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Château Versailles

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Versailles

The Latona Fountain, facing the Grand Canal in the Gardens at Versailles

If you can only fit in one daytrip during your visit to Paris make it to Palace of Versailles, the most opulent and historic royal château in France.

 Originally a hunting lodge constructed for Louis XIII, the property was converted into an enclave for the court of Louis XIV in the late 17th century.  While the Town of Versailles, which includes the Palace, is now considered a nearby suburb of Paris, at the time it was constructed, Versailles was a country estate.

The scale and opulence of Versailles's buildings and gardens defy the imagination. The buildings are intricate, ornate and filled with period furniture and interesting exhibits.   The gardens are manicured, filled with delightful fountains and impressively designed.

Come and explore: Versailles overview, The Palace, the Grand Trianon, Marie Antoinette's Estate, the Gardens, More Photographs, Opening Hours.

Versailles

The Château of Versailles was designed to represent the broad range of French art, architecture and desting-style that were emerging in the late 17th century.  The estate emphasizes royal grandeur, so much so that it became a symbol of the difference between the "haves" and "have nots", a difference that eventually led to the French Revolution in the 18th century.  Versailles was created by Louis XIV as a country retreat - an alternative to living and ruling the country from Paris, which he found tiresome and overly political.

There was so much intrigue among the nobility and politicians in the court of Louis XIV that he was afraid to have them out of his sight for fear that they would revolt against his reign. As a consequence, he built Versailles large enough to house his entire court and ordered them to accompany him when he was in residence - staying in Paris was not an option when the "Sun King" requested your presence at Versailles.

The main Palace  of Versailles is surrounded by a spacious, luxurious, park filled with fountains, sculptures, beautiful gardens and yet other palaces and lodging for the royals. This “must see” attraction is a comfortable day trip from Paris (approximately twenty-five minutes to the Versailles Rive-Gauche Station by RER).

Although there are  many attractions at Versailles (the official map shows over ninety attractions in their list of the most remarkable areas of the estate) the best way to approach this palatial complex is to break it into four categories, which are: 1) The Palace, 2) the Gardens, 3) Marie Antoinette's Estate, and 4) the Grand Trianon. 

Take a self-guided tour of the grounds but sign up for a guided tour of the lavishly decorated interior of the Palace. Be sure to research  the many things you can see at Versailles before you go, as it contains many treasures that you might miss if not prepared. In addition, get there early, as exploring all of Versailles will require the better part of a day. See what you can and leave when you are pooped.

The Palace

Most visitors focus on the Palace, which was the residence of the king and his court. The palace is enormous, beautiful and presents an almost overwhelming array of attractions. Be sure to see the State Apartments (both King and Queen's), Opera House and the Chapel Royal. Don't miss the beautiful Hall of Mirrors, which re-opened to the public in June of 2007 after undergoing a thorough, three year restoration.

Highlights of the interior of the Château include: The Hall of Mirrors, Royal Opera, Marble Staircase, Mars Drawing Room, Venus and Diana Drawing Rooms, and The Royal Chapel


     

We recommend that you take a formal tour of the Palace, as there are too many interesting details to take in without extensive preparation.  In addition, you may find out "unusual" stories about the monarchs.  For example, during a recent tour our guide told us the Sun King had "people" to wipe his backside, as he believed that  doing so was unbecoming  for a king of his stature.  Who knew?

The Grand Trianon

Louis XIV built and  occupied the Grand Trianon, where some of his family also lived  The Grand Trianon is a small, classical palace and private residence that Louis XIV hoped would allow him and his family to escape the rigors life at the court.  It is a one story affair known as the Marble Trianon, built in the late 17th century. 

The Grand Trianon, a one-story building built late in the 17th century is, also, known as the Mable Trianon.  Its marvelous columned porticos help make this a stately building in a beautiful setting. The Grand Trianon was beloved by the wife of King Louis XV, Marie Leszczynska, who lived here in summer.  Marie-Antoinette gave several performances in the Grand Trianon, but preferred the Petit Trianon, which her husband Louis XVI had gifted her as a present.

Marie Antoinette's Estate

Marie Antoinette's Estate is a classic example of the contrasts at Versailles and you should reserve time in your schedule for a tour.  The section of Versailles associated with Marie Antoinette reopened in the summer of 2006 (after substantial restoration) as "Marie Antoinette's Estate".   It includes the Petit Trianon, Chapel, the Queen's Hamlet,  the replanted English Garden (damaged in a freak storm during 1999) and other delightful attractions.

In part Marie Antoinette's unusual choice of residences reflects the difference between the Habsburgs and the French (she was the daughter of Maria Theresa, who was one of the rulers of the Habsburg Empire during the 18th century.) The Petit Trianon, her small but ornate neoclassical residence also known as "Little Vienna" and its gardens are extremely beautiful.  The Petit Trianon was originally built in the mid-17th century for Madame de Pompadour  who was a mistress and friend of Louis XV, but Marie Antoinette spared no expense in altering the Petit Trianon and its gardens to reflect her tastes.

     

The English Garden commissioned by Marie Antoinette  and the Queen's Hamlet are very popular with visitors.  Marie Antoinette apparently often wished to get away from Versailles, but it was simply not possible.  As a consequence, she had purpose-built a hamlet where she could surround herself with a royal's view of the life of peasants.  The Hamlet included a working farm and employed a famer and his fieldworkers.

The Gardens

Behind the Palace is the start of the formal gardens, which are laid out with a formal geometric shape.  In addition, several amazing fountains and ornamental lakes hold statues of unbelievable beauty.  The gardens lead in the direction of the Grand Canal, which extends for over a mile in length, receding into the distance in what appears to perfect symmetry.

The gardens are both elegant and stunning.  You will be able to see  a portion of the gardens on your way to the Estate of Marie Antoinette and the Grand Trianon, but all of the garden area is spectacular and worthy of your time.

       

Have your camera ready, as Versailles is one of the best picture opportunities in France. The grounds are lush and filled with monuments, statues, canals, and other signs of an ostentatious design. The Grand and Petit Trianon and their gardens are worth a slow walkthrough as they will provide you with additional insights into the extravagant spending required to build Versailles and the contrast between the royalty and the commoner in France at that time.

 

Versailles and Giverny Day Trip
 
From Viator Tours
Versailles is in the midst of a renovation program that will last until 2020. Various areas of the Chateau will be closed as they are restored. Regardless, there is so much to explore at Versailles that the closures simply make it easier to choose what to see. Other buildings may close for emergency repairs.

More Photos

If you are interest in seeing additional photos of Versailles, we provide them here.

Opening Times

See the official Versailles website   for more information on the buildings available for touring and temporary closures. The Palace is closed every Monday, as well as Christmas Day, New Year's Day and May Day. Note, also, that there are Musical Fountain Shows in the various gardens of Versailles and information on their schedule can be found at the the Versailles Website.

 

The grounds are stunning and extensive. Wear comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to spend half of your time indoors and the remainder touring the grounds. 

Next - explore our menu on the right  to find other types of sightseeing in Paris.

Or - If you want to find out about a specific attraction and know its name, look for it in our Index of the Best Places To Visit in Paris.

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Versailles Small Group Day Trip from Paris

From Viator Tours

 

 

 
Versailles Walking Tour with Optional Fountain Show

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris

Notre Dame
Eiffel Tower
Champs Elysées
The Louvre
The Latin Quarter
Invalides
The Marais
Montmartre
Père Lachaise

Daytrips
Versailles
Fontainebleau
Giverny
Chantilly
Farther Afield

Paris Travel Tips

Index of Places To Visit in Paris

Best Places to Visit in France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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