Table of Contents
- 1. TOP REASONS FOR VISITING VERSAILLES PALACE & GARDENS
- 2. THINGS TO DO IN VERSAILLES (THE VERSAILLES ESTATE)
- 3. TIPS FOR VISITING VERSAILLES ON YOUR OWN
- 4. WHY A VERSAILLES GUIDED TOUR IS A GOOD IDEA
- 5. MOST POPULAR VERSAILLES SHOWS
- 6. UNUSUAL WAYS TO VISIT VERSAILLES
- 7. WHEN TO GO TO VERSAILLES
- 8. SKIP THE LINE VERSAILLES TIPS
- 9. HOW TO GET TO VERSAILLES FROM PARIS
- 10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR YOUR VISIT TO VERSAILLES
Are you considering a Versailles day-trip in your Paris Travel Plan? Versailles is one of the world’s most famous palaces and a jewel of French architecture. Its beauty and its proximity to the French capital (the distance from Paris to Versailles is just 21km) makes of Versailles an easy day trip from Paris and one of the top places on everyone’s Paris Bucket List. The downside of Versailles’ fame and beauty are the crowds and the long lines to enter the palace. Indeed, with nearly 10 million visitors every year, Versailles is one of the most visited historic sites in the world!
We don’t want to scare people or prevent them from visiting this wonder but Versailles Palace and Gardens can be an awful experience if you just pop out without any plan. Here’s how to visit Versailles and get the most from your day trip to Versailles.
Who built the Palace of Versailles and Gardens?
Under the direction of King Louis XIV, who wanted to control every single detail, the Palace was built by the best artists of that time: Le Vau was in charge of the architecture, Le Nôtre designed the gardens and Le Brun was in charge of the sculpture. Well known for his competences in fruit gardens and vegetable gardens, La Quintie was responsible of the vegetable gardens.
Our favorite Versailles books
Watch the best day trips from Paris in 2019!
1. TOP REASONS FOR VISITING VERSAILLES PALACE & GARDENS
It is one of the world’s biggest palaces
Versailles Castle was built in the XVII century as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. It was King Louis XIV, his son, who moved with his family and royal court to Versailles and he undertook major works on it (the forecourt, north and south wings, royal chapel . .). King Louis XIV and his successors turned that modest lodge into a seat of power. With the Gardens and the Palaces of Trianon, the Versailles Estate spreads over 800 hectares.
Versailles Gardens are wonderful and a great technical achievement
Versailles Gardens were considered as important as the Palace, that’s why King Louis XIV entrusted André Le Notre, with the creation and renovation of the Gardens of Versailles. The Gardens, created in places previously occupied solely by meadows and marshes, involved entire regiments of workers and the works lasted 40 years. Versailles Gardens span across 800 hectares and comprise 200,000 trees, 50 fountains and a 5.57km canal.
Water features of all kinds are an important part of French gardens, even more so than plant designs and groves. Bringing water to Versailles was one of the most difficult challenges of this project, as Versailles elevation is 103-180m and the Seine River, the closest source of water, is 10km North. How did the architects of Versailles carry water from the Seine River to Versailles? Read the fantastic history of the Machine de Marly.
Château de Versailles is an important historical site
Versailles was more than a palace, it was the symbol of the power of the absolute monarchy of France. It was also a kind of “royal city”, with many government offices located inside the estate. The Sun King also required that nobles of a certain rank spent time at the palace every year to prevent them from developing their own regional power and destabilize his efforts to centralize the French government in an absolutist monarchy.
Centuries later, the end of the First World War was officially marked in Versailles, in the Hall of Mirrors, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28th June 1919. In 1982 Versailles hosted the 8th G7 meeting, with the heads of state of the 7 most powerful countries.
Today Versailles is a museum and a national palace at the disposal of the Presidency of the Republic. It is used to host foreign heads of state, and other important events.
It is very close to Paris!
Versailles is only 20 km away from Paris, so Paris to Versailles is an ideal side trip from Paris by public transportation or guided tour.
2. THINGS TO DO IN VERSAILLES (THE VERSAILLES ESTATE)
The Estate of Versailles is huge so it is important that you find your bearings and know what you want to visit. These are the main sights of the Versailles Estate:
Versailles Palace is the beating heart of the domain. It has two floors (garden floor and first floor), with a total surface of 63.000 m2 divided into 2.300 rooms and halls. The most famous rooms in the Palace are the Hall of Mirrors (used for ceremonies on exceptional occasions such as the masked ball for the wedding of Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI), the King’s State Apartments (7 rooms used for hosting the sovereign’s official acts), the Kings’s Private Rooms and the Gallery of Great Battles, covering almost the entire first floor of the South Wing of the Palace and which depicts nearly 15 centuries of French military successes.
The Kings’s Private Rooms are only available through a guided tour
The Estate of Trianon
The estate of Trianon is home to the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon pavillions, as well as the Queen’s Hamlet and a variety of ornamental gardens. These intimate spaces close to the main palace were built by the kings to gain some brief respite from courtly etiquette and enjoy nature.
Amongst these buildings outstands the Queen’s Hamlet, built for Queen Marie-Antoinette to enjoy a little bit of “rural life”. The hamlet is inspired by the traditional architecture of Normandy, and it includes a windmill, a billiard room, and a boudoir. In the Trianon Estate there is also the Queen’s Theatre, where the Queen watched entertaining performances. Queen Marie-Antoinette was a theater passionate and sometimes she took to the stage herself.
