Don’t Miss the Fountains at Versailles and Water Games
The Fountains of Versailles are one of Versailles’ main highlights. The 50 fountains and 620 water games are an integral part of the aesthetics desired by the Sun King and constituted a staging, a show that King Louis XIV used to glorify his reign.
From the early 1660s, until he died in 1715, King Louis XIV directed the creation and elaboration of the Château de Versailles and surrounding gardens. The best architects, engineers, sculptors, artists, and gardeners were employed – Le Vau, Mansart, Le Brun, Girardon, Le Notre, and more. Their genius was responsible for the individual parts, but the conception of the whole, the overall vision, was throughout that of the King.
Still today, the Versailles Fountains and water games are the main attraction of the summer shows in Versailles, like Les Grandes Eaux Musicales (Versailles Fountain Show) or Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes (Versailles Night Fountain Show). The fountains’ sculptures spit water that is measured, controlled, and designed to arouse astonishment.
The Fountains at Versailles are designed in different styles and sizes, and they all tell a different story. The construction and management of the Fountains in Versailles are fascinating too. Being Versailles set far from a water source, the water supply to ensure the fountains’ functioning was always a big challenge.
Here’s the roundup of the best Fountains in Versailles, in no particular order, with a Versailles Fountains map to help you pinpoint all these amazing water games. You will also learn about the different Versailles shows, water supply, and what happens below the grounds!
How many fountains are there at Versailles? In Versailles, there are 50 fountains and 620 water jets fed by 35 km of piping.
Table of Content:
- About the Versailles Gardens
- When to See the Fountains of Versailles
- Versailles Fountain Show & Versailles Fountains Night Show
- Versailles Fountains Schedule
- Versailles Fountains Map
- Best Fountains in Versailles
- Versailles Fountains’ Water Supply
Plan Your Trip to Versailles
About the Versailles Gardens
The Gardens of Versailles are the most famous in France. They were designed by the landscape designer André Le Notre, and they are an essential part of the royal residence. For the King, the Gardens of Versailles were as important as the Palace of Versailles itself, and he personally supervised the design and construction of the Gardens.
The Gardens of Versailles surround the Château de Versailles on three sides. The east-west axis, from the Palace to the Grand Canal, is known as La Grande Perspective (big perspective).
The closest gardens to the Palace are known as Le Petit Parc, and a fence limits them. They are French-style gardens with a geometric design, constituted of parterres animated by fountains and other water games.
The gardens around the Grand Canal are known as Le Grand Parc, and they look like a small forest. Explore this part of Versailles by bike or from the water on a rowboat.
When to See the Fountains of Versailles
All the Fountains of Versailles are located in the Petit Parc. The Petit Parc is free to visit during the low season, from 1 November to 31 March.
From 1 November to 31 March (low season in Versailles), the fountains don’t work, and some grooves are closed to the public. On the other hand, there are fewer visitors, and it is more enjoyable to stroll around the park.
From 1 April to 31 October (high season in Versailles), the Petit Parc hosts different shows, and there is an entrance ticket to visit it. You can buy the ticket to visit the Versailles Gardens only or combine it with the tickets to the Palace or Trianons (there are interesting Versailles bundles that save you money).
During the high season, however, the Fountains at Versailles don’t work every day. It depends on the kind of show — more on this below.
TIP: Learn the history and admire the best of Versailles Gardens with this Versailles Gardens Guided Walking Tour
Versailles Fountain Show & Versailles Fountains Night Show
The Gardens at Versailles host three different shows: Versailles Fountains Show, Versailles Musical Gardens, and Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes (Versailles Fountains Night Show). When do the Fountains at Versailles run? Keep on reading about the different Versailles shows.
1. Versailles Fountains Show
The Versailles Fountains Show is our favorite Versailles Garden show. Explore the gardens and groves while listening to Baroque music, and watch the fountains’ water displays with special effects. You can visit the Versailles Fountains Show only, without the Palace, or buy a combined ticket to the Palace of Versailles and Gardens to save money – Click here to buy your tickets to Versailles Palace & Musical Fountains Show
- Every Saturday and Sunday from 1 April until 29 October 2023.
