Versailles is so far off the beaten path that it is an entirely different town. However, it is a Paris must-see and is easily available using the Paris RER train (and Metro if you aren't near an RER line).
What you will see depends on what time of year and what day you go, but honestly, Versailles is impressive any time. If you get a glorious sunny weekend day in late spring when the fountains are are going, it is paradise, albeit paradise shared with many other people. If you go in November on a cold rainy day, you will have company but not very much and will have the gardens to yourself.
The musical fountains are only on at certain times so if you want to see them, check the Versailles web site for dates and times. The gardens are gardens so only bloom when it's the season to bloom. In November and other cold months, there will be no flowers and many of the large ornamental vases will be covered in huge canvas coverings. Of course, the gardens are free then too . . .
The chateau web site has a graph of best times to visit and where you can buy tickets ahead of time to avoid the lines. This changes periodically so it's a good idea to check. If you have a Paris Museum Pass, Versailles is included. If you want to buy a ticket ahead, you an do it online or (right now) at an FNAC store in Paris.
Look up Versailles before you go to see what you want to visit, We have visited the chateau, the gardens, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette's Hameau. The Hameau or little country village of Marie Antoinette was my favorite part and if you have children, they will love it there. You will see lots of animals from rabbits to cows and sheep. There are swans and ducks and if you've saved some luncheon baguette crumbs, you can feed them. In the spring it is especially fun with brand new baby animals.
The famous Hall of Mirrors in the Chateau has been recently renovated and looking very spiffy so don't miss that. It may be worth it to take the audio guide or a guided tour if you only have one chance to visit. That way you will know what you are seeing.
Adjacent to the big palace, a wing with the name of Grand Trianon was built in 1687 to replace the "Trianon de porcelaine" used by Louis XIV in his unofficial loving affairs.
The building has an Italian look, and it is famous mainly for its gardens.
The gardens of the Palace of Versailles are spectacular! Hubby studdied this when he did his garden design course so this was a hilight of our Paris trip for hubby. You could not get the smile off his face! :o)
We boarded the train from St Michael N-Dame on the yellow line to Versailles after our photo tour with Sab. Stevemt was interested in seeing the Palace and hubby and I decided to just do the gardens. So after a nice light lunch when we arrived we broke up and did our tours.
I was quite impressed at the magnitude of the gardens and I loved the statues.... but after seeing Monet's garden the next day and the gardens of Marjorelle in Marrakech, Morocco.... I must say that this type of formal garden is not my 'cup of tea'. I am not disappointed I saw this as I now have an experience to compare with others to. Everyone is different. Hubby just loved his experience in the gardens of Versailles. I thought they were amazing on a grand scale but I prefer smaller, cottage style gardens. I am not so into formal stuff. But it was nice to appreciate this spectacular site and I am glad we went.
Please share our day with me in the travelogue below.
I loved this palace, but unfortunately we did not see much of the gardens or any of the smaller palaces on the grounds. That is the one drawback if you are with a tour group, time is always limited and you only see certain things that they deem most important.
This is just one of those tips you will get by taking to someone who knows! When I bought my Day Pass ticket the lady at the office told me to go to the Dauphin’s Apartments First, because all the bus loads full of tourist visit the Chateau before they go somewhere else which causes really huge queues! So there were no queues at the Dauphin’s Apartments and I could go everywhere I wanted with the audio guided tour. Great tip! So I discovered that the first hour at this part of the museum was really optimal. The Dauphin’s apartments provides a history-rich glimpse into the apartments of the heir to the French throne (i.e. the Prince Charles of his day). Maybe the rooms were much less ornate but still pretty grand, with Madame de Pompadour’s harpsichord and organ, plus a wonderful day bed that was very tempting! I could see really a lot of nice furniture and was amazed by all the very nice portraits made by famous French painters of that time.
Walking around the Dauphin’s Apartment just made me wonder how all this beautiful stuff got into these rooms. Painting, chairs, beds, you name it. All so beautiful and worth a picture I guess. Just halfway my tour I got the answer to my question, a sign told me something about the Garde Meuble. The Garde Meuble made sure the crown was up to date on Paris decorating styles and innovations in furniture making. The audio tour informed me this way: “The Garde Meuble kept in touch with the latest trends and always ordered things in the most fashionable taste,'' said Pierre Arizzoli-Clementel, the chief curator of the museum of the Château de Versailles. Also another fragment of the audio tour:''Founded by Louis XIV in 1663, the Garde Meuble was responsible for supplying the King, his family and household with the movable elements of decoration: textiles, furniture, lighting accessories, table wares, silver and carpets,'' said Philippe Perrin, a third-generation Paris dealer in 17th- and 18th-century. Amazing isn’t it, that there is actually such an organisation which provides this kind of services.
