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Last summer we went on a road trip to France. We started in Paris, and this was mine and my husband’s third time in this beautiful city. We have seen much different iconic stuff in Paris before, and now we wanted to spend some time in Chateau de Versailles. I/we had planned several stops during our road trip, and since I love French history, I wanted to take a detour from Paris to Versailles. My husband needed some convincing as he had never even heard of the place. (here you can imagine me rolling my eyes). Let me tell you a few historical facts about the Palace of Versailles:
- Before Chateau de Versailles was built to be a Palace as we know it today, it was initially created as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII. He used three years to rebuild the lodge into what later became Chateau de Versailles as we know it today.
- World War I “Peace Treaty” was signed in Chateau de Versailles.
- Chateau de Versailles is listed as a World Heritage Site.
- Palace of Versailles contains 2300 rooms.
- Chateau de Versailles is World’s largest Royal Domain.
- Billionaire John D. Rockefeller made two large donations to the Palace for its restoration.
For an in-depth history lesson of the Palace of Versailles, I recommend you to check out Chateau de Versailles official site here.
Getting to Palace of Versailles from Paris
It takes about 30-40 minutes by car from Paris to the Palace of Versailles. The cheapest alternative to get to Chateau de Versailles from Paris is to get on the train. It will take you 1-1,5 hour to get there if you use public transportation.
Check here for more information on ways to get to the Palace from Paris.
We picked up our car at the airport after spending one night in Paris.
There is no point in bringing a car to Paris and spending a lot of time getting in and out of the city. The traffic might be awful and going back to the airport the next day is more convenient.
Chateau de Versailles – skip the line tickets.
I did some research in advance, and we got the tickets to the Chateau de Versailles and the Gardens from Get your Guide before we left Norway.
We didn't want to spend the few hours we had for exploring to stand in a ticket line. When we arrived, I was glad we had purchased "skip the line tickets" as the place was crowded, and it was +30C. As proud as I was (for being so smart) we marched straight to the entrance on the side, as it was stated on the tickets. We passed the snake formed queue of people, who were not as smart as me, or just were lazy to get their tickets in advance, and asked personnel if we could go in because we had pre-purchased the tickets. The man looked at me at said that I had to wait in line.
Me - "What line?
The man - "You see this long queue of approximately 200 m? That line"
Well, thank you, for bringing me back to earth - I was not as smart as I thought. Now we had to decide whether we wanted to spend our time waiting on, what looked like at least an hour-long line or forget about the whole Chateau de Versailles.
Disappointed as we were, I thought - I came here to see Chateau de Versailles, so I can't give up yet. As we tried to take some photos through the gates, just 5 meters away from the entrance, we thought "what the heck." So - WE SNUCK IN LINE! Can you imagine two responsible adults and a 12-year-old? I am not sure if I should be proud of our selves for being so creative and determine or be ashamed.
Palace of Versailles rooms
There are 15 rooms (galleries) in the Palace of Versailles that are opened for the public. Some of the galleries are closed due to major works, and some are only open for guided tours. You can check what is accessible at any time on Palace of Versailles official site (click the link)
The Hall of Mirrors- the most famous room in the Palace of Versailles.
The King's State Apartments - is a series of seven rooms that were used for hosting the sovereign’s official acts. During the day, the State Apartments were open to all who wished to see the king and the royal family passing through on their way to the chapel. During the reign of Louis XIV, evening gatherings were held here several times a week.
Marie-Antoinette's Private Chambers - a series of small rooms
The King's Private Apartments - set of 12 rooms
The Dauphin and Dauphine's Apartments - These ground-floor apartments opened onto the Midi Parterre and were reserved for members of the royal family.
The Museum of the History of France - The different rooms of the Museum are closed to the public, except during guided tours of "Versailles through the centuries.
The Gallery of Great Battles - depicts nearly 15 centuries of French military successes.
