Almost as fantastic as the palaces are the miles and miles of gardens of Versailles. the gardens are over 800 hectacres with a large artificial pond in the center in a cross shape. A couple of large monumental fountains sit in the center.
Although we visited Versailles during winter we spent an hour walking around the famous Gardens of the palace because we’ve heard so much about them.
The gardens were designed at the edge of 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV. Of course, you can walk only a small part of the gardens because they are really big and actually they spread away on thousands of acres. It seems renting a bike is the best way to enjoy the gardens but we didn’t even think about it that cold winter day.
During the warmer months you may want to try the little train that will take you also to the Trianons (we didn’t go there this time).
There are a lot of fountains but none of them had water during our visit :( It seems they are operating only for a small period in spring, I’ve heard they look beautiful but I wouldn’t return just to see them. The big lake is 1.7 long but check also some tree lined paths or the general symmetry of the gardens that are really impressive with many interesting corners, hundreds of statues, fountains, meticulously planted flowers, nicely trimmed bushes and rows of small or big tress also trimmed to uniform specific shapes.
The gardens are open daily 7.00 to sunset weather permitting. Have in mind the access is free if you don’t want to visit the palace.
Looking northwest from behind the palace, we have a wide view of the gardens and park. The Apollo Fountain is in the foreground, the Grand Canal in the rear.
In the middle, as of 2015, is an installation by the British artist Anish Kapoor, born in India in 1954. The installation is entitled “Dirty Corner” and is intended to remind us what this place originally looked like, when it was just a patch of swamps, woods and grasslands, before King Louis XIV commissioned André Le Nôtre to create the gardens starting in 1661.
Second photo: Here the gardens and some of the visitors are reflected in the Sky Mirror, a mirror-sculpture made by Anish Kapoor in 2013.
Third photo: Another view of the gardens, looking west. Just beyond the edge of the gardens, hidden by the trees on the right, is a town called Saint-Cyr-l’École, which was the site of Madame de Maintenon’s boarding school for impoverished aristocratic girls, financed and supported by her husband King Louis XIV.
Fourth photo: The rear façade of the palace on a hot summer day.
Fifth photo: Just as a contrast, here is what the palace gardens looked like on a rainy day in February.
Directions: Location, aerial view and photos on monumentum.fr
Next: The C-Curve
C-Curve is a mirror-sculpture that was made in 2007 by Anish Kapoor. It is installed (as of 2015) directly behind the Versailles Palace, with the concave side (first photo) facing northwest, towards the gardens and away from the palace.
The concave side turns everything upside-down, including of course the people who are looking at it.
Second photo: The back façade of the palace with the concave side of the C-Curve. Through the windows of the palace you can also see some mirrors, especially on the first floor (one flight up), because that is Louis XIV’s Hall of Mirrors.
Third photo: If you go around to the convex side of the C-Curve, everything appears right-side-up, including and palace and the people and even you as you are taking your photo.
Fourth photo: The palace as it looks in the C-Curve.
Fifth photo: Me taking a photo of the convex side of the C-Curve.
Next: Manicured trees
One of the defining features of French 17th-century formal gardens is that the trees aren’t just allowed to grow any old way, but are cut into uniform shapes and lined up in a row like soldiers, presumably to show that they like everything else they are subject to the will of the king.
Second photo: Here we have two rows of uniform pointy trees on the left. Behind the row of statues on the right we have a huge neatly trimmed hedge, about three times as high and ten times as long as the hedge in front of my house in Frankfurt. In the 17th century it must have taken dozens of full-time gardeners to keep these hedges trimmed, and even now with electric or gas-powered hedge-trimmers and mobile elevated work platforms it still must involve considerable work.
Third photo: Not only hedges, also long rows of large trees are kept fully trimmed to uniform shapes. I can imagine how this is done in the 21st century, but if anyone knows how it was done in the 17th, please tell me.
Fourth photo: The row of trees on the right has only been partly trimmed, just the bottom two meters or so. Presumably the rest will be trimmed some other time.
Fifth photo: The path between these two rows of trimmed trees has been blocked off for some reason, producing a dead end aka blind alley, cul-de-sac or impasse.
Next: Allegorical statues
After visiting the interior of the Palace, you exit into the gardens of Versailles. The gardens were designed between 1661 and 1700 under the reign of Louis XIV and covers 90 hectares, the garden and park together are 800 hectares (source Wikipedia). The gardens are formal with manicured lawns, meticulously planted flower gardens, over 400 statues and several fountains.
As you exit the Palace, you head towards the Latona Fountain and then onto the pathway that leads to the Grand Canal. We stopped there to have our lunch under the tree lined path and watched the folks who had rented boats to go on the canal.
