The splendor of the Château de Versailles, or Palace of Versailles, is known throughout the world. Once the home of French kings and queens, nowadays the Palace of Versailles and its marvelous gardens are open to visitors. If you’re staying in Paris, the Palace of Versailles and the city of Versailles make a great day trip. Versailles is located just 17 kilometers (10,5 miles) southwest from the city center of Paris. The easiest way to get to the Palace of Versailles is to take the RER C train to the “Versailles Rive Gauche – Château de Versailles” station, which is a short walk away from the castle.
In this article we’ll tell you something about the history of Versailles, and also give you some visitor tips to make the most of your visit to the Palace and City of Versailles!
Discover the Palace of Versailles
King Louis XIII often hunted in the forests surrounding Versailles. He liked the area so much that he had a hunting lodge constructed there in 1624. This was the beginning of what is now known as the Palace of Versailles. Over the years, the King expanded the Château, and his successor ordered even more constructions so the palace would become one of the largest in the world. Through the centuries the palace saw many different royal occupants, and some of the most famous of these were King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie-Antoinette. After the revolution, the palace was transformed many times, from a museum to a military hold and more. Nowadays, the palace still retains some political functions, but it has also become one of the most famous tourist attractions in France.
Inside the Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is open for visitors every day except Monday. On the estate, there are several buildings belonging to the palace that are worth a visit.
In the main palace building you’ll find most of the famous apartments and halls of Versailles.
- The Palace of Versailles boasts many grand apartments, and the most splendid of these are the King’s Apartments and Queen’s Apartments, which are well worth a visit.
- The beautiful Hall of Mirrors is the central gallery of the palace, and perhaps the most famous room of all. The arches in the room are decorated with mirrors that reflect the windows that overlook the gardens.
- The Opera of Versailles was the main theater house of the palace. Operas are still performed in the Opéra Royal, and it remains a very prestige theater for performances.
- The Palace of Versailles also houses a museum, namely, the Museum of the History of France. The museum displays mainly paintings reflecting important moments of France’s history and culture.
- The Chapel of the palace was an integral part of life in court. The current chapel is the fifth constructed in the palace, and it has held many ceremonies and marriages. King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were also married in this chapel.
- The imposing Galerie des Batailles was intended to honor French military history. As such, the galerie displays many paintings of military events in French history.
Explore the Gardens of Versailles
Unlike the Palace, the Gardens of Versailles are open to the public every day. The grounds of the Palace are very large (about 800 hectares of land!), so make sure to bring your walking shoes. Besides the beautiful lawns, sculptures and flowerbeds, the gardens boast magnificent fountains. This is why springtime, summer and early autumn are the best times to visit Versailles: so you can see the full splendor of the fountains. On particular days, it’s also possible to see the Musical Fountains Show, where the fountains sprout water to the rhythm of music. The shows are held every Saturday and Sunday from April to October, as well as on some other particular days. To find out more about the garden’s fountains, check out the Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles.
There are also several other activities to explore in the Gardens of Versailles. At the Grand Canal, you can rent rowboats to see the gardens from the water, or bicycles to discover the gardens without having to walk!
Furthermore, there is a mini-train that can take you from the main Palace to the Trianon Palaces (Le Grand Trianon and Le Petite Trianon) and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate for a fee. Marie-Antoinette’s estate especially is a wonder to behold. The estate is designed almost like a small village, complete with a mill, a farmhouse and more. The beautiful houses and accompanying gardens were all built specifically for the queen.
Lastly, there are also several small cafes and shops where you can purchase some food, but you can also pack a picnic at home and bring it to the gardens. Do note that food cannot be brought into the palace.
Palace of Versailles Visitor Tips
Like other cultural institutions in France, the Palace of Versailles is free to visit for European Citizens under 26 years old. This includes entrance to the palaces, gardens, and exhibitions, and comes with a free audio guide. If you’re a EU citizen of 25 years old or younger, do remember to bring proof of documentation; otherwise you’ll have to pay the full price.
Older visitors or non-EU visitors have to pay a fee to get into the Palace of Versailles. Note that you have to pay extra fees if you also want access to the Trianon Palaces, Marie-Antoinette’s Estate or the Musical Fountains. You can also choose to purchase a so-called Passport that includes admission to all the palaces and the gardens. In any case, it’s wise to purchase your ticket online in advance to avoid the lines. Check Château de Versailles for the different types of admission tickets and specific opening times.
Another thing worth mentioning is there are different rules at the Palace of Versailles when it comes to taking pictures. In the gardens you’re free to take pictures as you like, but inside you’re not allowed to use flash, and in some rooms photography is forbidden entirely. If you’re not sure about the restrictions, ask a tour guide or staff.
Our last tip is to visit the Palace of Versailles early in the morning if you can. This is the best way to beat the crowds, and will also ensure you have enough time to explore the area at your own leisure.
If you’re looking for accommodation in Paris, have a look at our Paris vacation rental apartments. We have many apartments available in the southwestern part of Paris, which makes it easier to get to Versailles on time!
Visit the City of Versailles
If you’ve still got some time left after your visit to the Palace of Versailles, the City of Versailles is a great place to end the day. When you walk across the grand avenues you can easily see how the city of Washington D.C. in the USA was inspired by the design of Versailles. The royal influence of the palace can also be felt all over in the affluent city, which became a part of the metropolitan area of Paris when the suburbs of Paris reached Versailles in the second half of the 20th Century. Today the City of Versailles still feels like its own town, with some beautiful squares, cafes and markets.
- See the Saint Louis Neighborhood near the Palace of Versailles
The area directly east from the Palace of Versailles is the Saint Louis neighborhood. The proximity to the palace gives it a certain royal feel, but the small paved roads and cozy buildings also make it one of the most pleasant areas of the city. This neighborhood is also where the former village of Versailles was located, before the Palace was constructed.
Today, there are many cafes and restaurants found all around the area, so you can enjoy some great French cuisine after a day of walking around Versailles. There are some nice cafes with terraces next to the Paroisse Saint Louis, which is a beautiful cathedral and national monument of France.
Another attraction in the neighborhood is the Potager du Roi, or Kitchen Garden of the King. This garden used to produce fruit and vegetables for the royal court, and today it is run by a school for landscape architects and also open to visitors.
- Stroll through the Notre Dame Neighborhood in Versailles
Another great area in the City of Versailles is the Notre Dame neighborhood. Named after the Notre Dame Church in the center of the neighborhood, this area offers many great French shops. It is also famous for the Rive Droite Market, which is located at the intersection of the Rue de la Paroisse and the Rue du Maréchal Foch, on the Place Carée. This indoor and outdoor market offers all kinds of fresh produce, and is said to be one of the best markets in the greater Paris area. As most French food markets, this market closes in the afternoon so be sure to get there early! You can even choose to visit the market before the palace, so you can buy a picnic to take to the Versailles Gardens.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our tips about the Palace and City of Versailles. Have you ever visited Versailles? What did you enjoy the most?
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