If I chose one word to describe the Palace of Versailles it would be opulent. Built by King Louis XIII and transformed into the lavish palace it is today by his successor, Louis XIV, the Palace of Versailles offers a glimpse into the infamous excesses of the French Monarchy.
Visiting Versailles deserves a spot on any Paris itinerary, as it is only a quick train ride from the city.
In order to enjoy all Versailles has to offer, including its expansive gardens, allow a full day to explore. And be sure to wear sturdy shoes, as you will walk A LOT.
You can purchase tickets onsite or online in advance. Adult admission price is €16.
If you plan to visit several of Paris’ attractions, consider purchasing the Paris Museum Pass, which includes admission to Versailles, as well as to many of Paris’ other popular sites. We bought ours at the Charles de Gaulle Airport. (Unfortunately, even Paris Museum Pass holders have to wait in a long entry line at Versailles.)
Note that Versailles is closed on Mondays, and that visiting on days of the Musical Fountain Show or Musical Gardens show cost extra (even for pass holders). For more information about the hours of operation, click here.
Further reading: Paris Museum Pass: Worth the Price?
Getting to Versailles
The easiest way to get to Versailles from Paris is on the RER C train, which takes about an hour.
If you plan to spend several days in Paris, consider purchasing the Navigo Découverte pass, which costs €22,15 per week (plus €5 for the card itself) and includes unlimited Metro access, as well as transit to and from Versailles and CDG Airport. The only catch is that the pass is only valid from Monday-Sunday, so arriving mid-week can pose a problem. We bought ours at the airport, and it ended up being a good value for us since we traveled around the city a lot.
Palace of Versailles
The palace itself is beautiful. Take plenty of time to wind your way through the elegant corridors and to tour the royal bedchambers.
Apocryphal or not, I could easily imagine a resident of such an elaborate palace uttering the quip, “Let them eat cake!”
My favorite room in the palace was the famous Hall of Mirrors (Unfortunately, I’m not the only one. It was jam-packed when we were there).
As beautiful as the palace was, Sam’s and my favorite part of the day was touring the expansive gardens. And because the grounds are so large, we didn’t have a problem with crowds during this part of our visit.
I have never seen a garden so elaborate and immaculately cared for. We visited in early September, so most of the flowers were still in bloom.
We spent several hours meandering through the palace grounds and admiring the flowers and various fountains. Bike rentals and trams are available for those longing to give their feet a break.
The Petit Trianon, a smaller palace on the grounds, was a refuge for those longing to escape the formality of the larger palace.
Its most famous occupant was Marie Antoinette, who struggled with the lack of privacy and intense scrutiny she endured as queen. When residing at The Petit Trianon, the young monarch was able to better control her company.
Hameau de la Reine
Bored with public life and desperate to escape its pressures, Marie Antoinette had an entire French village constructed near the Petit Trianon where she spent her days pretending to be a milkmaid.
In reality, Marie Antoinette’s idealized village hardly resembled the villages throughout France where real peasants were starving and suffering from diseases. But it does illustrate how removed the French queen was from the realities of peasant life.
With all the walking, you will undoubtedly become hungry and thirsty. We purchased lunch from a small stand tucked away in the garden that offered sandwiches and drinks that weren’t terribly overpriced.
To save money, I have heard of other people packing a lunch and eating it in the gardens. But we didn’t think far enough ahead to plan for that!
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