The Palace of Versailles – a mansion and residence of French monarchs for about 100 years – until the 1789 French Revolution changed that entirely. Louis XIV, also known as the “Sun King,” created this palace spending almost the entire public treasury. To truly understand the wealth and lifestyle of the French Royalty at this time (and to also know most of their country was starving), you must see the palace for yourself. The Chateau is covered almost entirely in gold. The rooms, each one with their own theme, contain the most intricate details. While there is no furniture in the Chateau (bar a bed or two) due to the revolution, one can still imagine the crazy parties, galas, and events that must have occurred here.
Versailles can be a stressful place to visit – but why? Because EVERYONE and their dog wants to go. Third to the Eiffel Tower and Le Mont Saint-Michel, Versailles is one of the most popular tourist attractions in France. While it is an easy day trip from Paris, one small mistake in your plans could ruin your entire visit.
1. Know the Facts
Common sense, right?! You would be SHOCKED at knowing how many people do not do their research before arriving.
- Versailles is NOT open on Monday. Avoid going on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays (in that order) as those tend to be the busiest days (although be mentally prepared that it’s always busy).
- The Chateau opens at 9am. Get there well before to beat the lines/crowds. I recommend leaving Paris on the train by 8:10am.
- There are three (3) parts to Versailles: the Chateau (main attraction), the Gardens, and the pastoral area called the Trianon Palaces and Domaine de Marie-Antoinette. The Chateau is the most popular and crowded of the three. If you have the time, definitely make an effort to see it all.
- It would be wise to buy a Paris Museum Pass (as it gets you into Versailles and many Paris museums), but if you don’t the cost of The Chateau is €18 and the Trianon/Domaine is €12, together a total of €30.
- If you want to see everything, plan for an 8 hour day trip. Get there at 8:45am, see the Chateau early, wander and picnic in the gardens for lunch, see the Trianon/Domaine in the afternoon, and head back to Paris just before dinnertime.
2. Getting There
The town of Versailles is 35 minutes southwest of Paris. While you could Uber/Taxi there, that would be expensive (€60). If you’re coming from Paris and you’re car-less, here’s the easy way to get there.
- Take the RER C Train from any of these Paris train stops: Gare d’Austerlitz, St. Michel, Musee d’Orsay, Invalides, Pont de l’Alma, or Champ de Mars.
- Buy your round trip ticket there – it will be €7.10 total. Cheap!
- Catch any train that is listed as Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche. It will be the final stop, and it’s only a 10 minute walk to the palace from there.
3. Know What You’re Looking At!
While this also seems like common sense, it surprises me when people hardly know anything about sites or museums they visit. Places become much more meaningful when you learn about their history and purpose. There is so much rich history with Versailles – knowing all of the details can help you appreciate it so much more!
- I highly recommend looking into Rick Steves’ guides – especially his commentary/tour of Versailles. He provides an excellent overview filled with history, facts, and funny tidbits. He has podcasts, YouTube clips, and books all for this purpose. Most everything is free too! I personally read his book while meandering through every room, and it was a pleasant experience.
- There are guided tours of the Chateau, but you MUST book ahead. It will cost extra money too, but probably worth it.
- There are free audioguides to the Chateau that are included in your admission.
- Before your trip, do a light Google/Wikipedia search about it. You may learn many things (i.e. Marie Antoinette probably did not say “Let them eat cake!”)
4. Enjoy Every Moment
This is 100000% cliche, but true. I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy it because of the crowds. Even though we didn’t arrive as early as I am recommending, the crowds were not as bad as I thought. I could thoroughly enjoy the Hall of Mirrors which were easily my favorite part. After learning so much about this specific room in my Art History courses, it truly was worth all of the hype. Fun Fact – the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in 1919 to end the First World War.
Other things to notice…
- King Louis XIV, who had this palace built, thought incredibly highly of himself. He was known as the “Sun King” for strengthening the power of the French Monarchy at the time. Every room depicts symbols and motifs of the Roman god/goddess that it represents.
- Red Granite can be seen all over the palace – a symbol of royalty that dates back to the Roman times. Even Napoleon’s giant tomb in Les Invalides is made of red granite, a nod to Roman royalty. Keep in mind red granite isn’t cheap either!
- Versailles’ current worth is at least over 2 billion dollars. Just let that sink in.
5. Absolutely Make Time for the Gardens
Most tourists who visit Versailles only check out the Chateau and skip the rest. I can’t stress this enough – the Gardens are huge and beautiful. There is so much work put into the landscaping – one could wander there for hours and hours on end. Next time I visit I plan to spend more time here.
Have you been to Versailles? What extra tips do you have?