The crowds at Versailles really lightened up as the day wore on and by 6pm it was quiet (on a Wednesday). At 6pm we ended up renting bicycles and riding all around the wooded area and lake. It was very quiet and peaceful about the grounds, with only a few locals jogging, cycling or dog-walking. We ended up with great pictures and a whole different perspective on Versailles. On your way out, and when you're walking back towards the train, stop at the nice hotel and have a cocktail in the comfortable lounge!
We went to Versailles. We walked to Versailles from the train station and stood in a queue for two hours! All for, you guessed it, a metal detector scan. Unfortunately, there aren't many interesting shops in the Versailles courtyard, and it was cold, so we were pretty cranky by the time we got inside. To top it off, all the audio tours were gone, so we just walked through, reading the English pamphlet and the guide book we had. Our son was amused by the cherubs holding floor lamps (actually he was amused by the cherub backsides). We didn't bother with the gardens (after all we had stood outside for two hours already and it is winter). There were a couple of paintings there that were also in the Louvre - which were the originals? Mostly Napoleon paintings - coronation and several battle scenes.
The Palace of Versailles, or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles, the Île-de-France region of France. In French, it is known as the Château de Versailles.
When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a suburb of Paris, some twenty kilometers southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.
It was with great expectations that we waited for a sunny day to visit Versailles and its lovely gardens that we heard so much of. So early morning when I noticed the sun was shining for a change, I woke everyone up and said, get ready, we are going to Versailles. I must admit, I was rather dissapointed. Comparing it to St Petershof, it comes second in my book. Also, all the fountains were turned off, so how can you enjoy the gardens if the fountains are turned off? We were told that they only turn them on, on a Sunday, when we got there, so why was this not advertised? Anycase, I still enjoyed my day there and I know that you should not compare things. Viva la Versailles!!!!
This is a huge place, and you can only view some ( a few) of the inside rooms, and it takes a long time to get to the front of the line. Reservations for tickets should be made ahead of time. If you would rather, go view the gardens in the backyard and Maria Antoinette's serenity place. Even if you get there early in the morning, there are lines stacking up quickly, and even reserved tickets can be a problem, in that they are not necessarily. It is said to be the largest in the world, and must be bigger than Schoenbrunn. There are 700 rooms and 2,000 windows ringing the courtyard and for views to the gardens, which is 1800 acres. It was started as a hunting lodge in 1623 by King Louis XIII, to get out of the city and relax. It continued to grow, and in 1682 was designated the official residence. The problem is then the royalty were out of touch with the society in the city and in time they paid for that with lives. It became a museum in 1837, not long after the Revolution of 1792.
Louis XIV created this Palace in 1661 and what a splendid job he did too. Many additions and building campaigns have been added over the decades however.
The Palace itself is a sumptous and lavish collection of rooms beautifully complete with painting and furnishings of the time. It is howver absolutely jam packed with tourists and tour parties.
The chateau is massive, there are over 700 rooms, 2143 windows, 1252 fireplaces, and 67 staircases. Some of the areas are outstanding such as the Hall of Mirrors, Salon of Hercules and Queens Apartments.
The gardens are also vast and include roughly 1400 fountains using water pumped up from the Seine.
The Palace has seen some significant diplomatic occasions such as the signing of the WWI treaty and the treaty by Britain recognising America as an independent nation.
The Chateau has to be seen to be believed and makes a fantastic day trip from Paris.
The Palace of Versailles is located about 20km southwest of Paris, and is a very popular day trip from Paris. Louis XIV commissioned the building of the great Chateau of Versailles in the 17th Century.
From that time until the French Revolution, the government and the French aristocracy were centered in Versailles. Known for its beautiful architecture and opulent extravagance (like the famous Hall of Mirrors), Versailles attracts visitors from around the world.
Versailles was the center of French government for over 150 years until the French Revolution. The palace housed over 3,000 nobles, officials, and staff and money were not spared.
The comparison between the relatively modest room of the queen at the Petit Trianon and the royal apartments of the Palace of Versailles is striking. The small dimensions of the bed of the queen in her room at the Petit Trianon show well that here she lived as a single woman away off her royal husband.
It is known that Marie-Antoinette in her married life had known a humiliating experience. Louis XVI had been unable during 7 years to consummate the marriage. This was known in France as well as from all royal courts of Europe.
The room is entirely authentic, the furniture of origin was found, repurchased and restored. It is refined furniture signed Georges Jacob. The clock of the Queen decorated with the two eagles of the house of Austria is back on its site.
Contiguous to this room is the cabinet “of the moving mirrors” who by means of a system of sliding slopes allowed the queen to shut her windows when she wanted to isolate herself.b%
In the beginning the castle of the Petit Trianon was built (1768) for the marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV. But she died before the end of the works and was replaced by, Madame Du Barry, who succeeded as favourite until the death of the king Louis XV in 1774. The castle was built in a Neo-Greek style by the architect Angel-Jacques Gabriel; it is a masterpiece which breaks with the rococo style.
However today the Petit Trianon is closely associated with the person of queen Marie-Antoinette. She received the property from her husband king Louis XVI.
She made it her intimate refuge far from the protocol and the pageantry of the court of Versailles. She had the Petit Trianon refurnished, redecorated and she refitted the gardens. The whole at a high cost.
