The Palace of Versailles, Versailles
UPDATES FOR 2011.
On the left A = Palace main entrance for individual visitors with tickets.
Tickets for individual visitors are sold at the Billeterie, building on the left called aile Sud des Ministres - South Ministers' Wing.
If you came only to visit the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette's Estate purchase your tickets directly at the entrance of the Grand Trianon or Marie-Antoinette's Estate.
On the right B = Groups access.
OPENING TIMES :
1/11 - 31/03/2011
Every day except Mondays, 9 – 17.30 h
Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette's Estate.
Every day except Mondays, 12 – 17.30 h
Garden and Park.
Every day except Mondays, 8 – 18 h.
1/04 - 31/10/2011
Every day except Mondays, 9 – 18.30.
Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette's Estate.
Every day except Mondays, 12 – 18.30 h.
Garden and Park.
Open every day, 8 – 20.30 h
CLOSING DATES: 1/01, 25/04, 1/05, 13/06, 15/08, 25/12/2011.
The info hereafter for 2008 is outdated but I keep it as a souvenir.
Just back from a visit to Versailles (22/07/2008) I observed that a number of information given on the official website is not actual anymore.
When you pass the exterior gate you will have on the left (photo 1) a red panel indicating Billets - Tickets > where you have to buy your ticket (this is unchanged). On the right of that panel stands one with indication A > this entrance is for all individuals having a ticket or a Paris museum pass (photo 2 at 4 pm.).
There is no gate C anymore for the Paris Museum Pass in contradiction with what your will read on the Paris museum pass and previous info from Versailles website. On the extreme right is the entrance for groups.
As more and more visitors buy their ticket in advance you find already a line at 9 hour at the opening of the gate A >. Here visitors pass in a prefab "pavilion" with 3 detector frames (photo 3). They check your bag.
From here you can go where you want, usually the circuit of the "Château de Versailles" with the highlights "Galerie des Glaces" and "Chambre du Roi".
The crowds at the Château de Versailles attain a maximum in summer season, by nice weather (no fun to visit the kilometres of gardens in the rain), and on Tuesday when the Louvre is closed.
Don't think that there will be no lines in the late afternoon. My pic n°4 shows a 200 m line for buying tickets at 16.30 h but on an exceptional sunny day.
The visit of the “Grands Apartments” begins with this splendid and large "Hercules drawing room" at the junction of the central body and the northern wing of the castle.
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 the 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.
La visite des "Grands Appartements Royaux" débute par ce magnifique et vaste "Salon d'Hercule" à la jonction du corps central et de l'aile nord du château.
Ce salon construit entre 1712 et 1736 par Robert de Cotte occupe l’emplacement d’une chapelle provisoire. Il est remarquable par la décoration des murs en marbre de différentes couleurs, les nombreux pilastres aux chapiteaux de style corinthien en bronze doré et surtout par sa cheminée en marbre ornée de magnifiques bronzes d'Antoine Vassé évoquant Hercule. Au dessus de cette cheminée pend un tableau de Véronèse "Rebecca et Eliézer".
Face à la cheminée se trouve un autre Véronèse de grandes dimensions " Le repas chez Simon le Pharisien" offert à Louis XIV par la République de Venise en 1664.
Encore plus remarquable est le plafond peint par François Le Moyne représentant
l'Apothéose d’Hercule. Cet immense tableau peint à l'huile sur toile marouflée fut fort admiré en son temps mais le peintre épuisé par son travail se suicida alors qu'il avait pourtant reçu le titre de "Premier Peintre du Roi".
C'est dans ce salon qu'eut lieu le bal donné par Louis XV à l’occasion du mariage de sa fille aînée Elisabeth avec l’infant d’Espagne en 1739.
Les fêtes, nombreuses dans ce salon, étaient éclairées par des bougies ce qui encrassa fortement la voûte et le tableau de Le Moyne dont la restauration des 480 m2 à une hauteur de 15 m a été terminée en 2001.
Le salon d'Hercule est une des pièces les plus remarquables des Grands appartements et mérite qu'on s'y attarde. La lumière y est très belle, ce salon étant exposé à l'est et à l'ouest..
Versailles was saved from ruin by the decision of King Louis-Philippe in 1833 to transform the castle into a museum of the French history. He wanted to celebrate “all glories of France” as well of the "Ancien Regime", the Revolution, Empire and Restoration.
Works were undertaken mainly in the south wing to transform the former apartments of the princes. The works were paid by Louis-Philippe in person.