I found it a lot of fun to learn some more about the history of this particular part of the Chateau during my visit. Like I said earlier, I was quite alone and had the ability to read all the signs and listen to my audio guide in peace. The Dauphin of France was the title given to the heir apparent of the throne of France from 1350 to 1791, and from 1824 to 1830. The wife of the Dauphin was known as la Dauphine. The title was roughly equivalent to the English title Prince of Wales, the Scottish title Duke of Rothesay, or the Spanish title Prince of Asturias. Another funny fact is that according to Luynes, the dauphin’s apartments were removed to the ground floor in 1747 partly because the entourage and fuss prescribed etiquettes. I was truly amazed by this small part of the Chateau, I had no idea that there was such a space available just only for the heir to the throne. I walked my way around and saw beautiful furniture like a small, exquisite writing table in the Louis XV style, with floral designs in marquetry of exotic woods and exceptionally fine gilded rococo mounts. And also much other pieces, the kind of extraordinary 18th-century craftsmanship. So, don’t forget to visit this part of the Chateau as well, you won’t be sorry!
This creation of Marie-Antoinette's Estate is part of the Grand Versailles project that aims most notably to show Versailles'contrasts: Classical and Baroque, destitution and extravagance, male inspiration from Louis XIV and female inspiration from Marie-Antoinette to Madame Pompadour, to name just a few. The Petit Trianon and its gardens are inseparably linked from Marie-Antoinette: she was the only queen who imposed her personal tastes on Versailles, scoffing at Court traditions. In the Trianon estate, which Louis XVI gave to her in 1774, she found a haven of privacy that allowed her to escape from the rigours of Court Etiquette. No one could enter without her personal invitation. I vistited the Petit Trianon just after I had an intensive look at the Grand Trianon. Did I feel myself lonely at the Grand Trianon ... right at the Petit Trianon it became even worse. No one in sight, no where to be seen! Where were all those bus loads of tourists? At least not right here. The Petit Trianon marks the start of the Neo-Classical style. The ground floor is organised around a central vestibule and a staircase of honour. The first floor comprises: an antechamber, a large dining room, a small ding room, a living room, a boudoir of Cabinet and the Queen's Room.
Being indside the building I read a lot of its history. I quote a sign:"As a child, Louis XV used to say, 'I do so like the Trianon'. He was referring, of course, to the Grand Trianon. In the 1750s, Madame de Pompadour brought him back to the spot. The king liked to stroll with her to the new menagerie, through the botanical gardens, and the greenhouses that the famous scientist Bernard de Jussieu had just installed. On returning from these promenades, the king would stop in the new pavilion built in the middle of the formal garden, where he would file his herbals or have a light refreshment of milk and strawberries, or sup in the cool salon. Starting in 1763, he succumbed to the arguments of Madame de Pompadour and her brother, Marigny, and ordered that a new chateau be built, the Petit Trianon. It was completed in 1768." I found my way through the beautiful building, which was made into a museum dedicated to Marie-Antoinette in 1867. I ended up at the Queen's Theatre, one of the most beautiful and historical buildings in Europe. It reveals a little known side to the life of Marie-Antoinette. To perfect her French, Marie-Antoinette took comedy classes, and she acted while still in Vienna with her family, from this came her taste for the theatre.
Yes, well ... what to say about this ... Sacraficing a part of the botanical garden of Louis XV, Marie-Antoinette asked her architect Richard Mique and the painter Hubert Robert to create a more picturesque garden, in the English-style.
Before I went to Versailles I read that one of the most visited monuments in France 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. It's fair to say that Versailles is the most famous garden in the world. Yet 'garden' is scarcely a fitting designation. The scale is monumental and there is little sense of enclosure, trully ... it's huge! There are imaculate parterres, great basins, an orangery, a vast collection of outdoor sculptures, rich bosquets (ornamental groves), a 1.8 km cruciform canal and some of the grandest fountains which have ever been made. It is resplendent as the prime example of the French Baroque style and I loved every minute I spended in it.