While all of the buildings required us to show a ticket to get in, if you just want to visit the garden that the access is free and they are open from 8am until sunset. I think we missed quite a bit of it actually, the Palace and grounds are so immense that you could spend an entire day poking around.
One of the wonders of the chateau de Versailles is its park and gardens, the most magnificents I have seen in France and beyond.
When we go hunting, we go by the sculptures of the Cabinet des Animaux du midi ou fontaine du soir done in 1684. There are on the left side of the parterre d’eau after leaving the castle on the back. Many figures of animals here, like the Lion attacking a wild pig or a lion attacking a wolf. Louis XIV was an ardent hunter, with more than 100 days per year spent hunting.
You move on to the Hercule, Minerve ,and Flore done in 1656. They are in the bosquet de la girandole and they were gifts from Nicolas Fouquet to Louis XIV, they were done as Hercule,Minerve,Flore,Moissonneur,Bacchus, Pomone,Vertumne, and Baccante done in Rome in 1655. They were purchase from the heirs of Nicolas Fouquet. The marble was taken as well from Nicolas Fouquet at the cour des Marbles,and last renovated in 1978-1982. You come to admire the Bassin du Dragon, sculptured in 1667, with serpents being attacked by archers, throw its blood but better water b its mouth. They were put here in 1668 welcoming the triumphant Louis XIV from the devolution war and the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.
We continue with the Bosquet des Rocailles ou Salle de Bal, this is where the spectacles were held outdoors,in the summer evenings, where the ballet comedy and opera ballet created by Lully and Moliére were started in 1683. Louis XIV was also interested by the dance and with his support the royal academy of the dance was created in 1661. Not a garden but right in the middle of it, is the Petite Venise ,near the Grand Canal, done in 1673. This is where the gondolas and boats given by Venice were housed as well as the yachts of England for the boat parade in the Grand Canal., These included the ships Galiate(1669), Grand Vaisseay(1685),Dunkerquoise (1685), Réale or Grande Galére (1686) were the stars. The Grand Canal 1,8 kms long served perfectly for this showcase. The front of a boat favorite of Marie Antoniette it is now visible at the musée national de la marine at the pl de la concorde ,Paris.
The gardens of Versailles are irrigated with water, where? underground, when in the fall the fountains are empty for cleaning you can see the deep wells of these magnificents fountains and water pumps. The reservoir in the north wing coming from the hill or butte de Montbauron provides underground water for 30 kms of canals!!! reachable by 6 galleries or underground tunnels communicating by a set of joints to the 55 fountains and 670 water spouts. The underbelly of Versailles is a huge water castle. By the parterre of water eight statues surge representing the rivers of France such as the Loire, Rhone,Loiret,Saone,Seine,Marne, Garonne and Dordogne.
Just at the entry fo the pyramide and the allée des marmousets you see the Bain des Nymphes de Diane (done from 1668-1670). This is to the right as you come into the gardens. You, also, enjoy the Ile de Délos, This is the mythical story of Latone lover of Junon who gives birth to Apollon and Diane at the isle of Delos. The figures are on marble on a pedestal of 3 levels with the figure of Latone facing the Grand Canal. Great
We go now to the birth of seasons at Enlevement de Proserpine par Pluton or the kidnapping of proserpine by pluton.Created by Le Brun in 1674. Proserpine was the daughter of Jupiter and kidnapped by Pluton god of hell that marries her. It is in the center of the bosquet de la Colonnade from 1699 Many beautiful sculptures around this area too. One of the them is the Songe de Poliphile, white and pink marble done between 1687-1688 at the place of the old bosquet de Sources done by Le Notre, after losing favorite status by Louis XIV the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart that change the name to bosquet de la colonnade ,and creates amongst other beauties the Grande and Petite Ecuries,new Orangerie,Grand Trianon,and the designed of the allées de Nord,and Midi.The bosquet de la colonnade is gorgeous.
See the Fountain du bosquet de l’Encelade (1675-1677) full of rocks imitating the lava of a volcano. Also from Greek mytholody. The bosquet was used as a political tool in the war of Holland during the great european alliance of 1673. It continues showing the sculpture of the France Triomphante (1683) at the bosquet de l’arc de triomphe. It has at its feet the conquered countries after the peace of Nimegue in 1678 shown as captives such as Spain,Austria,. The sculpture is in gold but not massive just a bath. Continue to the Bosquet des trois Fontaines, done in 1679 and renovated in 2005,it has a huge shell of copper of 4 meters in diameter.