Original paintings and sculptures were collected with the addition of works ordered to the artists of the time like Eugene Delacroix. Three thousand paintings were ordered by king Louis-Philippe. The museum was inaugurated in 1837 and comprises a great number of works of the first half of the 19th century. It should be noted that part of these paintings currently decorates the Northern wing of the castle with the Galleries of the 17th century.
Versailles été sauvé de la ruine par la décision du Roi Louis-Philippe en 1833 de transformer le château en un musée de l'histoire de France pour y célébrer "toutes les gloires de la France" aussi bien de l'Ancien Régime, de la Révolution, de l'Empire et de la Restauration. Les travaux principalement dans l'aile du Midi où se trouvaient sous l'Ancien Régime les appartements des princes furent payés par Louis-Philippe en personne.
On rassembla des peintures et de sculptures originales en y ajoutant des œuvres commandées aux artistes de l'époque dont Eugène Delacroix. Trois mille tableaux furent commandés par le roi Louis-Philippe. Le musée fut inauguré en 1837 et comporte un grand nombre de peintures de la première moitié du XIXe siècle. Il faut noter qu'une partie de ces tableaux orne actuellement les l'aile Nord du château avec les Galeries du XVIIe siècle.
It is by the entrance of the "Cour Royale" to the northern wing that the traditional visit of the castle of Versailles begins. The 17th c. galleries are the part of the Palace circuit coloured in blue on the Versailles castle map.
The visit starts at the ground floor with a succession of decorated rooms and continues on the first floor.
On crowded days (3 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 do slow down the visitors flow.
If you are interested by furniture, the decoration, the paintings of this part of the castle it is better to come in low season i.e. in winter.
I hurried up through this part preferring to devote more time to the Grand Apartments of the King and the Queen (the circuit indicated in red on the map).
Practical note: there are toilets at the entry of this first part; to my knowledge there are none on the first floor. As there are apparently only two groups of toilets (the second one at the entrance to the gardens) there are often long lines for the ladies.
C'est par ici, c'est-à-dire l'aile nord, que commence la visite classique du château de Versailles. C'est le circuit en couleur bleue du plan mis à disposition des visiteurs.
La visite commence au rez-de-chaussée par une suite de salons, chambres, bureaux en principe au décor du XVIIe et continue ainsi à l'étage.
Par forte affluence la visite est assez chaotique car les milliers de visiteurs passent d'une pièce à l'autre par des portes relativement étroites. De plus les groupes lors des explications des guides ont tendance à ralentir le flux. Alors si le mobilier, le décor, les peintures de cette partie du château vous intéressent il vaut mieux venir en basse saison c'est-à-dire en hiver.
Je ne me suis pas attardé dans cette partie préférant me diriger au plus vite vers les Grands Appartements du Roi et de la Reine (partie du circuit indiqué en rouge sur le plan) pour consacrer plus de temps aux parties les plus remarquables du château.
Note pratique: il y a des toilettes à l'entrée de cette première partie; à ma connaissance il n'y en a pas à l'étage. Les dames constateront qu'on fait la file aux toilettes également à celles près de l'accès aux jardins. Apparemment il n'y a que deux groupes de toilettes pour tout le château!
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.
Sous l'ancien régime un grille monumentale de 80 m de long séparait la Cour d'Honneur de la Cour Royale. Elle fut créée par l'architecte Jules Hardouin-Mansart vers 1680 et détruite à la révolution en 1789.
Sa reconstitution s'est terminée en juillet 2008. Elle a nécessité 15 tonnes de fer et le concours des meilleurs artisans de cet art. Les doreurs ont patiemment appliqués 100.000 feuilles d'or à la main. Ces feuilles d'or mesurent 8 x 8 cm et ont une épaisseur de seulement 2 microns!
La statue équestre en bronze de Louis XIV que le roi Louis-Philippe avait fait ériger en 1836 à l'emplacement de la grille disparue a été enlevée et est actuellement en cours de restauration. Les photos de cette statue publiées encore récemment ici ne sont donc pas des plus actuelles mais il est dit que la célèbre statue de Louis XIV sera placée sur la Place d'Armes dans l'axe du château.
Other than the painting, you'll notice the decadent decor, chintzy-looking wall paper and bedspread . Well, all that chintz are solemn reminders of Marie Antoinette actually. Apparently, the floral patterns were in vogue in Austria at that time so it's no surprise that the Austrian-born queen had her bedroom was decorated in the same style...
