The Palace of Versailles is Europe’s most spectacular castle. No other place in the world can match Versailles Palace’s combination of dazzling beauty, historical significance, and over-the-top extravagance. It has been open for tours since 1793 and today receives around 15 million visitors each year.
Once you see Versailles, you probably won’t feel surprised to learn that Louis XIV put France on the road to eventual bankruptcy and revolution when he created it. Today, it’s hard to realize that this vast estate worthy of the “Sun King,” as Louis liked to be called, started as a simple hunting lodge.
The first big construction project started in 1661 and the overall project took 20 years to complete except the gardens which took another two decades to be completely finished.
Things to know before your visit
All Visitors must book a time slot to access the Palace
Admission to the Palace within half an hour of the booked time slot can only be guaranteed for tickets purchased online, here. Ticket starts from €21.5. Access to the Palace and the estate of Trianon is free for visitors under 18 (or under 26 residing in the EU). If you are eligible for free admission, choose your ticket, date of visit, time slot and then select “FREE ADMISSION”. Entrance to the gardens during the Musical Fountains show, the Musical Gardens or the Night Fountains show is free for children under 5 years of age.
The Palace is huge and there are different areas to visit
The Palace, magnificent as it is, occupies just one small part of the chateau’s immense 2,000+ acre estate. Two other smaller châteaus (the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon), vast gardens filled with numerous statues and fountains, a mile-long body of water called the Grand Canal, and even a replica of a small French village created for Marie Antoinette and her friends give you many more fascinating places to see.
You can enjoy 21st century recreation and culture: paddle boats in the Canal’s basin, concerts, art and Musical Gardens and Musical Fountains shows, including a beautifully illuminated version with fireworks on Saturday nights.
You will spend half a day at the minimum in the palace itself so allocate your time properly. We spent a whole day including the commuting time from Paris to Versailles and return.
Get to the Palace as early as possible
We visited Versailles on Sunday morning and as we get off the train at Rive Gauche station, there is already a crowd making their way to the Palace. We immediately thought we have made a mistake by coming on Sunday. When we get to the gate, there were already a massive queue of people. We arrived in Versailles at 9.40am and there were already 4 layers of queueing. We were lucky to come in spring so the weather was cool and bearable inside the chateaux despite of the crowd. I cannot imagine what summer would feel like with the same crowd.
The palace is open every day of the week except for Mondays, and they open at 9 a.m. and close at 5:30 p.m while the Trianon Estate is open at noon. Tour buses arrive shortly after 9am , so beat them there and arrive before 9am. It will be your best bet for avoiding long lines. The gardens and park are opened at 8 a.m. every day of the week.
High season runs from April to October and Low Season from November to March.
- There are toilets and changing tables before the ticket checks in the South Ministers’ Wing and after the ticket checks in the basement of the Dufour Pavilion (Entrance A). Other toilets are located in the basement of the Gabriel Pavilion (Entrance B) and at the end of the History Gallery.
- On the State Apartments: there are no toilets on the first floor and you have to go to the Dufour Pavilion.
- In the gardens: there are toilets next to the Dauphin’s Grove, next to the Girandole Grove and in the Park at Little Venice.
- At the Trianon Estate: there are toilets outside the Grand Trianon in the Park and at the Petit Trianon before the ticket checks, as well as in the Queen’s Hamlet.
Getting to the Palace from Paris
You can take the train from Paris to Palace of Versailles. There are 3 ways to do it depending on your location
- Take RER line C which arrives at Versailles Château – Rive Gauche train station, 950 meter walk to the Palace. You can find RER line C anywhere along the bank of the Seine River but the popular RER C line stations in central Paris are St-Michel (near Notre Dame), Musée d’Orsay, Invalides, Pont de l’Alma, and Champs de Mars – Tour Eiffel. The train normally comes every 15minutes.
- If you stay in the south of Paris, take the train TER N from Paris Montparnasse to Versailles Rive Gauche chantier station, 1.7km to the Palace
- If you stay around Montmartre or close to the department stores of the Galeries Lafayettes or Printemps take Train line L from Gare Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite train station, 1.5km to the Palace.