Another of my favorites is the Bassin de l’ile des Enfants at the bosquet du Rond Vert. The children plays with the flowers on a rock dating from 1710,done from the anguish of Louis XIV of seeing many of his royal children not reaching teen years…they died. In 1714 it is only one child left to inherit the reign, one that Louis XIV held for over 60 years! Going over to the Bassin de Neptune we see the Neptune et Amphitrite (1736-1740), placing over a huge marine shell on a metal platform. It has 99 jets of water!!! It is the only sculpture ordered by Louis XV in the gardens. We move on to the Bosquet des Bains d’Apollon to see the sundown chez Tethys;;;lead design done in 1704 around the old grotte or cave of Tethys done in 1666. A gorgeous romantic spot.
official info on the gardens and parks, http://en.chateauversailles.fr/gardens-and-park-of-the-chateau-
I will throw in here the Orangerie, a wonderful building right in the gardens, really. and Plenty of plants ::) See the Statue of Louis XIV in emperor garments ,made of marble done to be put in the place des Victoires in Paris ,and done by the personal fortune of Jules-Hardouin-Mansart in 1686. The bronce did not resisted the time elements and was melted in 1792 by the revolutionaries to make canons. You can see at the Louvre the socket and decorations of these canons showing the conquered nations of Nimegue in 1678. When the new Orangerie was built in 1686 there was a perfect gallery of 156 meters long by 21 meters wide and the statue in marble found its place. Inside the Orangerie you will find, the most extraordinary collection of plants of all time, more than 2000 pots of lemon,grenades, laurel roses, oranges coming from Portugal,Spain,Italy, and the Vatican. During the winters these treasures were preserved thanks to the thick walls of 5 meters and the double window panning, even able to keep the Connétable de Pampelune planted in 1421!!! You ,also, can see the horse statue of Louis XIV done from 1665-1673! where you might remember it more for the replica in the pyramide of the Louvre There is another copy at the piéce d”eau des Suisses since 1990; The original in the Orangerie is from 1685. You can see inside the baths or vasque octogonale done in 1674. done on a piece of marble de Rance, it is an octogonal of 3 meters wide and 1meter deep. It is difficult to imagine taken a bath here as it would be impossible to heat in those years. The vase took several turns in different places until finally arriving at the Oragerie in 1934.
Official info on the Orangerie, http://en.chateauversailles.fr/index.php?option=com_cdvfiche&idfp=30346E9D-28D6-D047-B142-48405B85CF49
some misc statistics, it has 350 000 trees, of which 700 are sculpture trim and 900 orange trees in pots. 43 kms of alley ways, 32 hectares or 79 acres, 155 statues, with 55 fountains and 670 water jets spouts, 260 000 flowers grown on site!, with a team of 52 gardeners and 11 fountain keepers. A wonder.
Enjoy the everlasting beauty of Versailles.
The park was stretched at 1700 hectares and amazes with its regularity and reasonableness. A geometrical lay-out of the area around the palace symbolized representation of the monarch about himself as about the Master, the King-sun. Florentine and Roman gardens and parks were taken as prototypes. Therefore Italian engineers, sculptors and gardeners were invited. But there was nothing similar on scope by then.
You can watch my 2 min 44 sec Video Versailles Park out of my Youtube channel.
One can walk around the many acres of gardens for free, the entrance is to the right as you are standing looking at the main Palace, towards the Grand Trianon. It is a major undertaking to walk the whole area- a bicycle is very handy!
The Gardens of Versailles are absolutely beautiful and perfectly manicured. The green of the grass and the plants was so vivid. The flowers in bloom were beautiful shades of white, pink, lavender, purple and reds. It was a delight to stroll along the garden admiring the beautiful flowers, gorgeous lawns and trees. It was a heavenly afternoon and the weather was perfect for a garden stoll. This garden experience completed a magnificent visit to Versailles.
The gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French Garden style and are now one of the most visited public sites in France! wow!
On weekends from late spring to early autumn, the administration of the museum sponsors the Grandes Eaux – spectacles during which the fountains in the gardens are in full-play and which are open to the public.
I must confess that this place blew my mind... I've visited many beautiful gardens but these ones are special, they are in a French château!!! Walking along them is an experience you shouldn't miss!!!
In addition to the Hamlet, there are several other buildings and structures dotting the landscape near the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. You can go inside the Queen's Theatre (Theatre de la Reine) where Marie Antoinette performed for her friends, they request that you don't take pictures inside. Nearby the theatre you can also walk around the grotto (grotte) where she held private encounters, the Temple of Love (Temple de l'Amour) and the Belvedere where small recitals were held.
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!
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.
The Gardens occupy an 800 square meter area. It consists of various jardins (gardens), bosquets (groves), fountains, quiconxes (5 spot designs) and other diversions. Here is a picture of the Mermaids fountain found close to the palace.