Read on to see a potrait of Marie Antoinette's husband or click here
Louis XIV hired a dream team of designers, architects and garderners to create a trump tower from a humble hunting chateau.Of course, an operation of this magnitude took the designers a long time to complete. But when it was done in 1682, it became the official Royal Residence instead of the Lourve in Paris.
Your first sight of the Versailles would probably be that of the immense cobble-stoned courtyard. Pause for a while instead of scurrying to find the entrance. Look around and be fascinated by intricate details such as the Gothic Fountainhead not too far from the main gate..
Wanna know whose statue you'll see as you explore the courtyard? Click here to find out.
Louis XIV had intended from the start to have a Royal Opera House as part of his palace at Versailles.
The site was chosen and plans were made as early as 1682, when Louis XIV first moved in to Versailles. Three years later construction work was started, but it was soon put on hold because of financial difficulties due to various wars that were going on at the time. The site remained dormant for over eighty years until Louis XIV’s successor, his great-grandson Louis XV, finally ordered the opera house to be completed.
It was inaugurated by Louis XV on May 16, 1770 – the day of his grandson’s marriage to Marie-Antoinette – with a performance of the opera Persée by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). This was an opera which had first been performed eighty-eight years earlier in a temporary theater in Versailles.
Today the Royal Opera in Versailles is one of the oldest theaters in France that is still functioning as such – but it is not THE oldest, by any means. That honor goes to the Opéra-Théâtre in Metz, which was built between 1738 and 1753.
Address: Château de Versailles – Place d’Armes – 78000 Versailles
Directions: Location, aerial view and photo on monumentum.fr
Next: Molière and Lully at the Royal Opera
The Versailles Palace has hundreds of white marble statues, all roughly the same height, spread out all along the halls and in some of the rooms. I picked this one to photograph because I recognized the name.
Not that I ever knew much about Nicolas de Catinat, but I did know that one of the main streets of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, used to be called Rue Catinat back in the days when Indochina was a French colony. It was named after a French warship that took part in the French conquest of Vietnam from 1856 to 1859.
The warship, in turn, was named after this man, Nicholas Catinat (1637–1712), who was a French military commander and Marshal of France under King Louis XIV. (I have mentioned this in a tip/review called Têt in Saigon.)
The statue was made by someone called Cl. Dejoux in 1781, nearly seventy years after Catinat’s death. Whether it is an accurate depiction I don’t know. I find it hard to believe that generals still wore medieval armor in the seventeenth century, but perhaps some military historian can correct me if I am wrong about this.
Catinat, like Vauban, was a nearly exact contemporary of Louis XIV, who as a young king liked to have men of his own age in leadership positions. Another thing that Catinat and Vauban had in common was that they both lacked any sort of prestigious aristocratic background and rose through the ranks entirely on merit, which in seventeenth century Europe was highly unusual. Both of them took an unusual interest in the welfare of the men under their command, and often wrote memos recommending able men for promotion. Both received the title of ‘Marshal of France’ towards the end of their careers.
Vauban and Catinat were friends, by the way, as I have learned from the book Vauban by Daniel Halévy. Among other things, they conducted the siege of Ath together in 1697, with Vauban leading the engineers and Catinat in command of the soldiers. (Ath is a town in Flanders, Belgium, with one VirtualTourist page so far.)
Updates: Thanks to VT member Oleg_D. for informing me that generals like Catinat did indeed wear armor. “In fact, he is wearing typical, mid - second part of XVII century cuirassier armor also known as “three quarters”. It protected less surface of the body than armors of previous centuries because it was thicker and could protect from the hit of a bullet. Unfortunately development of powder and fusil guns made the armor useless by the end of XVII century. Although for all XVIII century Army Commanders used armor as the sign of their office together with their batons.” For more details, see Oleg_D’s comments below this tip.
Thanks also to breughel for pointing out that Ath is located in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, not in Flanders. (I thought it was in Flanders because that’s what Daniel Halévy said in his book on Vauban.) For more details, see breughel’s comments below.
Next: The Royal Chapel
All you loyal readers of my Lyon page (thanks again to both of you) might recall that in that city I went in unprepared to see a Molière play, Les Femmes savantes (The Learned Ladies), and understood most of it except for a few essential twists of the plot. These had me baffled until the next morning, when I bought a copy of the play and read it.