Purchase two ticket (two-way trip) from your point of departure to the Versailles train station, or use a Paris Visite covering zones 1 to 4. T+ tickets cannot be used for this journey, you have to buy a separate ticket.
The main palace
The Main Palace boasts more than 2,300 rooms; fully-restored rooms such as the King’s and Queen’s sumptuous apartments, the soaring Grand Chapel with its breathtaking vaulted ceiling and golden pipe organ, and of course the dazzling Hall of Mirrors give you plenty of reasons to linger.
Here’s suggested things to see inside the Palace:
- The Dazzling Hall of Mirrors (Galeries des Glaces): the most famous top sight inside the Palace of Versailles is the unforgettable, dazzling, over-the-top splendid Hall of Mirrors. Photographs do not do it justice. The experience of standing in the Hall’s vast space and seeing reflections of light, massive quantities of gold and crystal, and endlessly multiplying images in the silvery mirrors wherever you look is totally unique.
- The King’s State Apartments
- The Queen’s State Apartments
- The Royal Chapel
- Art at Versailles Palace
- The Royal Opera House
The garden and the Grand Canal
From the Hall of Mirrors, visitors can admire a great overview of the Gardens of Versailles for which the King of Sun, Louis XIV, had an unconditional love. During his whole reign, the King made from the Gardens of Versailles Palace a unique and magnificent place. Shows, luxury celebrations, receptions of guests and other royal entertainments kept occurring.
The Versailles gardens, designed by André Le Nôtre, have been a worldwide reference since the 17th century. These works of art are also a paradise representative of the ambitions of Louis XIV when he was a young king. The work that André Le Nôtre carried out for the Château de Versailles marked not only his career but the history of France. A humble gardener without specialized training, Le Nôtre designed and conceived a series of gardens, groves, and parks for the palace and its domaine. His achievements were, and still are, considered to be the work of a genius and spanned 25 long years during which the gardens of Versailles would continue to grow in size and in splendor.
The Grand Canal at the Palace of Versailles is without a doubt André Le Nôtre’s most famous work. The landscape artist’s task was to create a perfect visual harmony. However, the Grand Canal has two lateral canals that are not the same size; one measures 62 meters and the other 80 meters wide. The main bassin in the form of a cross measures 23 hectares. On paper, the cross appears asymmetrical but when the King would arrive at the bassin — or more specifically at the Latone part of the bassin — everything appeared perfectly harmonious and symmetrical.
Grand Trianon and Petite Trianon
Don’t skip the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon as they are must-sees. There is a petite train that can take you to Grand Trianon and Petite Trianon if you are tired with all the walking inside the main palace and the garden.
These two palaces are incarnations of two different visions and two different dreams of French sovereigns: the perfection staged by Louis XIV, the absolute monarch, is his response to the refined and intimate charm of the Petit Trianon. If you do not have enough time to visit the interior, take the time to linger in the gardens; they are worthy settings for these two jewels.
The Grand Trianon is surrounded by gardens whose innumerable flowers and groves help create an atmosphere of relaxation. When you visit the Grand Trianon, you will succumb to the charm of the French-style gardens, with their perfect geometric forms. The quest for perfection became a kind of initiation rite, and the Sun King personally supervised the construction. The Grand Trianon served as a refuge for Louis XIV, who could escape from the constant bustle of the court while surrounding himself with more select company. Being invited there was a privilege, an honor few courtiers received. Over the centuries, famous figures stayed there, including Napoleon.
The Petit Trianon palace was originally built upon the request of Madame de Pompadour, the favorite of King Louis XIV, who wanted a charming setting that could “amuse the king.” It was inaugurated in 1769. But the building reached the height of its use during the second half of the 18th century, when Louis XVI presented it to his wife, Marie Antoinette.
The young queen renovated the space, notably having an English-style garden planted to replace the old greenhouses. She often took refuge at the Petit Trianon to escape the pomp and etiquette of the Court of Versailles, which sometimes weighed on her. She surrounded herself with close friends and organized intimate soirées, without always taking the prerogatives of her time and rank into account.
A visit to the Petit Trianon is a moving immersion in the everyday life of Marie Antoinette, a deeply human queen. Often accused of frivolity, she would come to a tragic end during the French Revolution.