- Every Tuesday from 2 May to 27 June 2023
- Friday 7 April, Monday 10 April, Monday 8 May, Ascension Day (Thursday 18 May), Monday 29 May, Friday 14 July, and Tuesday 15 August 2023.
2. Versailles Musical Gardens Show
The Musical Gardens Show is less spectacular than the Versailles Fountain Show but also beautiful. Wander through the largest open-air museum, decorated with amazing sculptures, while listening to the beautiful sounds of Baroque music. This show does not include the fountains’ water display. You can visit the Musical Gardens Show only, without the Palace, or buy a combined ticket to the Palace of Versailles and Gardens to save money – Click here to buy your tickets to Versailles Palace & Musical Gardens Show
- Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 April to 28 April 2023 (except Friday 7 April, which is a day with Musical Fountains Show)
- Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 3 May to 30 June 2023 (except Thursday 18 May, which is a day with Musical Fountains Show)
- Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 July to 31 October 2023 (except Friday 14 July and Tuesday 15 May, which are days with Musical Fountains Shows)
Versailles Fountains Night Show (Les Grandes Eaux Nocturnes)
During the Fountains Night Show, the gardens are transformed into a striking visual and musical experience. Stroll the gardens beautifully illuminated, with the fountains and grooves displaying water at the sound of music. The show ends with a ‘grand finale,’ fireworks display in front of the Grand Canal – Click here to buy the tickets to the Fountains Night Show
- Every Saturday from 10 June until 23 September 2023 (08:30 pm to 11:05 pm)
- Friday 14 July, and Tuesday 15 August 2023.
TIP: Transportation in Versailles after the Fountains Night Show is complicated. The last RER train to Paris runs until about midnight, a connection which is doable but very tight, especially because everybody waits until the end of the Grand Finale to leave the grounds. Avoid the hassle of running to catch the last (and hyper-crowded) train by booking a private transfer from Versailles to your hotel in Paris with Welcome Pickups. You can also decide to spend the night in one of the hotels near Château de Versailles and use the second day for exploring the city or a bike ride + picnic in the park.
Versailles Fountains Schedule
When are the Fountains on at Versailles? It is important to understand that the Fountains are not running all day during the Versailles Fountain Shows; there’s a Versailles Fountains schedule you should get familiar with, especially if you also want to visit the Palace and Trianons. Before leaving for Versailles, study the Versailles Fountains schedule and Versailles Fountain Show times, and plan your Versailles itinerary accordingly.
The Mirror Pool: from 10 am to 7 pm, 7 minutes every 10 minutes
- Continuously: the Water Theatre Grove, from 10 am to 7 pm
- In the morning: the Groves of the Ballroom, the Colonnade, the Girandole, and the Basins of Bacchus and Saturn, from 10.30 am to 11.30 am
- In the afternoon: all the Groves and the Basins of the Gardens, from 2.30 pm to 3.15 pm and from 4 pm to 4.45 pm on weekends, Thursday 18 May and Tuesday 15 August 2023
The Great Perspective:
- In the morning: the Parterre d’Eau, Latona Fountain, and Apollo’s Fountain, from 10.30 am to 12 pm
- In the afternoon: Latona Fountain Apollo Fountain: from 2 pm to 2.30 pm, from 3 pm to 4.15 pm, and from 4.45 pm to 5 pm on weekends, Thursday 18 May and Tuesday 15 August 2023
The Neptune Fountain:
- On weekends, Thursday 18 May, and Tuesday 15 August 2023: from 10 am to 5 pm, then from 5.45 pm to 6.45 pm, 5 minutes every 15 minutes AND launching of the Neptune Fountain with a final of historical jets at 5.20 pm
- On Tuesdays and some public holidays (Friday 7 April, Monday 10 April, Monday 8 May, Monday 29 May, and Friday 14 July 2023): from 10 am to 6.45 pm, 5 minutes every 15 minutes
Versailles Fountains Map
Best Fountains in Versailles
Here’s a selection of the best Fountains at Versailles, both for their beauty and strategic importance in water distribution.