So this time I took care to read the text of Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The bourgeois nobleman) before I went to see it at the Royal Opera in Versailles. That was a good thing, because even though I didn’t understand every word they were saying (especially when they were yelling at the top of their lungs or trading obscure seventeenth century insults), I always knew what was going on and why.
In this play, with songs and incidental music by Lully, the main character M. Jourdain is a cloth merchant who has made (and partly inherited) a large fortune and now has pretentions of becoming a nobleman. He hires various experts to teach him music, dancing, fencing and philosophy, and he tries to marry his daughter off to a foppish aristocrat. (The role of M. Jourdain was played by Molière himself in the original production in 1670.)
In the end it is the daughter’s boyfriend who gets the idea of dressing up as a Turkish prince and doing a ridiculous ceremony to elevate M. Jourdain into the Turkish nobility – sort of like Rossini’s opera The Italian Girl in Algiers, but in reverse.
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme has some of the same elements as Les Femmes savantes, but mixed up in a different way. In Les Femmes savantes the wife is the pretentious one who wants to marry off the daughter to a pedantic intellectual. In Le Bourgeois gentilhomme the wife is one of the sensible characters, along with the daughter and her boyfriend and especially the maid, who has some of the best lines in the whole piece.
Twelve actors, five singers, three dancers and nine musicians were on the stage in Versailles. The elaborate and very funny staging was by Denis Podalydès.
The costumes were by Christian Lacroix, a prominent fashion designer who has lately been designing costumes for the theater. He has even designed the costumes for two recent productions of the Frankfurt Opera: Adriana Lecouvreur by Francesco Cilea and Ezio by Christoph Willibald Gluck.
Address: Château de Versailles – Place d’Armes – 78000 Versailles
Directions: Location and photo on monumentum.fr
Next: Statue of Nicolas de Catinat
One way to deal with the enormity of the Versailles Palace is to think of it as a gigantic psychogram of Louis XIV.
On the one hand, he was a Renaissance man with a keen interest in Greek and Roman mythology, as is clear from the art works on display throughout the palace. At the same time, he was a devout Catholic who went to mass in his private chapel every morning at ten o’clock precisely, taking only two or three hundred of his most privileged courtiers with him.
Presumably he didn’t really believe in the ancient Roman gods, but just thought of them as literature, i.e. fiction. He did not pray to Jupiter, Venus or Diana and was not afraid that they would come down and tweak his nose if he did something wrong.
He did believe, however, in the Christian God and the Catholic saints. He was a Very Catholic Monarch – which seems a bit strange considering that his grandfather Henri IV had been a Protestant who only converted to Catholicism pro forma so he could claim the throne.
Henri IV, however, had little influence over the education of his children, much less his unborn grandchildren. Even in Henri’s lifetime, his son Louis XIII received a strict Catholic upbringing – his mother Marie de’ Medici saw to that – and the next generation got more of the same.
One indication of Louis XIV’s religiosity was the fact that in his later years he began to worry about whether his soul perhaps might burn in hell for all eternity – not because he had squandered the people’s money on his palace, but because he had cavorted with so many mistresses.
To ensure the salvation of his soul he felt he should do some decisive Good Deed for the Church, and this led to what was probably the worst decision of his entire 72-year reign, his Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685. This edict revoked his grandfather’s tolerant Edict of Nantes from 87 years before and effectively outlawed Protestantism or any other non-Catholic religion.
Someone in his entourage came up with a catchy slogan:
Un roi, une loi, une foi.
This means ‘One King, One Law, One Faith’ – they all rhyme in French – and Louis XIV felt that the time had come to enforce this.
One of the few who advised against this intolerant edict was Vauban, who feared it would lead to a civil war (which it didn’t) and to a mass exodus of some of the most skilled and productive people in France (which it did). In my Friedrichsdorf page, "A new home for the Huguenots", I have shown a place where some of these exiled French Protestants settled and helped to revive the economy of their new home.
In his earlier years Louis XIV had said to Vauban more than once: “I’ll follow your advice next time.” And he often did, in those years, but he became more advice-resistant as he got older. For more on this, see the tip/review Vauban memorial in the Dôme des Invalides on my Paris page.
On my Lille page I have written a tip/review called Vauban’s Citadel, which also includes links to my other Vauban tips.
Second photo: Looking up at the ceiling of the Royal Chapel.
