Before becoming the most opulent palace in Europe, the Palace of Versailles was merely a hunting lodge of Louis XIII in the suburbs of Paris. It was his son, Louis XIV, who decided to make a “makeover” and transform the place into a model of the royal residence in Europe and the maximum expression of Baroque.
Today, it is merely one of the most famous castles in the world. A must for tourists coming to France, as well as its beautiful French gardens and the pastoral refuge of Marie Antoinette.
So I have prepared a guide to the Palace of Versailles with all the information you need to know before you visit and a summary of the history that is super interesting. Come and see it!
How is the Palace of Versailles
For starters, the Palace of Versailles, or Château de Versailles, was built to be the residence of King Louis XIV. It is said that the monarch wanted a place not far from Paris, but far enough away from the conflicts at the time. I also wanted to be in an area that could be easier to spot enemies from afar.
Moreover, Louis XIV wanted to create a place to be the center of the Royal Court and the seat of the Government of France, that is, a place where he could establish an Absolute Monarchy. The Palace of Versailles was also the home of kings Louis XV and Louis XVI. It is surrounded by woods that form a large green area and symmetrical gardens with flower beds, statues, vases, and beautiful fountains. It underwent renovations during their respective reigns.
One of the most visited places in France, with an average of eight million tourists a year, the Palace of Versailles has inspired many other castles around the world, such as the Herrenchiemsee Palace in Germany and the Schönbrunn Palace in Austria.
The palace has been transformed into a museum in 1837. It impresses not only with its size but also with its extremely luxurious surroundings. For example, the king’s room that was pure gold and the Gallery of Mirrors, in a time when the mirror was a super expensive item.
With 350 years of history, the Palace of Versailles is organized as follows:
◊ Palace History Gallery: There are eleven rooms dedicated to the history of the building of the palace, with many works and video clips to be seen while listening to the audio guide.
◊ Large Apartments: This is the area where is the famous and beautiful Mirror Gallery, with over 300 mirrors and ornate chandeliers, which was a room used for parties and important meetings. On the same floor are the king’s room, the queen’s room, and several other chambers.
◊ Ladies’ Apartment: These exquisite mega apartments belonged to the daughters of Louis XV.
◊ Louis XIV Rooms: Several rooms designed for ceremonies and events of the King, the royal family, and the Court.
◊ Battles Gallery: Created by Louis-Phillipe in the nineteenth century. It aimed to celebrate all French battles through thirty huge canvases that occupy the walls on either side of the room.
THE TYPICALLY FRENCH GARDEN
It is composed of flower beds, woods, statues, fountains, and lakes. The Versailles gardens were created by landscaper André Le Nôtre who worked for many years for King Louis XIV.
The project took a few decades to complete and has a symmetrical gardening style and subsequently gave rise to the “French Garden” style. It’s all so aligned and right that it’s hard not to fall in love.
For me, it’s the most pleasant part! For you have numerous activities to enjoy in the gardens. You can go biking, picnicking, boating, walking, or just relaxing on the lawn near one of the lakes. Of course, to do all this, the best time is between spring and summer, when it is hot and the days are longer.
Walking in the whole garden on foot can be a bit tiring, and so there are several options for internal transport such as:
⇒ Bike € 5.50 half an hour and € 7.50 an hour
⇒ Train: 7,50 € (Takes you from the Château to the Grand and Petit Trianon)
⇒ Boat: 13 € half an hour and 17 € an hour
GRAND AND PETIT TRIANON
Over the years, several other independent buildings have been added, including the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon palaces.
The Grand Trianon is a smaller pink marble palace. It was built in 1687 so that Louis XIV could have a place to escape the formalities of the Court (formalities created by himself) and also keep his romance with Madame Montespan.
In the reign of Louis Phillipe, the Grand Trianon underwent a restoration. Several rooms were modified entirely, such as the room of Louis XIV, which became the room of Empress Marie Louise. The anti-bedroom of the first apartment of Louis XIV became a pool room for Louis Phillipe’s children.
The Petit Trianon was designed for Louis XV and his mistress Marquesa de Pompadour, who died before the work was completed. But as the king wasted no time, the palace was inaugurated in 1769 with the presence of the Countess du Barry (the new “little friend” of Louis XV).
