with a large baguette and a glass of Burgundy or Gaillac.

15. Mildmeron

Mildmeron

Melun has its own apiary, run by a municipal greenhouse, producing honey for you to taste and buy.

The garden is open for educational tours, which you can discuss with the tourist office.

Children will learn how bees turn nectar into honey and you will learn all about the art of beekeeping.

Jars of honey are sold at various specialty shops in town as well as at the tourist office, and you can even request a free sample before buying.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Melun, France
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