Destination Guide: Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is certainly one of the touristic highlights when visiting Paris. The famous UNESCO World Heritage site was the royal residence of France between 1682 (Louis XIV) and 1789 (Louis XVI.) While the palace is not actually situated within Paris, it is about 20 kilometres away from the centre.
A number of particularities make the Palace of Versailles a unique place to visit. Firstly, the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Opera, the royal residence in both the Grand and Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s Hameau as well as the huge Gardens of Versailles. The Palace of Versailles is among the most visited sights in Paris and can thus get quite crowded.
How to get to the Palace of Versailles
As I have just mentioned the Palace is not located within the centre of Paris, which means you cannot take a metro to reach the Palace. However, there is a variety of other options including the RER C, SNCF train, shuttle, bus or car.
If you plan to take the RER C you will have to go to the Versailles Château – Rive Gauche station. From there it is about ten minutes to walk to the Palace of Versailles.
SNCF trains leave from Gare Montparnasse or Saint Lazare, either going to Versailles Chantiers or Versailles Rive Droite train station. From both stations it is about fifteen to twenty minutes to walk to the Palace. For more information on times and prices, check out the transilien website.
If you do not want to opt for taking a train, you can also make use of the Shuttle offered by the Palace of Versailles. It departs from the Eiffeltower at twice in the morning and once in the early afternoon. For more information on times and prices, please check here. You will have to book the shuttle in advance but can also directly acquire an admission ticket for the Palaces, which will save you some queing time. Anyways, you still have to queue to pass through security controls.
Alternatively, you can also take the bus number 171 at Pont de Sèvres. Check the RATP for more information.
Visiting the Palace of Versailles
As I have suggested before, you should try to get your ticket in advance to save some waiting time. Especially if you plan to visit during summer season. If you are lucky enough to be an EU resident between the age of 18 and 26, you will receive free entry to the Palace and estate of Trianon by showing your European Identity Card. In this case you do not need to previously acquire a ticket.
You can choose to visit the Palace of Versailles individually or book a guided tour ahead of your visit.
Admiring Gardens of Versailles
The Gardens of Versailles were the definite highlight of our visit to Versailles. Having seen a variety of different palaces all throughout Europe, for example Schönbrunn in Vienna, I always think they resemble each other quite a bit – lots of dark interior, heavy curtains, plush chairs and sofas and of course a lot of golden décor. Therefore we just made a quick tour through the Palace pushing through the crowds and then left for the vast greenery of the Palace’s Gardens.
One important thing to note about visiting the Gardens it that on days with Musical Fountain Shows in the Gardens, visitors will have to purchase an additional ticket to visit them. Times for the display can be checked online. But even if you do have to pay – it is totally worth it, especially in spring and summer!
The park is made up of various fountains, statues and so forth – and it is huge, so it is easy to get lost within the gardens.
The Estates of Trianon
As we spend a night in Versailles, we decided to split our visit of the Palace’s premises into two parts. On the first day we visited the Palace of Versailles and the beautiful gardens. The next day we explored the much smaller Estates of Trianon as well as the surrounding park, which many people use for outdoor activities during the weekend.
The so-called Grand Trianon was constructed as Louis XIV sought to create a smaller palace to spend some quiet time away from the duties in the big palace. It was constructed as a pavilion with a terrace and lots of marble. Both Napoleon I and King Louis-Philippe have resided here during their respective visits.
The smaller of the two Trianons was designed for Louis XV. It was later gifted to Marie-Antoinette by Louis XVI who specifically asked for a replacement of the French landscape garden with an English-styled one. Near the Pavilion she also had the Temple of Love built as well as a small theater within the Petit Trianon.
In comparison to the Palace of Versailles, the interior in the Petit Trianon varies greatly from the big palace. The colours chosen are much brighter and the interior as a whole less decadent. Personally, I think it looked more homely than the royal premises at the Palace of Versailles.
Our overall impressions of the Palace of Versailles
As we had expected visiting the Palace of Versailles is quite strenouos due to the many tourists. Thanks to Moritz great photography skills, however, you can admire the Palace without all too many people on the pictures! As much as I like stepping into the past when exploring royal palaces, I am always much more fascinated by the beautifully landscaped parks and gardens. So be sure to not only check out the insides of the Palace but also to spend some time exploring the greenery around.