Parterres d’Eau (Palace’s Waterbeds)
These water parterres at the foot of the Palace (Parterres d’Eau) have two water jets. Because these basins are visible from the Palace, King Louis XIV wanted to see the water jets working all the time.
The basins are bordered by four groups of two sculptures representing the main French rivers and their tributaries.
Below the terrace, there’s a big water reservoir of 3,400 m3. It was built in 1672 to supply the Fountains of Versailles. From here, the water is distributed to the Latona Fountain or the Salle de Bal. This place, underground, is like a small water cathedral!
This is one of the most important Fountains in Versailles, from an aesthetic and symbolic point of view and a technical point of view.
Latona Fountain is part of the Grande Perspective, together with the Apollo Fountain and the Grand Canal. It illustrates the story of Latona, the mother of Apollo and Diana, who protects her children from the insults of Lycia’s peasants. She pleads with Jupiter to avenge her, and the god turns the inhabitants of Lycia into frogs and lizards. Latona Fountain also has a parterre containing two Lizard Fountains.
Latona Fountain occupies a nodal place in the heart of the Petit Parc, and it has the role of redistributing the waters. Thanks to this fountain, Versailles gets the necessary water to feed most of the fountains.
The water jets on the water parterres above converge into the Latona Fountain. This fountain spreads the water, always by gravity, to the water basins in the south, to a part of the Enceladus Fountain, and to Apollon’s chariot below.
Latona Fountain is a fascinating fountain also below the ground. It has around 70 water jets, each fed by a different pipe, creating a complex network of pipes nicknamed ‘the spider.’ This civil work of engineering is unique in the world, and most of these pipes still date from the reign of King Louis XIV!
The Apollo Foutain is another of the key elements of the Grande Perspective. It has existed since the time of King Louis XIII, and it was known as the Lake of the Swans. King Louis XIV later added the spectacular work in gilded lead of Apollo riding his chariot.
Apollo is the Sun God, one of the 12 Greek Gods of Mount Olympus, and the symbol of King Louis XIV. The Apollo Fountain features the god bursting forth from the water in anticipation of his daily flight above the earth.
The Apollo Fountain is fed by Latona Fountain by gravity.
La Salle de Bal (The Ball Room)
The Salle de Bal is the last groove designed by Le Notre between 1678 and 1682, and it represents a kind of open-air amphitheater.
Here, Le Notre got the most out of the land’s different elevations by creating a big cascade where the water arrives by gravity from the reservoirs below the Palace’s water beds. In the center of this Ball Room, there was a kind of stage or dance floor today disappeared while the musicians were found on the top of the amphitheater.
This Salle de Bal was not good for shows (the cascade is very noisy), but the King organized frequent soirées or dinners here. These dinners were delightful in the summer, surrounded by the wall of freshwater.
The Salle de Bal is closed during the winter. It is only accessible during the Versailles Fountain Shows.
Enceladus Fountain Versailles
This is one of the most original Fountains Versailles has to offer. The Enceladus Fountain dates from 1675, and it represents the giant Enceladus buried under the rocks of Mount Olympus by the Gods he and his brothers had wished to dethrone.
In the fountain, the giant is struggling to survive, and his suffering is captured by a powerful water jet that springs from his mouth like a scream.
Enceladus has an impressive water jet of 23 meters, one of the gardens’ highest jets. This fountain is only accessible during the Versailles Fountain Shows, but out of season, you can see the giant from the fence.
Apollos’ Bath, Versailles
This groove was designed by the painter Hubert Robert during the reign of King Louis XVI between 1778 and 1781. It features three sculpture groups and represents the care provided to Apollo (the Sun God) and his horses after their daytime flight above the Earth.