Like I wrote before ... the gardens are now one of the most visited public sites in France, receiving more that six million visitors a year. In addition to the meticulous manicured lawns, parterres of blooming flowers, and sculptural masterwork are the fountains, which are located throughout the garden. Between 1664 and 1668, a flurry of activity was evidenced in the gardens – especially with regard to fountains and new bosquets. I hiked my way around and could see all fine examples from this timeline. Of course you can't miss the Bassin de Latone which is located on the east-west axis just west and below the Parterre d’Eau. Designed by André Le Nôtre, sculpted by Gaspard and Balthazar Marsy, and constructed between 1668-1670, amazing work. Another one I can't forget is the Bassin d’Apollon, which lies further along the east-west axis and was constructed 1668-1671. And finally have a look at the Grand Canal. With a length of 1,500 meters and a width of 62 meters, the Grand Canal, which was built between 1668-1671, physically and visually prolongs the east-west axis to the walls of the Gardens. But just stroll around, try to get lost and do have a look at the Parterre d’Eau, Bassin des Sapins and Pièce d’Eau des Suisses as well!
The gardens of Versailles occupy part of what was once the Domaine royale de Versailles. Situated to the west of the palace, the gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French Garden style.
Just to get an idea, here are some facts I collected during my hike:
Number of trees: 200,000;
Flowers planted annually: 210,00;
Number of fountains: 50;
Number of jets of water: 620;
Surface area of the Grand Canal: 23 ha;
Perimeter of the Grand Canal: 5.57 km;
Amount of piping to feed the fountains: 35km;
It was completed over a period of 20 years;
The whole project involved 26,000 workers and 6,000 horses.
Do remember that the gardens of Versailles are so vast that it is almost impossible to absorb them in the course of a day. I stayed there for 11 hours walking and hiking. I did not even see it all, but came a long way!
To be honest ... this is why I wanted to visit the Estate of Versailles -> Marie-Antoinette's Estate. It has always facinated me why she had this particular spot all to herself at this beautiful estate. So off I went for a hike toward the first section, the Grand Trianon, which was erected in 1687 - 1688 by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart to provide Louis XIV with a retreat at the far end of the park at Versailles, far from the constraints of power and the crowd of courtiers. It could be reached by boat along the Grand Canal, and it replaced a "Pavillon d'agrément" used to take refreshments, which had been built on the same spot by Louis Le Vau in 1670. As it was then covered with blue and white porcelain, it was called the Porcelain Trianon. I was really surprised by the fact that I seemed to be the only one undertaking this journey. The 30 minute hike towards the Grand Trianon was a solo one, but beautiful and I entered the gate of the Grand Trianon with really nobody in sight. Where was everybody?
Because of the "Passeport" (A ticket for non guided visits for the entire day) I was able to enter the Grand Trianon rather easily. I saw that this building with its Italianate architecture has merely a ground flooor, covered with a flat roof hidden by a balustrade. Pink Languedoc marble pilasters punctuate the facades. The palace consits of two wings joined together by a peristyle adorned with columns through which I could catch a glimpse of the ornamental and flower gardens. Once inside I followed the non guided tour (green signs). Most of all I was impressed by the Mirror Room (sorry ... no picture because of a guard!). But this large room used to be the Empress's study and still has some of its original furniture in place. The tour was a followed:
Louis XIV's Bedchamber - bedchamber and 2nd drawing-room of the Empress;
Chapel Room - Empress's first drawing-room;
Lords Room - the King's antechamber;
Peristyle - chamber with view at the courtyard side;
Round Room - sitting room for ushers attending the Emperor;
Family Drawing-Room - formerly a theatre;
Music Room - antechamber of Louis XIV;
Malachite Room - bedroom of the Duchesse de Bourgogne;
Cool Room - large private room of the Duchesse de Bourgogne;
Spring Room - Emperor's map room;
Cotelle Galaery - Large room with painted views of Versailles and the Grand Trianon.
Just before I ended the non guided tour I learned from a guard that all the rooms that I visited have kept their mural decoration dating from the time of Louis XIV, with finely carved wood panelling, painted in white and ungilded, as well as decorative paintings. It has been refurnished as it was during the First Empire, except for a few pieces dating from the time of Louis-Philippe. After that interesting history lesson I continued towards the ornamental and flower gardens. It's quite another formal garden, which was built on the site of a former village. Set in the midst of a lush garden, its primary lavishness was floral flowerbeds and they were changed daily, orange trees were planted in the ground, jasmine covered the bowers. Beautiful! Finally it's good to remember that I read that the Grand Trianon was brought back to life again thanks to a decision taken by General de Gualle. Important renovations were undertaken in 1962 - 1965.