Only her friends were invited. The excluded and jealous French nobility took umbrage at the Petit Trianon and called it “Small Vienna”. Marie-Antoinette did not realize that her retirement and the committed expenses were going to crystallize all criticisms against her palace. While isolating herself from the French nobility the Queen would find herself without her natural supports when the revolution burst out.
On the first floor the Living room called "Salon de Compagnie", decorated with splendid woodworks carved by Guibert, is one of the most beautiful rooms of the castle. The pieces of furniture are contemporary of Marie-Antoinette.
The palace here is amazing, of course. It was a great day trip, and I came home ready to re-learn some of the French history I'd forgotten since high school. I was glad we'd walked with a guide - there really is so much in the palace to see. It may be well worth hiring the hand held guides that are usually available.
But, remember, the palace isn't the only thing in the town. Wander some of the side streets and enjoy the amazing food and atmosphere that's easy to find.
It is by entrance of the "Cour Royale" to the northern wing with the 17th c. galleries that the traditional visit of the castle of Versailles starts. The visit begins at the ground floor with a succession of decorated rooms and continues on the first floor.
On crowded days (4 million visitors/year) the visit is rather chaotic because the thousands of visitors pass from one room to another by relatively narrow doors. Moreover groups listening to the explanations of their guides slow down the visitors flow.
If you are interested by the furniture, the decoration, the paintings of this part of the castle it is better to come in low season i.e. in winter.
The nicest and spectacular part of this northern wing is in my opinion the Royal Chapel which can only bee seen from the entrance or inside on special guided visits.
The visit of the “Grands Appartments du Roi” begins with this splendid and large "Hercules drawing-room" at the junction of the central body and the northern wing.
This room built between 1712 and 1736 by Robert de Cotte occupies the site of a former chapel. It is remarkable by the decoration of the walls with marble of various colours, the many pilasters with the Corinthian style capitals of gilded bronze and especially by its marble chimney decorated with splendid bronzes of Antoine Vassé evoking Hercules. On top of the chimney hangs a painting of Veronese “Rebecca and Eliézer”.
On the wall opposite the chimney hangs another large Veronese “the Meal at Simon the Pharisee” offered to Louis XIV by the Republic of Venice in 1664.
Still more remarkable is the ceiling painted by François Moyne representing the Apotheosis of Hercules. This immense painting painted with oil on strengthened canvas was extremely admired in its time but the painter exhausted by his work committed suicide whereas he had received the title of “First Painter of the King”.
It is in this room that took place the ball given by Louis XV for the marriage of his eldest daughter Elisabeth with the Infant of Spain in 1739.
The festivities, there were many in this room, were lit by candles what fouled up the vault and the painting of Le Moyne whose restoration of 480 m2 at a height of 15 m was finished in 2001.
The Hercules Drawing-Room is one of the most remarkable parts of the Royal apartments and deserves a somewhat lengthier visit. The light is very beautiful as the "Salon d'Hercule" is exposed to the east and the west.
In the time of King Louis XIV till Louis XVI an 80 m length monumental gate separated the Main courtyard from the Royal Court. The gate was created by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart about 1680 and was destroyed by the revolutionaries in 1789.
The reconstitution of this Royal Gate started in 2006 and was ended in July 2008. It required 15 tons of iron and the cooperation of the best craftsmen of this art. The gilders patiently applied by hand 100.000 gold sheets. These gold leaves measure 8 X 8 cm and have only 2 microns thickness!
The courtyard of the Château de Versailles appears like it was prior to the French Revolution but there have been a number of critics in France about this reconstitution.
The bronze equestrian statue of Louis XIV set up at this spot in 1836 by king Louis-Philippe has been removed and is being restored. The famous statue, so often photographed by tourists, will not return to its original site now occupied by the restored gate but will be located on the Place d'Armes directly in the axis of the castle.
The interesting part of the northern wing - Galleries du XVIIe siècle - by which starts the visit of the castle is certainly the chapel (inaugurated in 1710) devoted to Saint Louis the patron of the French monarchy.
It comprises two vertical spaces:
1° the centre of the nave which one sees from the ground floor of the circuit of the 17th c. galleries where the courtiers would stand, the ladies of the royal court occupied the lateral galleries. They would stand with their back to the altar in order to look at the king.
2° the tribune overlooking the nave located on the same floor as the royal apartments.
It is from there that Louis XIV and his successors attended the daily mass at 10 am. The mass lasted approximately a half hour. Each day a new work composed by Lully, Lalande and others is sung by the chorus of the chapel.
The architecture is an original creation of Jules Hardouin-Mansart who combines Gothic and Baroque art characteristics. The decoration is exceptional by the extent of carved work.
There is a striking similarity with the Sainte-Chapelle in the Cité of Paris: an upper level for the king and a lower level for his subjects.
The Chapel royal at Versailles is consecrated to Saint Louis (that is to say Louis IX of France, the French monarchy's crusader king). The chapel features a tribune on the same level as the royal apartments, overlooking the nave. That is where Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI attended daily mass, an important moment in a king's day. They only descended to the center of the nave for major liturgical ceremonies. Normally, the nave was occupied by the courtiers, who remained standing while the ladies of the Court filled the lateral galleries. Members of the Chapel music, renowned throughout Europe, occupied the steps surrounding the organ.