‘When the Sun is tired and has ended his day in the west
He goes down to Tethys place to take his rest
Thus Louis relaxes in the same way
From a duty that begins each day again.’
The sculptures were recycled from the Tethys Grotto, demolished to build the present North Wing of the Palace, and they are considered a masterpiece of French sculpture in the 17th century.
This groove is only accessible during the Versailles Fountain Shows, and there’s no way to see anything of this fountain during the low season.
The Neptune Fountain, in the north of the Petit Parc, marks the gardens’ perspective North-South. This basin was designed under the reign of King Louis XIV but only finished with the last sculptures under King Louis XV.
The central sculpture group represents the God Neptune and Amphitrite, while the other two sculpture groups represent Proteus and Ocean with numerous marine animals.
The Neptune Fountain is greatly admired for the number, size, and variety of water jets falling around the lead sculptures, and the display of the historical jets at the end of the afternoon is the highlight of the Versailles Fountain Show.
The Neptune Fountain receives the waters from the other fountains located above. Thanks to its 99 water jets, the basin turns into a water wall closing the perspective together with the Dragon Fountain just behind it.
Versailles Fountains’ Water Supply
Versailles Fountains, how do they work? The Fountains of Versailles are an alliance of art and technique that requires a lot of water. When all the Fountains were running, in 1715, they consumed the totality of 69,000 muids (one muid is equivalent to about 130 liters) of water in three hours!
On the top of the hill and far from any water source, the Palace’s location was not ideal for such a big project of water basins and fountains. Therefore, water supply was a recurring problem in Versailles.
This technical challenge required the help of hydraulic engineers, architects, and fountain masters who had to think about bringing water to Versailles, redistributing it to the fountains, and creating surprising water effects to arouse visitors’ wonder.
The first solution to solve this water issue was to create an artificial pond near the Palace, the Lac de Clagny. From there, water was pumped with the help of water mills, windmills, or pumps moved by horse carousels and then stocked in the reservoirs in the Domain of Versailles. This first hydraulic system made it possible to supply the dozen or so existing fountains, and King Louis XIV inaugurated the first Grandes Eaux de Versailles on 17 August 1666.
But the King wanted to add other fountains and water jets, so more water was necessary. During the following years, the hydraulic engineers brought more water to the Domain of Versailles by constructing other artificial ponds. Bucket windmills, siphons, and aqueducts completed the network to bring the water from the ponds to the reservoirs in the Domain of Versailles.
Over the years, the wooden pipes were replaced by lead pipes and then by cast iron. The hydrant man became an important function in the Palace, the key to the Fountains’ good operation, to the point that the King ennobled some of them.
The Machine de Marly – The Eighth World Wonder
The idea of pumping water from the Seine, the major river closest to Versailles, had existed for several years. But the distance of 10 km and especially the drop of 142 meters required the design of a monumental and expensive machine to pump water and bring it to Versailles’ reservoirs.
Finally, in 1682 the first Machine de Marly was inaugurated in the presence of the King and the court. This machine pumped water from the Seine to the Domain of Versailles and the Château de Marly thanks to a system of wooden wheels, siphons, and an aqueduct.
At that time, this amazing machine was considered the Eighth World Wonder, and it was visited by important dignitaries like Queen Victoria of England, the Tsar of Russia, and the US President.
Water Supply in Versailles Today
At this time, the waters of Versailles Park operate in a closed circuit that consumes 4,500 m3 per hour, with 35 km of the piping system unchanged since the 17th century. A team of 13 hydrant men manages this circuit.
An electric pump pumps water from the Grand Canal and refills the park’s reservoirs at the foot of the Palace. Rainwater helps complete this system. The different Fountains of Versailles are supplied with water by gravity. Most of the fountains are still opened manually by the hydrant men. During the Versailles Fountain Show, you will see them wandering around the fountains, and they still use the same keys to open and close the Fountains from the times of the Sun King!