We’ll be sharing with you everything you need to know before you visit the Palace of Versailles, an incredible location filled with history and French savoir-faire (know how) that gathers the power and splendor of the French Monarchy.
The origins of the Palace of Versailles go back to the XVII century. The King at the time, Louis XIII, would often go there to hunt and eventually decided to build a place where he could stay the night. Little by little this location became more and more important to the monarch, not only for hunting, but as a place to retreat and disappear.
Louis XIV, The Sun King
It was actually Louis XIV who from a very young age felt a strong passion for Versailles and once he became King he decided to expand the palace even beyond his father´s imagination. The King turned it into a vacation house and later, towards 1682, made it the main residency for the court and government. Thus Versailles became an expression of the power and strength of France.
Many years after the death of the Sun King, his great-grandson King Louis XV returned to Versailles and decided he needed more privacy. Due to his shyness he had private apartments built and created small offices where he felt more comfortable. Despite not spending much time at Versailles, it is during his time as ruler that the palace undergoes the greatest transformations, such as the construction of the Royal Opera of Versailles.
It is Louis XVI who spends the most time at Versailles and he dedicates his time to studying different sciences. It is Louis XVI who spends the most time at Versailles and he dedicates his time to studying different sciences. The public image of the monarchs became heavily tainted due to their fiscal policies and the decadent spending of the Queen, Marie Antoinette; not only to the people but to other noblemen. The nights of October 5th and 6th, 1789, the monarchs were forced to return to Paris where they were guillotined.
After the Revolution
The palace didn’t suffer as many damages as expected from the Revolution, but often served as a public storage location, and that is how they first came up with the idea of turning it into a museum.
During the Napoleonic period, he decided to take up the Grand Trianon, because he was aware of the negative image tied to the palace.
However, it was Louis Phillipe who brought true renovation to the Palace of Versailles. This monarch created a museum dedicated to all the victories of France and all of the efforts that went into saving the palace. Napoleon III used it as a venue to host parties and show off his power.
After the First World War
During the First World War the property was closed off and all artwork put away. Several years went by before the Peace Treaty of 1919 is signed there. This is not enough to turn attention back to the Palace and much less to provide the resources needed to restore and keep it. American Millionaire Rockefeller decides to make two substantial donations to finance the restoration of the palace, in remembrance of the influence France had in the Independence of the United States. Nowadays, the palace and properties benefit from private donations and are financed by tourists who wish to visit one of the main architectural jewels of France.
How is the Palace of Versailles Organized
The Palace of Versailles spans over 800 hectares with different notable places:
The Royal Palace
In this area you’ll find the main and smaller apartments (or public and private), the chapel, the opera, the Gallery of the Battles, Louis XIV Rooms, the Hall of Mirrors, the Museum of the History of France, and the apartments for the daughters of Louis XV. Not everything is open to the public. Some spaces are reserved for private tours of small groups; others are being renovated or restored. A complete tour, with an audio guide, and taking into account commuting time, may take between 2 – 3 hours.
Gardens and Groves
A set of groves, statues, and ponds designed by André Le Nôtre, can all be found within the gardens of the Palace, representing the quintessential French garden. They are unique spaces that are easy to get lost in to discover all the charming nooks. A complete visit to the gardes may take up to 2 hours.
More than a park it’s almost a forest around the Grand Canal, it is of free access and many locals come here to jog or take a stroll.
The Trianon Properties
They can be found a short 10 minute walk away from the Grand Canal. This area is made up of the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon, and the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen’s Village). This was for the private use of the Kings, where they could be in complete privacy. Each one of them gave it their own flair and what you see today is the result of the passage of the kings, an emperor, and of the Republic. The Queen’s Village shows the inclination at the time for a more rural life, its restoration was finished in 2018. To visit the Trianon Properties completely you will need approximately three hours, and keep in mind that it is done by foot, among gardens.
The Coach Gallery
Located inside the Grand Écuries (Grand Stables), here you can appreciate the large and smaller coaches used by the monarchs of that time. The gallery is found before the Gates of Honor. This space, not often visited by tourists, could be interesting for those with time to spare.
Since Versailles is found 15 kilometers (9 miles) away from the center of Paris, it is important to keep in mind that visiting will include transportation and you need to be willing to walk a lot (and being patient with the large numbers of visitors.)
1 . Spend all day and visit the whole estate:
This is the best option for those willing and able to spend an entire day at Versailles. It will also depend on the kind of weather and the amount of time you have available.
If you want to spend the whole day, and the weather is nice, consider arriving early in the morning to visit the gardens, have lunch at noon, visit the Trianon and see the Palace of Versailles in the afternoon. Attention: this means walking almost 13 kilometers (7 miles), so make sure you’re in shape to make the most of it!
2 . See the palace and gardens:
We think this is the most interesting option from a cost/benefit point of view, since you´ll get to visit the palace and the beautiful gardens. We give you options depending on the weather, explain the best schedules to come for a visit, and give you a few different tricks to save time and money.
3 . Only visit the gardens:
If you don’t have time or are not interested in visiting the whole palace, you could consider only visiting the gardens and having a picnic next to the Grand Canal. This can be an interesting activity, it gets you out of Paris for a bit, and will give you a general idea of the grandeur of this place. This is a particularly fun idea in Spring or Summer, and during the Musical Fountains and Musical Gardens shows. We do not recommend doing this in winter or rainy days. Check the weather before planning.