However, the Petit Trianon is much more tied to the image of Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. She repaginated everything, turning the place into her refuge away from the pomp of the Court. The queen even asked for a part of the gardens to have an English style, designed by Hubert Robert.
MARIE ANTOINETTE’S DOMAIN
In addition to the Petit Trianon mansion, the Domaine de Marie Antoinette is made up of gardens, a lake, and an exclusive Marie Antoinette party pavilion.
A curiosity is that no one could enter without her permission, not even her husband, the king! In this area farther from the main palace, the queen had privacy to receive her guests, in a rural environment and not so full of frills.
To get there, you have to walk, but the journey is delightful, and you feel that country vibe. There is still the Temple of Love, which is cute and deserves taking a few pictures.
Best way to visit the Versailles Palace
First of all, I recommend booking a full day for the tour, as the palace is on the outskirts of Paris and has many things to see. The second tip is to buy tickets in advance over the internet. This way, you only get the input queue.
When you enter the Palace of Versailles, you have two options to start the tour. The first suggestion is to start with the castle, with the audio guide (it is included in the ticket’s price and available in many languages.) This way, you can understand the whole history behind the Palace of Versailles and the “Sun King.”
You have all the explanations that allow you to create a line of reasoning to continue the tour.
The downside of this option is that most people arrive and are already going straight to the palace making some areas overcrowded, such as the Mirror Gallery. So an alternative to getting away from the crowd is to arrive as early as possible.
The second suggestion is for anyone who hates queues. Start the tour of the gardens and the mansions, leaving the main palace last. However, it is worth remembering that it is a significant tourist spot, so there will always be people.
Below you will find the information you need to organize your visit: tickets, times, the best time to go, plus other important information and tips.
WHEN TO VISIT VERSAILLES
Visiting the palace is always a great experience, whatever the season. However, during the winter, it is colder to walk through the gardens, and most sculptures are covered to protect them from low temperatures. As I said earlier, the ride gets more enjoyable and enjoyable during spring and summer.
To avoid a crowded world, try to go between Wednesday and Friday because the other days have a more significant flow of people. Also, try to arrive early at the castle – the gates open at 9am.
VERSAILLES PALACE OPENING HOURS
Palace: Open daily except Monday 9am – 6:30 pm
Gardens: Open daily from 8am to 8:30 pm
⇒ Tip: On the official website of the castle, you can find the days with the most significant flow of people and the weather forecast for each day.
VERSAILLES PALACE TICKETS
The one-day passport costs € 20 and gives you access to the Château, Grand and Petit Trianon, gardens and park, Marie Antoinette’s Domains, and temporary exhibitions.
You can buy it either on the castle’s official website or on authorized websites that have exciting combos.
For example, Paris City Vision offers small group guided tours, queue-free audio-guided tours, and bus tours.
If you only want to visit the palace gardens, entrance is free except during peak season (March 31 – October 31). Also, the first Sunday of each month, between November and March, the Palace and Domaine Trianon have free admission.
However, I recommend avoiding this day, as this is when the French also enjoys visiting the castle. Result: more queues and you may not be able to visit as well.
⇒ Important: If you plan to visit the main palace and the mansions, you need to buy a ticket. For all types of tickets, I suggest you visit the Château de Versailles official website.
How to get to Versailles from Paris
For me, the best option is to take the RER C5 (passes through several stations within Paris) and get off at Versailles Rive Gauche, which is the closest station to the castle. But I leave all the available options below:
⇒ By train from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers station;
⇒ By train from Gare Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite station;
⇒ From RER, line C, which stops at Versailles Chantiers and Versailles Rive Gauche stations.
Note: On the site www.ratp.fr/itineraires, you can plan the right route.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN VERSAILLES PALACE
Inside the Palace of Versailles, you have some (more expensive) options for eating and drinking, such as Salon de Thé Angelina, with many delights, Le Grand Café d´Orléans restaurant and contemporary Ore by star chef Alain Ducasse.
In the gardens, there are far more places to eat (and cheaper too), such as Brasserie de la Girandole, set right in the middle of the garden. In addition to the restaurants, the gardens are full of kiosks for a quick bite or a natural orange juice.