King Louis XIV and Queen Marie-Antoinette lived large until the French Revolution when the people rose up, marched to the palace and took them to dark , damp cells until their heads were removed. Versailles Palace is the extreme in opulence. It's almost too overwhelming even today. Considering that the people were starving, it seems that they took the right course.
To give you an idea of the size of the place, here are some facts from the web site:
800 hectares (2,000 acres) of grounds
20 kilometres (12 miles) of roads
11 hectares (26 acres) of roof
51,210 square meters of floors
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.
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.
The first time I visited Paris at my own, I stayed at the campsite in Versailles. Actually the visit to the Chateau de Versailles and especially its gardens were my priority.
I was a student landscape-architecture and had learned allready every detail of the gardens of Versailles during the lessons of history of gardenarchitecture.
Finally to see the enormous complex with my own eyes was an overwhelming experience. I walked around for a full day to get a overview and I realised it was not enough to see all the details.
I came back 30 years later and was surprised about the crowds visiting Versailles nowadays.
The Park of Versailles is designed in the formal French style with geometrical forms. From the palace to the west you have a great view at the 1,6KM long Gran Canal. This canal is oriented to the west to reflect the sunset. In the mainly geometrical gardens you find colourful flowerbeds, ponds and a lot of fountains and many statues of marble and bronze.
Within its borders the Park of Versailles has also an English style garden, the ''Jardins de Petit Trianon'' with bending paths and a more pastoral character. These gardens are situated nort of the Grand Canal around the two smaller palaces the Grand and Petit Trianon.
I liked to see the contrasts in those two different styles of garden design.
Though I came to Versailles in the first place for its gardens, I visited af course also the Chateau de Versailles. In the 17th century Louis XIV decided to turn the hunting lodge of his father in Versailles into a palace. This palace had to be big enough for the around 600 peopel of the court.
One of the highlights of the palace is the spectacular 70M long Galerie de Glaces, Hall of mirrors. This hall, where in 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed, meaning the end of World War I, has 17 huge mirrors at one side and 17 windows at the other side looking to the gardens.
Painting Napoleon Bonaparte
Another picture taken in the Hall of Battles (I think it was taken here anyway). Hahaha, you can see I really had some time to spend here and enjoyed doing so. I took a lot of time looking around all the painting and this was one of them with Napoleon Bonaparte. The painting is of the battle at Wagram (1809) by Horace Vernet (1789-1863). It was painted between 1835 and 1836.
The garden of Versailles
The gardens at Versailles are huge; I could never have imagined anything like this. In the foreground you can see the 'Water Parterre'. From here there are some steps down and you can start your endless walk through the gardens. In the picture you can see the green stretch in the middle which is the ‘Royal Avenue’. On either side of the ‘Royal Avenue’ are hidden smaller gardens, which are wonderful to discover. Each of them has a surprising thing, like a beautiful fountain a sculpture or just a great garden design. After the ‘Royal Avenue’ far back in the distance is the fountain of Apollo. Behind that you can see the waters of the Grand Canal. The gardens of Versailles stretch as far as the eyes can see, it’s incredible.
The doors at Versailles
As some of you might know, I love taking pictures of doors. And the doors at Versailles are really amazing. Most of them are like this one, lusciously decorated with ornaments and gold. But some are more subtle, almost invisible disappearing in the walls. It was really fun to see all these different doors and to take a picture of some of them.
The Water Parterre
The first stop is at the Water Parterre. This is a statue at the North Basin of the Water Parterre. It is called 'The Marne' and was made by Etienne Hongre (1628-1690)
The ‘Water Parterre’ has two ponds and both of them have four statues depicting the rivers and streams of France, and they also have four nymphs and four groups of children.
Basins and fountains
The last part of this page will be about the basins and fountains in the gardens of Versailles. I've added a map of this part of the garden so you will know which are I will be talking about. A map like this is great when you walk through the garden because it gives you some idea where you are and what you are looking at. My guidebook provided one of these maps which was very useful.
1 - Basin of Apollo
2 - Basin of Latone
3 - Basin of Neptune
4 - Water mirror
5 - Basin of the Obelisk
6 - Basin of Flora (Spring)
7 - Basin of Cérès (the Summer)
8 - Basin of Bacchus (the Autumn)
9 - Saturn basin (the Winter)
10 - Basin of the Dragon
11 - Basins of the Crowns
12 - Pyramid
13 - Basin of the Island of the Children
14 - Basins of the Lizards
15 - Fountain of the Point of the Day
16 - The Fountain of the Evening
17 - Basin of the South
18 - Basin of North
19 - Basin of Encelade
20 - Basin of the Orangery
21 - Large Channel
Sculpture 'The Rhone'
This is the last photo I want to show you of the sculptures at the 'Water Parterre'. It is called 'The Rhone' and it is located at the south basin. The sculpture was made by Jean-baptiste Tuby (1635-1700) and like all the other sculptures at the basin this one is also made of bronze.
View to the chateau
When you walk passed the 'Water Parterre' and turn around you have a great view of the backside of the chateau. The whole complex is huge and of course it never fits into one picture. What you see here is only a tiny part of the chateau.
'Fountain of the Evening'
Before you go down the stairs towards the basin and fountain of Latona, you should take a right turn. This will bring you to the 'Fountain of the Evening'. I really enjoyed seeing the sculptures here, and in the picture you can see one of them.
This sculpture is called 'Air' and it is made by Etienne Hongre (1628-1690), who also made the sculpture 'The Marne' at the 'Water Parterre' that I mentioned in an earlier tip.
Sculpure 'The Evening'
I hope I don’t bore you too much with all these sculptures in the garden of Versailles. But I just loved to see them so much and I wanted to share some of them with you. You’ll probably be amazed yourself when you visit Versailles by the amount of sculptures you will see here, they are everywhere you look and each of them is wonderful.
This sculpture is, like the previous one, at the ‘Fountain of the Evening’. It is called ‘The Evening’ and it is made by Martin van den Bogaert (1637-1694)