If you read some of my reviews you can't ignore that my first favorite palace inside Paris is Le Louvre and the second, although outside Paris (30 min by the RER), is Versailles.
I must confess that on my first visit in 1967 I was not really enthusiast with the Château de Versailles but that was before the large restoration campaign called the project of "le Grand Versailles". On my second visit in 2008 I became really enthusiast and could not stop writing 35 reviews on Versailles under the title "ON THE STEPS OF MARIE-ANTOINETTE" .
You see, on the contrary of the Tour Eiffel that you can visit in half an hour, for Versailles you will need a full day to visit the various parts of the "Château", the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the gardens. And that's not enough, you need to prepare your visit by reading at least some books about King Louis XIV otherwise you will not understand the essence, the soul of Versailles.
There are at Versailles two inspirations: the male inspiration of grandeur from King Louis XIV and the female inspiration for intimacy from Queen Marie-Antoinette.
Before my visit I read the biography of Queen Marie-Antoinette by Stefan Zweig, a book written in 1933 but still fascinating. I tried to follow in the various palaces the life of this socialite and extravagant Queen whose brother, the emperor Joseph II of Austria, said that she was a "tête à vent" a head with wind.
I was lucky to be there on the day of opening of the Petit Trianon, after its restoration; what touched me most was that small artificial cave in the gardens behind the Petit Trianon. The small cave has nothing nice, but it was there on the evening of October 5, 1789, that Queen Marie-Antoinette was informed about the march on Versailles by the Parisian rioters.
Could she imagine in that cave that her husband Louis XVI and she would be beheaded four years later?
Saving time & money
Fondest memory: Went to the Palace of Versailles recently. Discovered that the Palace was not open till 12noon. Most people just waited and queued till 12 noon. Discovered that you can go into the gardens for free until 12. So if you get there early and the Palace is not open walk across to the Trianons first. If you get back in the main gardens by 12 there is no charge. Its only 3 euros but every little helps.
Chateau de Versailles
Originally a hunting lodge, respecting the wishes of Louis XIV and his architect Louis Le Vau, the Chateau de Versailles became the official residence of the kings of France as of 1682. Under constant renovations during the reign of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI, the building is a mixture of different architectural styles that blend together quite well. If the Galerie des Glaces or the Chambre du Roi are the two most popular rooms, the gardens (which are free), the Pavillon de la Reine or the Orangerie are also well worth a visit.
If you wish to beat the suffocating crowds at Versailles, arrive early...no later than 9 a.m. when it opens, or in the late afternoon. It is most crowded on Tuesdays, when most museums are closed. But on Wednesday, it's not as crowded.
It's wise to have a museum pass...you can breeze past the long line to purchase tickets and enter through Gate B-2. This entrance is for museum pass-holders who wish to tour on their own. You can enter through Gate A if you wish to have a guided tour. Audio tours are available for approx. 4 Euros.
I highly recommend avoiding Versailles on a Tuesday...unless you enjoy being herded through the palace like cattle, seeing only the back of the person's head in front of you and the ceiling.
Fondest memory: Versailles is beautiful. This was every king's dream palace. The only problem we had is that we arrived at 11, along with several bus tours. Actually enjoying the palace was nearly impossible. There was no stopping to gawk or admire or else you would be crushed and smothered by the crowd.
Fortunately, the gardens were much less crowded and the stroll to view Marie-Antoinette's hamlet was nice. The gardens are beautiful...well worth the visit!
Favorite thing: Visit Versailles - a small town at 25 km distance from Paris. Here in the XVII century the king Louis XIV (the king of the Sun) built a residence for himself. The Palace Square is really grand, you'll also enjoy the halls and the garden.
1) If you didn't manage to wake up early for Versailles (like arriving there at 9am), you're better off going there in the afternoon. We heard that crowds there are unbelievable between 11 and 2.
Instead we went to the top of Eiffel tower and had a great morning there before taking the RER from Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel direct to Versailles. It worked very well.
