Just a short 12 mile from the centre of Paris is the wonderful Palace of Versailles. Easily accessible by public transport, Versailles should not be missed. To help you get there and enjoy the day, this article will provide you with some Versailles Palace travel tips.
Versailles Palace was built to impress and, to this day, still does so. It is built on a grand scale and with a level of opulence not often seen anywhere in the world. The surrounding gardens in which the Palace is set are equally impressive. Its significance has been recognised by its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
A few interesting facts about Versailles
The Palace, Gardens and its history are fascinating:
At 2,014 acres, Versailles is the World’s Largest Royal Domain.
The gardens at Versailles took 40 years to complete
There are 700 rooms, 2000 windows and 67 staircases within the Palace
In 1789, the French Revolution forced Louis XVI and queen Marie Antoinette to leave Versailles for Paris. The Palace would never again be a royal residence.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919, in the Hall of Mirrors, formally ending World War I.
Planning your visit
When to visit
Versailles is a wonder to see whenever you visit, but given the gardens are such an integral part of the experience, spring and summer will allow you to see these at their very best. Spring is preferable as the summer timing also brings with it the peak crowds of tourists
The buildings are closed on Mondays though you can see the gardens every day.
For a unique experience, plan your visit in July for Bastille Day celebrations, featuring pyrotechnics, fireworks, and historical figures.
Entry for all events and locations costs €27 which includes access to the house, gardens, temporary exhibitions and the musical and fountain shows. For an additional €10 you can access a guided tour.
There is cheaper entry:
€20 Palace and Gardens – excludes the fountain shows and musical gardens
Plan a full day for the trip as the Palace and its grounds take quite a while to explore. Versailles is a very busy tourist attraction so try to beat the crowds. Be there early, the gates open at 9am. The Palace does not open on Mondays. However, it is open all year except December 25th and January 1st. The Gardens are open every day.
In addition to the house and gardens Versailles hosts many exhibitions throughout the year. These range from art, classical music and to events of the National Equestrian Academy of Versailles. Check the online information to see what is happening around the time you plan to visit.
We booked our entry tickets and a small (8 person) guided walking tour prior to the day of our visit. We always like a guided tour as we then do not miss anything we should be looking at.
Having pre-purchased tickets made it a lot easier to get into the Palace. If you buy at the Versailles entry, lines can be very long. Our guide made sure we missed none of the important things to see and do. The tour lasted for half of the day with the time pretty much equally spent between the Palace interior and the gardens. The guide then left us to enjoy free time and wander wherever we wanted. There are a number of firms offering tours of Versailles so you will have plenty of choice.
Make sure your footwear is comfortable and suitable for rough ground as some of the areas are uneven or gravel covered.
How to get to Versailles
The least fuss and easiest way to get to Versailles is by train. You can choose to travel independently to Versailles and meet a tour group there if you are taking a tour. Many operators provide group tours leaving from Paris with return train fares and guided tour of the house and gardens included in the price.
The train costs around €7 one way – make sure to buy a return ticket in case there are queues on the return journey. The journey is about 20 minutes from Paris to Versailles and then it is a short walk to the Palace from one of the following train stations:
RER line C arrives at Versailles Château – Rive Gauche train station, just 10 minutes’ walk to the Palace.
SNCF trains from Gare Montparnasse arrive at Versailles Chantiers train station, which is 18 minutes on foot to the Palace.
SNCF trains from Gare Saint Lazare arrive at Versailles Rive Droite train station, 17 minutes on foot to the Palace.
Before you enter the Palace
The Place du Marché Notre Dame is not far from the palace. Our guide suggested we have a small refreshment break before starting the Palace tour. This is a lovely local market selling food, crafts and antiques. Stop by on your way to the Palace and browse the food and other items inside. If you have not had breakfast, there is plenty of food here to satisfy you. We had crepes and a cup of coffee before starting our tour of the Palace and grounds.
Tips for eating during your visit
There are several restaurants within the grounds of Versailles. As you would imagine, these are not cheap places to eat.
A tip whilst in the Market is to gather picnic supplies for the day. Then you can take your picnic with you into the Grounds. Note that you cannot take food or drink into the Palace buildings. If you are visiting the Palace, you can check your food into the cloakroom and collect it after touring the Palace proper. If you wish to check, read the official guidelines for entry for what can and cannot be taken into the Palace and Gardens.
We chose baguettes made up with salad and meat and some cold drinks. Our picnic also included a couple of the amazing, light and flaky pastries that France is so famous for. Later in the day, you can sit by the vast Grand Canal eating your picnic and soaking up the atmosphere. We like to people watch and enjoy half an hour of just relaxing and the cool calm of the canal vista.
Inside the Palace of Versailles
As you enter the former Royal Domain, the size of the Palace buildings and the grounds are not immediately evident. As you walk further in, the buildings begin to reveal themselves to you. Make sure that you visit the Palace interior first to beat the crowds.
The Palace exterior is very grand with its ornate gold decoration and statues around the roof. On seeing the exterior, it is still hard to visualise that there are more than 2000 rooms inside.
Once inside, you will be amazed at the display of wealth and opulence that the decoration suggests. The lifestyle of the last Royal occupants of the Palace must have been a shock to the population who gained entry to the Palace during the French Revolution.
Make sure you see the Hall of Mirrors which is a 240 foot long ballroom with over 350 mirrors on its walls and magnificent chandeliers. It has a magnificent ceiling painted with frescos of different classical scenes that mark important moments in the life of Louis XIV. This room is perhaps seen as the masterpiece of the Palace. The Hall of Mirrors was re-opened fully to the public in 2007 following a massive three-year restoration. You will see the Hall now at its absolute best.
There are many other significant rooms in the Palace that left us in awe. The King’s State Apartments, the King’s Private Apartments, the Queens apartments and the Gallery of Great battles are all there for the viewing. For us, the rooms are over the top ostentatious, but we doubt anyone could argue that it is not breath-taking in its excess.
The fountain studded gardens and the Marie-Antoinette’s romanced themed gardens are a wonder to behold. Versailles was meant to impress and demonstrate the Kings wealth. Even now it’s hard not to be breathtaken by the sheer opulence and excesses of the house and gardens.
This is where you will need those comfortable shoes plus sun protection and water. There are over 8 miles of paths to explore this vast garden and park. If the walking becomes too much, there is a tram around the gardens at a cost of 4 euros.
As you explore the garden, you pass by the Grand Canal, spectacular fountains and statues. A tour of the garden can take as long as you desire but I would allow a minimum of 3 hours to really be able to appreciate it.
Depending on what time of day you visit, you may be treated to a musical fountain show. On Saturdays and Sundays from April to October your tickets include the famous Fountain Show in the gardens. Each Tuesday and Friday, the Musical Gardens event is held.
Versailles here we come
This article is here to give you a quick taste of a day at Versailles and some of the things to see. If you are in Paris and have a day to spare, a trip to Versailles is a great way to create a lot on memories. I hope this Versailles Palace travel tips article persuades you to go.
We are the authors of our travel blog. Wayne is semi-retired and travelled quite extensively during his working years. Cally is a freelance business consultant who has also travelled widely. Both of us love to travel and we get away as often as our finances will allow us.
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