4 . Summer:
When the sun is out and the weather permits, the estate of Versailles prepares a series of thematic events that could be of interest for some of the visitors. We have gone to several of the nighttime Musical Fountain Shows and the Royal Serenade, they are very different ways of seeing and enjoying this place. Keep in mind that you will not be able to see the palace (not all rooms are open to the public), and to return to Paris via public transportation after the show you´ll have to hurry to the train station so you won’t miss the last trains to Paris. For more information on prices and dates, check the official website of the Palace of Versailles.
5 . Guided Visits (only in English and French):
If you speak either of these languages, you can take a guided visit. If this interests you, we recommend buying your ticket directly at the palace (ticket booth is located to the left if you are standing with the Gates of Honor behind you and the palace in front) and you can choose whatever ticket suits you best. It is approximately 10€ extra.
Types of tickets:
Remember that entrance is free for anyone under 18 years of age (regardless of their country of origin) and free for anyone under 26 if they are EU residents.
Below you’ll find a list of the available options to visit all or part of this historic place*:
- Palace Ticket: (Price 18€). Includes the palace with audio guide in all languages, temporary exhibitions available within the palace, gardens (except Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and days with Musical Fountain Shows), the parks, and the Coach Gallery.
- Passport: (Price 20€) everything is available on the Palace Ticket, but it also includes the Trianon properties.
- Two Day Passport: (Price 25€) Two consecutive-day all-access tickets included in the Palace Ticket and Passport plus access to Musical Fountain show or the Musical Gardens show. It will also provide discounts for other events at the city of Versailles.
- Trianon Estate Ticket: (Price 12€) Includes access to all of the Trianon estate (Grand and Petit Trianon), the gardens (except Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, and days with Musical Fountain shows), the Park, and the Coach Gallery.
- Time Specific Passport: (Price 20€) It allows total access to the estate and guarantees entrance half an hour after your selected time.
- Musical Fountain Show: (Price 9,50€) It allows you to see the ponds, gardens, and groves during the day while they are animated by baroque music. Available Saturdays and Sundays from April to October (and some holidays), and the Tuesdays of May through the end of June. Check exact dates.
- Musical Gardens: (Price 8,50€) Allows access to the gardens and groves while they are being animated by music (it is different from the previous show in that the fountains are not coordinated with the music.) Available from April 2nd to March 14th, and then from July to October, only by day. Check exact dates. Check exact dates.
- Night Musical Fountains:(Price 26€). Once night falls, you can enjoy the gardens and lakes not only with musical accompaniment but also with water and light works, making your night stroll extra magical. The night closes with a fireworks show. This ticket only allows access to the gardens at night, on days with show available. It is available only Saturday nights from mid June to the end of September. Check exact dates.
- The Night Musical Fountains ticket can be bought along with the Royal Serenade ticket. The Serenade is an event that brings to life the Royal balls in the Hall of Mirrors. It’s like travelling in time. We recommend it to people seeing the Night Musical Fountains Show. Make sure to be there a little earlier than the hour stated on your ticket.
*We provide this information hoping it will make your trip to the Palace of Versailles easier, however we encourage you to check everything on the official website of the Palace of Versailles for more precise information since dates and prices may change and Descubre Paris takes no responsibility on any possible changes.
From theory to reality
Where is Versailles? How do I get there? Where should I eat?
In our opinion, if you are coming to Paris for more than three days you should consider making your fourth day a trip to Versailles. Paris has so much to offer, but once you have seen the main attractions you can take a day out to visit the beautiful grounds of Versailles. To do so, we have included in our Detailed Guides of 4 and 5 days everything you need to know to have a nice visit to Versailles. You may also consider getting a Personalized Guide
In any case, here are some important details:
- To get to Versailles you need to take the RER C, heading to Château Versailles RG (Rive Gauche). Don’t mistake it for Parc de Versailles, an exhibition center inside of Paris. We have had confused tourists who think the palace will be there.
- – The length of the ride will depend on where you start. If, for example, you are around Saint-Michel (Notre-Dame), it will be approximately an hour to Versailles on the commuter rail we mentioned before.
- – The price of a ticket for the commuter rail is around 3,55€ per person per ride. The trick is to purchase your return ticket beforehand so you can avoid the lines at the station on your way back.
- If you want to have a pique-nique in the gardens, you can buy sandwiches right across the street from the train station. We really like the ones available in ClassCroute (salads, fresh sandwiches and beverages). – It is much cheaper than inside the castle (and better quality).
- Buy your tickets directly at the palace (or better yet, buy them beforehand online.)
- The Palace of Versailles has created a very handy app to guide your visit and figure out the grounds. We really recommend it, especially if you are visiting the Trianon Estates so you don’t get lost. It has maps and some historical and practical information. It is free. https://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/resources/palace-versailles-application
- – Be very aware of pickpockets inside the palace. That’s right, there are people who will pay the ticket to steal from distracted tourists inside the palace.
- – If you come in Winter, unless you love the cold and have good jackets, we don’t recommend visiting the gardens. It gets very windy and the plants are not at their best. This doesn´t make them any less beautiful and you can wander around, just make sure you are warmly dressed.
- Please avoid touching objects. Avoid touching gold coverd banisters, grills, bars. Everything you see golden colored is covered with gold leafs. It can stick to your hands, clothes and then goes to the water, in addition to the wear of this highly valued objects whos renovation is really expensive.
- Wear comfortable shoes and make sure to bring a beautiful smile and good attitude
Paris is waiting for you.
A bientôt! See you soon!