This 1337-room palace, originally built for Louis XV, hosted Napoléon III's dazzling hunting parties, which drew aristocrats from all around Europe. A single ticket grants access to the sumptuous Grands Appartements, where highlights include the empress's bedroom and a ballroom lit by 15 chandeliers (English audioguide available); the Musée du Second Empire, illustrating the lives of Napoléon III and his family; and the Musée de la Voiture, featuring vehicles that predate the internal combustion engine.
The Musée de l'lmpératrice, which stars Eugénie (Napoléon III's wife), is closed for renovations until at least late 2018. From about April to mid-November, you can have lunch or a drink in the Jardin des Roses (rose garden). Almost all parts of the palace are now wheelchair accessible.
Stretching southeast from the château, the 20-hectare, English-style Petit Parc links up with the Grand Parc and the Forêt de Compiègne, a forest that surrounds Compiègne on the east and south and is criss-crossed by rectilinear paths. The area is a favourite venue for hiking and cycling (maps and bike-rental details available at the tourist office) as well as horse riding.