Versailles – Kings and their Castles

Palace of Versailles

Inside the gates of Versailles.

The Palace of Versaille – (Updated March 2018)

The Palace of Versailles and grounds are massive and impressive.  The palace with its beautiful lines, gilded fence, ornate gate, and huge courtyard, scream history.  If you take the time you can almost envision the carriages pulling up delivering wigged, corseted, and jeweled nobles. If you’re a history buff you’ll walk through history and come out the other side satisfied. 

TIP:   Before your visit do some planning. You won’t regret the preparation. See the notes and info at the end of this post.

Versaille is in a city with modern city life!

The city of Versailles is about 10 miles outside Paris (see getting there at the end of the post). The Palace is just around the corner from McDonald’s, the juxtaposition is quite surprising.  The Kings Louis would be shocked!  Marie Antoinette would be aghast!  “Let them eat……. a big Mac?” It reminds me how shocked I was seeing the Sphinx and Giza pyramids in Cairo.  I always pictured these wonders of the world in the quiet desert, not within a stone’s throw of bustling Cairo, fast food, hotels, and restaurants! 

As you exit the RER station, cross the street (there is a McCafe right there for a quick coffee and croissant if breakfast was missed!)  Then turn right and walk about a block and look left.  The site of the sparkling gold gates takes your breath away.  You can’t wait to get there, but you also see the line growing at the gate!  Your pace quickens.  Gold glitters not only on the gate but the fences and roofs, (not to mention all the gold in the interior). No wonder the starving French citizens revolted!   

The palace is vast and sprawling. Apparently, Louis XIV built it to house all the nobility so he could keep a close eye them lest they rebel!  “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” A beautiful place to be forced to live though!

Gates of Versailles

When we arrive about 9 am we see MANY buses already pulling into the parking lot, but the Museum Pass entrance is still relatively empty, and we’re through security very quickly (later we see what happens when you get there mid-morning. The line is huge by 10:30).

 

 

Going through the first rooms were okay but by 10:30 am (especially at bottleneck areas – narrow doorways into favorite rooms) it was body to body and pushing.  

Hordes of Tourists

Hordes of Tourists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems my son and I share the same gene regarding crowds. I can’t take it and neither can he – by mid-morning, shuffling through mobs of tourists with headphones, backpacks, and elbows! We both looked a one another and said: “get me out of here”! Fortunately, we’d seen the hall of mirrors, and kings apartments while the crowds were tamer.  On to the gardens, we still had a lot to see.  

Versailles Gardens:

The Gardens are vast! However, there is an open-air bus with an audio guide that takes you through the gardens and to the Trianon area.  Its Hop-on/Hop-off so you can stop then get on the next bus.  There is a constant schedule but if you’re in a hurry plan to wait briefly for the next bus. 

 

versailles-flowers

This picture is from a previous visit when it rained, lightly, not enough to deter. The flowers are incredible!

Versailles fountains

Fountains in Versailles Gardens

Versailles gardens

A small portion of the Gardens of Versailles

Helpful Hints:

Preparation In advance:   

  • I highly recommend checking the Versailles website in advance of your journey.  There are options for ticket types, special events, fountain and light shows, etc., planning your trip.  You’ll want to choose the best day and time for your visit depending on what you want to see.  Versailles is not open on Mondays.  The website is very comprehensive, a lot of information:  Palace of Versailles Official Website 
  • Check the weather forecast before you go.  The gardens are vast and beautiful, and you won’t want to miss the Grand and Petit Trianon palaces, as well as the Queen’s Hamlet and expansive ornamental gardens.  Not much fun in the rain.
  • You might want to read up on your French History before you go, knowing some of the players and events will add to your appreciation of the palace and grounds.  On the website, there is a bit about the history of Versailles. For instance  “A day in the life of Louis XIV” is fascinating!  Reading about the daily life of the French monarchs brings the rooms to life.   

Versailles – Getting there: 

We’re taking the RER-C train from Champs de Mars/Tour Eiffel. The RER-C train travels through the western suburbs to Versailles Rive Gauche / Chateau de Versailles. The ride is 30-minutes and the Palace is a short walk from the station.  Be sure to buy a roundtrip RER ticket, or you may be in a long line to buy a ticket for the trip back.  

 

Tickets and arrival: 

You can buy your ticket online in advance for a better price, but you’ll still wait in line, just not as long.  Depending on the time of year the lines can be very long, and the wait is outdoors, so weather is a factor.  In summer plan to get there early in the morning (it opens at 9) or mid to late afternoon – it closes at 5:30 unless there is a light show that night.  CHECK BEFORE YOU GO.  I highly recommend the audio guide!   

Time needed:

You need a good 3 hours to tour the palace, gardens, and Trianon.  There is a golf cart type ride you can take around the gardens (with commentary), and to the Trianon, it’s a hop-on/ hop-off and very handy.  There is an extra fee but its worth it!

We’re leaving at 8 am to avoid the long lines into the palace. We also hope to get through the most popular rooms before the tour buses move in!  It gets very crowded especially in the busy season from May through September. 

We arrived T 8:45 and zipped into the McCafe across the street from the RER station. A cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich and we’re off. The walk is only 5 minutes from the station to the entrance of Versailles. We’re watching our time for the 9 am opening, hoping not too many others are early-birds with a mission! 

Versailles Dining:

There are several dining options at Versailles from Cafeteria style to fine dining including in the park and Trianon (the Versailles website had details0 reservations are recommended for the restaurants. The cafeteria has decent food fast and lots of seating.

 

 

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

1 Comment

  • Bev September 5, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Loving the blog, Kath and all your great travel tips. Feels like I’m right there with you but alas… not so. d’Orsay one of my fave places in the world. Recently in the National Gallery in Ottawa visiting a Gustave Doree curation that was a collaboration with d’Orsay. Very well done and interesting!. Maybe it will travel to Boston. xo

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