In French it is referred to as Chateau de Versailles and is located about 20 minutes from Paris. The site, originally home to Louis XIII’s hunting lodge, became France’s 18th century wonder after his son Louis XIV had it transformed into a large palace. In 1682, he also had the court and government moved to Versailles. During the French revolution in 1789, the royal family had to be moved to the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Versailles then became a storage for all the art collected and confiscated from churches and princely homes, and eventually a museum. Today, the Palace and gardens are visited by thousands of tourists each year.
Busy, Busy but Beautiful
Be warned, it is a very busy place, especially inside the Palace itself. Be prepared to stand in long entrance lines. Once inside, you will likely get stuck between tour groups as they stop at many points and create backlogs. At times, it can be a challenge to see anything or take quality photos when you are constantly looking over people’s heads. If you’re going to get stuck behind a tour group, get stuck behind one in your own language. I was able to find an informative calendar on their official website and it allows you to see the busiest and down times to visit.
Versailles is open everyday except Mondays. If you are visiting in high season, it’s best to be there as early as possible. Start your tour with the Palace. If you don’t purchase your tickets online, you will need to stand in line in the building to your left when you enter the court yard. You can see the ticket options and prices here, as well as purchase the tickets online.
High Season (April to October)
Tuesday – Sunday: 9am – 6:30pm
Low Season (November to March)
Tuesday – Sunday: 9am – 5:30pm
Highlights of the Palace:
- The Hall of Mirrors
- The Chapel
- The Grand Apartment – originally known as the Apartment of the Planets as each room contains a painting of a planet.
Allow yourself one and a half hours for the palace. Don’t spend too much time on it as there are also 250 acres of gardens and fountains to see, unless you are an art and history buff and gardens don’t interest you. Start with the King and Queen’s Apartments so you can enjoy the Hall of Mirrors before it gets too busy. Otherwise, your pictures will come out a lot like mine…full of tourists. The Hall of Mirrors comprises of 357 mirrors and is the most eye-catching feature of the Palace. It is also the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed to end WWI in 1919.
The Palace is stunning, with shimmering chandeliers and gold in every direction you look. It is one of the world’s largest and lavish Palaces. It is little wonder it has become a must-see landmark of France. Versailles is also one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
The Gallery of Battles is a grand hall built by architect Frédéric Nepveu in the nineteenth century. It is a collection of large paintings of France’s battles. It was King Louis-Philippe’s desire to reconcile the nation by showing all the glories of France. The paintings are enormous and contain lots of detail. I love looking at paintings, and if it weren’t for my then five year old son, I could have sat there for a long time enjoying them.
Gardens of Versailles
For small children, the palace can become a little boring. The garden on the other hand, is a great place for them to exert some built up energy. Our ticket didn’t include the gardens but because it was almost 4:30pm, the person in the ticket window informed us that if we wait till 5, we will be able to go in for free. The down side, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fountains turned on with the music. It wasn’t worth paying entry for half hour so we waited.
The person was nice enough and let us in 20 minutes earlier. We quickly headed over to the Latona Fountain. Even though we were not able to see any other fountains in the works, this one was still on and it was magnificent!
For some reason, and this reason being called “not enough research”, we didn’t realize there were more palaces to visit on the right-hand side of the gardens. My dad’s way of dealing with any oversights or missed opportunities, “it gives us a reason to come back”.
In the same area of the Trianons is the Queens Hamlet. Marie-Antoinette had the estate built to get away from the pageantry Courts of Versailles and enjoy the charms of simple country life. From what I have read and heard, this is a most charming place to visit. So unlike us, make sure you do.
Instead, we walked the left side of the gardens. My son loved the high shrubs and pretended it was a maze. We also enjoyed some ice cream and even got to see some large slugs.
- Arrive early to beat the crowds.
- Don’t spend too much time in just the Palace since there is still the Gardens, Trianons and Queens Hamlet to see.
- Check the official website for any information about any parts of Versailles being renovated. As of the date of this post, the Latona Fountain was under renovation.