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
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.
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?
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 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
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.
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
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 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
If you are interest in seeing additional photos of Versailles, we provide
See the official Versailles
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.
If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.