Third, fourth and fifth photos: After climbing one flight of stairs you come to a place where you might also expect to have a good view of the Royal Chapel, if only there weren’t so many of your fellow tourists trying to do the same. Note that I took these photos at the lowest point of the low season in February. In the summer you can expect twice or three times as many people. But don’t let that bother you, OK? After all, you are a tourist, too, and you are getting in the way of their photos as much as they are getting in the way of yours.
Address: Château de Versailles – Place d’Armes – 78000 Versailles
Directions: Location and photo on monumentum.fr
Books: Daniel Halévy, Vauban, Editions de Fallois, Paris, 2007 (first published in 1923)
Alain Monod, Vauban ou la mauvaise conscience du roi, Riveneuve éditions, Paris, 2008
Next: The Hercules Salon
Are you still thinking what I mentioned earlier? Yes, the Sun King was green with ENVY at one point in his life and it was one of those things that led to the creation of Versailles...
The King had just attended the mother of all house-warming parties thrown by his Finance minister, Nicholas Fouquet and it left him with a rotten mood.
Not only was he was miffed by the gold dust that fell into his wig when the fireworks exploded into the sky, but he was really, really , annoyed that his Minister's house, the "Vaux-le-Vicomte" looked so beautiful!
Not to be outdone, the young King threw his minister in jail, recruited the same design team that did "Vaux-le-Vicomte" ( architect Le Vau, painter Le Brun, and gardener Le Nôtre ) and ordered something a hundred times the size! The result was Versailles...
You're now looking at a picture of the fabulous Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte that I mentioned. The Trump Tower of the 17th century, the sumptuous castle that turned Louis XIV pea green with envy. Well, having said that, the Versailles does bear a strong resemblance to the Vicomte. Check out the fountain and the statues.. You can decide for yourself by checking out the pictures in the provided link or taking a trip 55km south of Paris...
Read on to see the interior of the Versailles or click here
Here in the Diana Salon we have three girls with their audio guides gazing up at the ceiling, as Louis XIV looks on benignly from his pedestal in the background.
This room was named after Diana, the Roman goddess of hunting (not the Diana you were thinking of).
Second photo: This is the ceiling painting that the girls were looking at.
Third photo: The painting above the fireplace is The Sacrifice of Iphigenia by Charles de la Fosse, from the year 1712. Sixty-two years later the composer Christoph Willibald Gluck wrote an opera about this called Iphigenie in Aulis, based on a play by the French dramatist Jean Racine (1639-1699), who in turn was inspired by the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides.
The plot has to do with the half-hearted efforts of King Agamemnon to avoid sacrificing his daughter Iphigénie (Iphigenia) to the gods in return for favorable winds to he can sail his fleet to Troy and start fighting the Trojan War. At the end of the opera Iphigénie is saved but the wind comes up anyway, so they can all jubilantly sail off to war. This was considered a happy end at the time, but from a 21st century point of view it might have made more sense for the gods to strand the Greek fleet in the harbor indefinitely and thus prevent the war altogether.
In 2005 I attended the premiere of a new production of this opera in Nürnberg. At the party after the premiere I had to comfort the stage director (with whom I was slightly acquainted from his visits to Frankfurt) because to his chagrin the wind machine hadn’t worked properly, so the whole point of the final scene was lost.
Fourth photo: This sign in the Diana Salon calls it more prosaically the Diana Room and explains that it used to be Louis XIV’s billiard room. From the audio guide I learned that it was also known informally as the ‘applause room’, because the ladies of the court always applauded vociferously whenever the king scored a point at billiards.
Next: The Mars Salon
Welcome to my Versailles page! Of course, before I show you the present day pictures, let's take a step back in time to 1623. Yup, some 40 years before the Mother of all Palaces was built, it was orginally a 'hunting lodge, a little gentleman's chateau' of brick, stone, and slate.
It was until till almost 40 years later, that the Louis XIV transformed it into Chateau de Versailles, one of grandest palaces in the whole of Europe....
Keen to see Louis XIV in high heels?Read on or Click here
Ok, I know the man in the picture looks nothing like the dude (Leonardo Dicaprio) who acted as the King in the "Man in the Iron Mask" but he's the real Louis XIV I've been talking about.
The Sun King (Le Roi Soleil) , Louis the Great, the greatest King in France, etc, etc. Yes, the chap whom you see in the fluffy wig and high heels reigned for a good seventy -two years. And while he was at it, the influence and power of France grew and its economy prospered, allowing him to build the grand Versailles..
Click here to find out more about King Louis and the real reason why he built the Versailles Palace.