My last trip to France in 2008, I finally visited Versailles. Liz has visited several times over her trips to France and loves the opulence and grandeur of the former Kings of France. We hopped on a train and set off to explore Versailles.
We visited during a cloudy day but were fortunate enough to have some sun for a majority of the visit. I had seen pictures of Versailles before and I can honestly say they do not do justice to the real thing. The grounds are magnificent, the artwork is breathtaking, the fountains are huge and the Hall of Mirrors was better than I anticipated.
This is a definite must do for anyone visiting the surrounding areas.
Versailles is a huge MUST. You can get there easily by train and it doesn't take too long. The Palace and gardens are just beautiful. Don't miss Marie Antoinette's village or the Hall of Mirrors.Check the website for open times and prices. You can purchase tickets online to avoid the queues.
Also visit Monet's garden at Giverny. I've not been there but is on our list for our trip later this year
There is also so much to see in and around Paris, enjoy!
The gardens are really parklands which have been divided into sections and then developed into speciality gardens and groves. You will find most things have been done on a grand scale with the fountains giving a magnificent display and although they do not flow for the whole day they are turned on at specific times. We were there at 3:30pm to see them in their grandure and what a sight they were with crowds of people attempting to get the perfect photo.
Marie- Antoinette was responsible for developing the gardens to what we see today. From the Palace to the top of the Grand Canal is 1 km which should give you an idea of the size of these gardens. We walked through the gardens and had lunch down by the Grand Canal where there are several good restaurants and snack food cafes where you can obtain drinks and light meals to enjoy on the lawns.
It is a delightful setting which in itself is a worthy attraction and certainly compliments the Palace.
We visited the Palace and gardens on a Saturday, allocating most of the day to this magnificent palace and gardens. There is no need to take a coach tour, save the expense and catch the metro to Versailles-Rive Gauche, approximately 40 minutes, and then purchase your entry ticket and guided tour of the palace from one of the ticket sellers near the station, you will see their notices.
Pre purchase of our tickets gave us immediate entry and saved at least a half hour or more in the line. Our guide arrived at 12:20 and took us through the palace, her commentary and English were excellent.
The guided tour of the palace was limited to specific rooms, however we were able to see many rooms including the King and Queen's separate bedrooms, the Hall of Mirrors, Chapelle Royale, Salon de Venus etc. What we saw during the 90 minutes was sheer opulence. The palace was the indulgence of Louis X1V who commenced construction in 1664 and a century later Marie Antoinette was responsible for establishing the magnificent gardens with the elaborate fountains, the canal and landscaped parklands.
The fountains do not operate all day and are turned on several times during the day, we were there for the 3:30pm performance which was a sight to remember. I thought the gardens were just as good as the palace and make certain you are there to see the fountains operate.
Cost of the guided Palace tour was Euro 25, this included entry to the gardens.
Versailles is a neat place. It's not only historical, but it can also be a fun place to spend time with those you're with. I would suggest that this be one of the first places you visit in Paris. This was the first place I went to in Europe, and there were people from all over the world, all speaking different languages. It was a neat feeling to know that Versailles was a place that all of these different people wanted to experience along with me!
Versailles contains 700 rooms- wow! I mean, who would need that many rooms? Even a King doesn't need that many rooms! Well, you probably won't get to all of them, especially if there's a crowd. It's easy to get caught in a "human traffic jam", so just enjoy the room you're stuck in at the time. My favorite part were the outside gardens, which were huge! There are fish in the pond, so watch for them to jump out! You can also take a ride in a boat on the pond. Get to Versailles, even if just to a couple of rooms and a part of the gardens. Pick up some brochures (which come in a variety of languages) to learn the history behind the amazing Versailles. You have to experience it for yourself!
Versailles, formerly the de-facto capital of France, is now a wealthy suburb of Paris and is still an important administrative and judicial center. The city (commune) of Versailles is located in the western suburbs of Paris, 17.1 km. (10.6 miles) from the center of Paris.
Versailles is made world-famous by the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles).
King Louis XIV called himself the Sun King, and upgraded the hunting lodge his father built into probably the biggest palace complex in the world (Sultan of Brunei's palace is pretty large too). Frankly, I was disappointed with the Palace of Versailles because after the French Revolution, most of the beautiful treasures in it were plundered.
The palace was full or people and while walking through the halls, we were pushed to move on by those behind us. Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna is much better, it still has its collection of art & furniture intact. The highlight of the palace is renowned 75m (250ft) Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, signifying the end of World War I.
Admission is Euro8 for adults