As we got through the security gates and X-ray machine, and into the front yard - there was a new line to get into the main building. We decided to explore the left side of the Palace (the one just behind the man in a blue jacket you see in the shot above). We came into the Gallery of Great Battles, so we thought that it was probably very appropriate and fun for our 12 yo (I am ironic here - good parenting). Although you can see that the Chateau has seen its best days (it is getting worn out), the ornaments and paintings are so magnificent. I love the art type that tries to tell me a story. We went through the hall, and somewhat unintentionally we got out to the beautiful and famous gardens of Chateau de Versailles.
Palace of Versailles Gardens
The Palace of Versailles Gardens is known for its symmetry, statues, and fountains. The renovation works on the Gardens started in 1661 and lasted for 40 years. You can spend up to 2 hours in the Gardens and visit them during any season. The access to the Gardens is included in the price of the entry tickets for the Palace, except during Fountain shows and Musical Gardens.
A FUN FACT ABOUT PALACE OF VERSAILLES GARDENS -To maintain the design, the gardens needed to be replanted approximately once every 100 years.
In 1999 the garden was entirely replanted and now boasts a fresh, youthful appearance similar to how it would have looked to Louis XIV.
The "Skip the line tickets" we purchased included a fountain show that starts every hour at specific times of the day.
Remember how smart I was previously? I thought again "It was so clever to go straight to the gardens, so at least we can see the show." I, of course, forgot to check when the show was - as it happens only at specific times, even though it is quite often. It turned out we were, of course, somewhere in between hours, so didn't get to see that. Well, we wandered out in the gardens for 10-15 min, took some pictures and went back to explore the rest of the Palace of Versailles.
And suddenly we were OUTSIDE Chateau de Versailles, and in front of the line, we snuck in. The story is we didn't get to see Chateau de Versailles the way I expected and wanted.
I was so disappointed, naturally. I was in Paris for the third time, and despite the planning, I still got to see neither Chateau de Versailles nor its Gardens. The little I have seen was beautiful, and if you are a history and architecture lover like me, this famous landmark is a must.
Heads up - parts of the Chateau de Versailles is under reconstruction so you won't be able to see everything.
I believe in Karma, and we all know what they say about it. The moral is - I will never snick in again (although they also say "never say never," or was it Justin Bieber?" Anyway, lesson learned for now!!
Opening hours of Chateau de Versailles
Chateau de Versailles is always closed on Mondays and has different opening hours during winter and summer seasons. Summer season is 01 April - 31 October, with opening hours Tuesday - Sunday 9 AM - 6:30 PM.
Winter season is 1 November - 31 March, with opening hours Tuesday - Sunday 9 AM - 5:30 PM.
Palace de Versailles Gardens are open every day but have different opening hours during winter and summer.
Summer season 01 April - 31 October, with opening hours 8 AM - 8:30 PM.
Winter season 01 November - 31 March, with opening hours 8 AM - 6 PM.
Musical Fountain Show is open during the summer season, and you can watch it during certain days and certain hours.
Other things to do around Chateau de Versailles
Marché Notre-Dame - A covered market that has been around since the time of Louis XIV, is located in Notre Dame district of Versailles. Four buildings filled with food of all types. A few mornings a week the market becomes an open-air market and fills the center of the market square, bringing more wonderful produce, cheese, meats, fish, and more. You can even get French snails, or escargots, stuffed with garlic and parsley butter and ready to be baked and served! Why not buy some goodies and have a picnic. In this district, you will find a few museums too.
Montreuil district - a former medieval village, which is now a part of Versailles. Hotel de Ville (city hall) is located here and is a landmark of its own!
If you are looking for some fun things to do after your visit to the Palace of Versailles, why not dress up as a French aristocrat and have photos taken of you. You can do it at Costumes & Châteaux
If you are visiting Chateau de Versailles before Christmas, there are several concerts and shows in the Royal Chapel and Royal Opera.
Throughout December, the confectionery "La Varenne" will organize tasting sessions, allowing you to discover flavors inspired by one of Louis XIV's cooks! How cool is that?? And don't miss out on a Christmas Market!!
If you decide to stay in Versailles for a sleepover to get to the Palace before the crowds, the village of Versailles has several hotels and restaurants of a high standard.