Visiting Versailles was one of our favorite days we spent in Paris. Although it is outside of the city center and away from the other main attractions of Paris, for us it was definitely worth setting aside a good part of a day to see it. Château de Versailles, or Palace of Versailles in English, is a beautiful palace with amazing details inside as well as out. The grounds are expansive and you could spend a long time just in the gardens. Turned into a palace by Louis XIV, this former hunting lodge has a long history of being the center of Parisian culture for over 70 years during the reign of Louis XIV. Filled with gold, detailed paintings on walls and ceilings, and beautiful, intricate floors, Château de Versailles is a feast for the eyes and a highlight of any trip to Paris.
How to Get There:
From Paris get to the Invaldes stop using the Paris metro. From there, get on the Yellow C line (an RER train) and get off at the Versailles Château Rive Gauche stop. From there you will need to walk a few minutes to get to the palace. For specific directions from your location, make sure to use the Paris Metro App. Plan on the trip taking about an hour to get to the château. Because Versailles is not close to the city center, your metro tickets will need to be good for Zone 5. If you are buying a multi-day metro ticket, take the time to do the math to see if it is worth buying a multi-day for Zones 1-5 or if it is cheaper for you to buy a single ticket for Zone 5 for the day you want to go to Versailles. Because of the weather, we decided to do Versailles in the middle of our 3 day trip. We decided that it was easier for us to buy a 3-day ticket to all 5 zones. But if you are planning on doing Versailles on the first day of your trip or at the end, it might be cheaper to buy a day ticket for the day of your trip.
What You Will See:
The best time to get to Versailles is right in the morning as it opens. There are not very many people on the plaza leading up to the palace which means you can get great pictures of the front of the building. The lines are also much shorter when it first opens. Plan on spending most of the day at Versailles if you want to see all three parts (main palace, gardens, and Marie Antoinette’s estate). We were there from 10:00 am until about 4:00 pm.
Once you get through security, ask for a map from the desk right outside the security check. They will give you directions to the main ticket counter and the start of the palace. If you have a Museum Pass, you can skip the ticket line and go straight into the palace. They offer free audio guides for the palace that give you information on almost every single thing. We did not use these guides so we cannot vouch for them, but it seems like if you wanted extreme details about each room, that would be the audioguide to take. We just used the Versailles track on the Rick Steves Audio Europe app. It gave good information and we only had trouble in one spot because part of the tour on the app wasn’t open when we were at Versailles. But this is pretty typical of the palace; different parts are opened and closed at different times throughout the year.
Throughout the palace, you will see lots of ornate and beautiful rooms. Some of our favorites were the chapel, the Hall of Mirrors and the bedchambers. It is amazing to see the expanse of the palace and even though it is quite large, rooms can get very crowded so just be prepared for that. Also, when you are walking from floor to floor to get to different rooms, be careful on the stairs; there are deep, worn down places in the steps from so many people walking on the stairs over so many years. Use the hand rails and closely watch your feet! After you exit the palace, the side of the building near the security check has a large, formal restaurant and a smaller cafe. We ate at the cafe for lunch and were happy with our meal, even if it was on the expensive side. There are also gift shops and free restrooms in this area with plenty of signage to point you in the right direction.
Behind the palace is where you can see and enter the gardens. The Versailles track on the Rick Steves Audio Europe app continues with the gardens outside. Take your time and wander through them. They are so beautiful and maintained so perfectly. There are lots of groves with fountains in the middle of them that are located to the left and right of the main plaza. These fountains are not on except for certain times and days. If you wish to see the fountain shows, the price for entry is more expensive and is not included in the Museum Pass. We did not see the fountain shows but poked our heads in to see some of the fountains and they were beautiful.
Because the gardens are so huge, there are options besides walking to get around. They offer golf carts and bikes that you can rent to help you and your family get around. There is also a small “train” that takes people up to the Marie Antoinette Estates. We walked the whole time we were there but it really did make us extremely tired. But there are plenty of food and snack carts and states to get some treats. The cheapest place we found to get gelato was in Petite Venice (Little Venice). It is a little place next to the Grand Canal where Louis XIV housed gondoliers he brought in from Venice to drive gondolas in his Grand Canal!
The third area in the Château de Versailles is the Domain Marie Antoinette (Marie Antoinette Estates). This area is away from the gardens and was meant to be a peaceful place away from the hustle and bustle of the palace. At the Domain, there are two small palaces and some smaller gardens. After we went through the palaces, we decided they looked a lot neater on the outside than on the inside, so they probably aren’t worth going to unless you have a Museum Pass because they cost extra money. Also, if you are already tired from walking around the gardens, it might not be worth the extra energy to see this part of the Château.
Château de Versailles, Palace of Versailles, simply Versailles: it is a beautiful way to spend a day on your Parisian trip. Visiting the palace is a must followed by visiting the gardens at your own pace, while visiting the Domain Marie Antoinette might not be worth it to you to go see if you are already tired from the gardens or if you don’t have a Museum Pass. There are lots of things to see at the Palace of Versailles and we highly recommend taking this day trip.
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