Glittering in gold and grandeur just outside of Paris is the former epicenter of French royalty–Château de Versailles. The extravagant estate evolved from a humble hunting lodge into an opulent and ostentatious palace that is world-renowned and today is one of France’s largest tourist attractions.
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A guide to visiting the Palace of Versailles
In 1624, King Louis XIII had a small, two-story hunting lodge constructed on the outskirts of Paris. By 1634, the simple lodge had been replaced by a statelier, stone and brick château although it still remained a hunting lodge. By 1682, Louis XIV, the Sun King, had extensively expanded and renovated the château and moved the royal residence and French government to Versailles permanently. Throughout his 72-year reign, Louis XIV not only expanded the estate of Versailles by relocating the French court, but the move also solidified his political power.
The crown jewel of the Château de Versailles is the Hall of Mirrors. Built in 1684, this magnificent hall is named for the 17 arches outfitted with 21 mirrors each that reflect the 17 windows that look out over the palace’s extensive and ornate gardens. The lavish Hall of Mirrors served as a reminder of the power and wealth of the French monarchy. It was in the Hall of Mirrors that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919, ending the First World War. The hall is still used today to receive official guests of the French Republic.
Designed by the renowned French landscape architect, André Le Nôtre, the design of the gardens of Versailles were just as important to Louis XIV as the palace itself. The gardens took 40 years to complete and the King reviewed and approved every detail. The gardens are massive—1,976 acres and is one of the biggest gardens in the world. No trip to Versailles is complete without getting lost in the geometric terraces, tree-lined walkways, and fantastical fountains.
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After moving the court to Versailles, Louis XIV realized he needed a place to escape all of the hustle and bustle of court life. In 1670, he had the Grand Trianon constructed. The pink marble respite was also preferred by Marie-Antoinette and Napoleon stayed here on several occasions.
How to get to the Versailles Palace from Paris
No trip to Paris is complete without the quintessential day-trip to Château de Versailles. Located just 20 kilometers outside of the city center, Versailles is easily reachable from just about anywhere in Paris. With over 10 million visitors a year, the key to seeing the Palace and its magnificent grounds any time of year is to arrive early and spend the few extra euro, and booking online, to secure a timed entry slot.
Take the RER line C to Versailles Château-Rive Gauche. From the train station, it takes approximately 10 minutes to reach the Palace on foot.
Take the SNCF train from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers train station. From the station, it takes about 18 minutes to walk to the Palace
Take the SNCF train from Gare Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite train station. From the station, it takes about 17 minutes to walk to the Palace.
The Palace offers a shuttle service from Paris to make reaching the ground a breeze. You can pick up the Versailles Express from the Eiffel Tower from Tuesday to Sunday. The shuttle runs between the following times:
- Departure at 7.45 am, return at 3.15 pm.
- Departure at 9.45 am, return at 3.15 pm.
- Departure at 1.30 am, return at 6 pm.
Book the shuttle to Versailles at www.versaillesexpress.com
From the A13 motorway, take exit number 5-Versailles Centre and follow the signs towards the Palace of Versailles. Parking is available at the Place d’Armes in front of the Palace for a fee.
Versailles is one of the largest and most visited palaces in the world. If you want all of the juicy details on the palace’s happenings during the heyday of the French monarchy, then you’ll want to maximize your time there by booking a guided tour. If you’re not comfortable navigating the train to Versailles on your own, a tour like this is a great option. A guide will meet you at the main train station in Paris and accompany you throughout your tour and all the way back to Paris.
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1 April-31 October: Tuesday through Sunday from 09:00-18:30
1 November-31 March: Tuesday through Sunday from 09:00-17:30
1 April-31 October: Daily from 07:00-20:30
1 November-31 March: Daily from 08:00-18:00
The Estate of Trianon
1 April-31 October: Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00-18:30
1 November-31 March: Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00-17:30
Musical Gardens- On Tuesdays from April 2nd to May 14th and from July 2nd to October 29th, 2019
On Fridays from April 5th to October 25th, 2019
Musical Fountains Show- On Saturdays and Sundays from 6 April to 27 October 2019 and on Tuesdays from 21 May to 25 June 2019
Tickets can be purchased on-site, but lines are often very long. The best way to see the Palace of Versailles without waiting in line is to purchase a Passport with a timed entry ticket online before your arrival.
Passport with a timed entry (includes entry to the entire Estate of Versailles as well as Trianon)- 20 euro
Passport with timed entry and Musical Fountains Show or Musical Gardens- 27 euro
2-Day Passport- 25 euro
2-Day Passport with Musical Fountain Show or Musical Gardens 30 euro
Palace Ticket- 18 euro
Estate of Trianon Ticket- 12 euro
Musical Gardens Ticket- 8.50 euro
Musical Fountains Show Ticket- 9.50 euro
The queues at the Palace of Versailles are huge. It is recommended to buy a priority admission ticket.
Audio guides are available free of charge. To avoid waiting in line to pick up your audio guide, you can download the Château’s mobile app which includes a comprehensive audio guide plus additional helpful and interesting information.
For access to the King’s private apartments take the 90-minute Guided Tour- “Louis XIV at Versailles.” It only costs 10 euro and gives you a glimpse into rooms that are otherwise off-limits.
The Versailles complex is quite large, which means you’ll probably want to grab a meal or at least a snack, while you’re there. Luckily, there is no shortage of food options available on-site from snack stands to fine dining with traditional French cuisine both inside the palace as well as around the gardens.