The crowd has eased and we paid less for entrance to the State Apartments, around 5.30 instead of 8 EUR. (after 3.30pm)
2) There is, upon exiting the Versailles Station, a McDonalds restaurant with a great indoor playground.
You could let your kid play there first before going to the palace. Thereafter my daughter has no more energy to protest 'another' castle tour(lol).
3) Read my tip on buying tickets to and from Versailles if you have a Carte Orange.
Versailles, an imposing structure with superb grounds, is a marvel to visit. A stroll through the gardens (at least a part of them) is compulsory to get a feel for the enormity of the place. We chose this option, as opposed to going inside, and loved it. The immaculate symmetry of the place is amazing and even though we happened to pick a day where the fountains had a day off, it was still a worthy trip. In saying that though, if time is very limited, due to the geographical distance from the other sites, I would leave this for another visit.
If one has the time, I was quite keen to hire a canoe to traverse the huge “dam” for want of a better word.
A tour of the interior would also have been nice, though due to the enormity of the place, only a fragment is open to the public
visit the Palace of Versailles. We went with a local guide, and it was just amazing. You may be able to appreciate its beauty from photographs, but you can never realize its size, its monstrousity, unless you actually go and visit. The ladies' wing is fully furnished and restored to its previous glamor, as left by Marie Antoinette. Just walking up to the enormous palace is breathtaking; the roof itself stretches 33 ACRES! Don't forget the key attractions, though: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral!
Fondest memory: The Palace of Versailles and the Louvre. Paris is wonderful, and I consider Versailles an extension to the beauty of Paris. Why? Because Paris probably looked the same as Versailles 'back in the day'. Versailles is essentially what everyone wanted the perfect place to look like. The largest, most wonderful palace, I suppose, yet with its drawbacks. Also, if you're one for art galleries, visit the Louvre. I only regret I could not visit the Musée d'Orsay, which is another gallery featuring impressionistic art.
This palace should be the great treasure of France, and they definitely have enough reasons to be proud of it.
Have a glance at my travelogue:
the Back Garden of Versailles
To be honest, this's the most impressive garden for me and I also believe this's the best garden in the world.
I did spend the whole day in strolling around this garden! :-)
Go to Versailles Its 20 km outside of Paris.
In 1661 the architect began building the huige palace and gardens by order of Louis XIV. 21 Years later it was finished.
In 1832 after devestations of the revolution the palace became a historical museum and in the 20th century the palace and its gardens was renovated.
In 1919 the peace-treaty of world war I was signed in the Galeries des Glaces, one of the huge rooms in the palace.
Favorite thing: visit the Palace of Versailles. This is definitely a day-trip outside of Paris. Don't go on a hot day because the Palace is very poorly ventillated, and human traffic through the rooms is limited to one single file line. (Arrghh!)
visit Versailles, if you've the time. It's a short ride on the RER out of Paris, but in my opinion it's worth the trip when you've seen everything else or need a change. It's not everyone's cup of tea, mind you, and it's very crowded. You have to queue for timed tickets to the different wings of the palace, and it's likely you may not get to see it all in one day. Decide which bit you'd like to see most.
The gardens are at their best when the fountains are on, which isn't often. Check at tourist information if this is important to you.
Here I am in 'The Hall Of Mirrors' at Versailles.
Favorite thing: When you're in Paris, you must afford the trip to Versailles of course. Take the RER with the final station Versailles - Rive Gauche, since this is the cheapest and most convenient way to get there. And how to describe Versailles in one word? HUGE!!! You'll get lost there, I can assure you, but whatever you do, don't miss the gardens, since they are magnificent...get lost in them and discover secret corners and passages in this maze of ponds, trees and flowers.
One of the most visited monuments in France, amongst the three most visited, is the Palace of Versailles. Wanting to escape the busy life in Paris, and to keep the nobility under his control, Louis XIV built this chateau in which he set up home and installed the government. Louis Le Vau was commissioned to renovate and extend an old hunting lodge, Le Notre created the gardens from swamp land, and Mansart masterminded the hydraulic display of the fountains.