OUR TIP: these buildings don’t open until 12 noon. From the Palace, it’s a good 30-minute walk so if you’re not feeling sporty or you want to save your energies for exploring the Gardens, rent a golf cart or take the mini train.
The interior of Queen’s House is only available through a guided tour
The French Gardens
Designed by André Le Notre, the same landscaper who designed the gardens of Chateau de Chantilly, the magnificent French Gardens, with beautiful geometrical designs, are one of the jewels of the Versailles Estate. The Gardens are free to visit, except for exceptional events, Musical Gardens Shows and Fountains Night Shows. In Versailles Gardens you can see many fountains, grooves, statues, colonnades, and even an obelisk. At the foot of the Palace, there is a beautiful orangerie parterre with orange trees, lemon trees, and pomegranate trees from Spain, Italy, and Portugal.
The Orangerie Parterre is only available through a guided tour
The Park is the green extension which surrounds the Grand Canal and it is always free of charge. The Grand Canal is André Le Nôtre’s most original design. With its huge dimensions (1700 m east-west and 1000 m north-south) and 60 m in width, the Grand Canal was used for ship battles by the King and his court. Today it is a great place for a stroll or for a picnic and it offers great photo opportunities of the Palace in the background. If you are fit, walk down to the Royal Star, a viewpoint at the edge of the western branch with amazing views of the ensemble.
The Lime Tree Walk is located in this area, and it links the Palace to the “Mortemets”, the waterfowl reserve within Louis XIV’s hunting estate. The Lime Tree Walk is one of the many famous views in the gardens of Versailles.
Le Potager du Roi (the King’s Kitchen Garden)
Le Potager du Roi (the King’s vegetable garden) is the lesser-known part of the Versailles Estate. It was built between 1678 and 1683 by Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie, at the request of Louis XIV. Well known for his competences in fruit gardens and vegetable gardens, La Quintie was responsible for providing fruits and vegetables at the King’s table. The prodigies accomplished by La Quintinie attracted the interest and admiration of his master, the King, who liked to come for a walk in the vegetable garden. A gardening enthusiast, Louis XIV liked to show his vegetable garden to his illustrious guests and he even learned how to prune fruit trees with his gardener.
Today, Le Potager du Roi is classified as a historical monument and a “remarkable garden”, and its gardeners perpetuate the art of pruning and cultivate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in a French garden. Le Potager du Roi faces the Swiss Water Feature and the entrance is located at 10, rue du Maréchal-Joffre. Tickets cost 4,5€ – 3€ (high season-low season) during the week, and 7€ during the weekend.
The Royal Stables (Gallery of Coaches)
The Royal Stables are the greatest royal construction project for housing horses ever undertaken. The Royal Stables consists of two buildings, the Great Stables and the Small Stables, identical in size but with a different use. The Great Stables is where the hunting horses were kept (hundreds of horses according to their race and coat) while the Small Stables was used to keep the carriages, sleds, and coaches. Today, the ground floor of the Great Stables hosts an impressive display of coaches, mainly grand ceremonial Berlin Coaches. The Royal Stables are located at 1 Avenue Rockefeller, just in front of the Palace, and the entrance is free.
3. TIPS FOR VISITING VERSAILLES ON YOUR OWN
» Versailles Estate is FREE for everyone on the first Sunday of the month, from November to March. Long lines are guaranteed though.
» The Park and the Gallery of Coaches are always FREE to visit. If you only want to visit one of this places only, there is no ticket to buy.
» The Gardens are FREE to visit except when there are special events such the Fountain Shows, the Musical Gardens or more. If you want to see the Gardens for free, avoid visiting Versailles during the days with these special events (during high season, on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays).
» Wear comfortable shoes. Consider a hat during hot days in summer.
» Bring plenty of water, especially during the summer.
» Buy skip the line Versailles tickets! Versailles tickets skip the line are definitely worth paying a bit more to pass over hundreds of people waiting to get in. Versailles proposes different kinds of tickets so it is important to understand what you can visit with each ticket. We have compiled on the table below the most popular ones.
Compare and find the best Versailles Tickets for you (self-tours with audio-guide)
|TICKET||SKIP THE LINE||PALACE (+ audio guide)||TRIANON (+ Queen’s Hamlet)||GARDEN SHOWS||PRICE|
|Palace of Versailles with Audio Guide||NO||YES||NO||NO||View|
|Skip the line Versailles Palace and Gardens||YES||YES||NO||Option to do an add-on to see one of these shows||View|
|Skip the line Versailles Pass||YES||YES||YES||Option to do an add-on to see one of these shows||View|
|Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet and Trianon||YES||NO||YES||NO||View|
OUR TIP: The Paris Museum Pass includes access to all unguided tours in Versailles, open according to the season: the “Grands Appartements”, the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Bedchamber, the Queen’s Bedchamber, the apartments of “Mesdames” Louis XV’s daughters, exhibitions, the Trianon Castle and the Estate of Marie-Antoinette. Are you thinking about buying the Paris Museum Pass for 2, 4 or 6 days? Read our review here
4. WHY A VERSAILLES GUIDED TOUR IS A GOOD IDEA
If you want to visit Versailles, there are many reasons to choose a Versailles guided tour instead of an independent stroll at your own path:
» Your time is limited and Versailles is vast! Tour guides know how to get the most out of your time in Versailles by showing you the main sights at perfect timings to avoid the crowds.
» Guided Tours with a knowledgeable guide are much more interesting and interactive experiences. You can always ask your guide as many questions as you want.
» Guided tours include a skip the line ticket (a must!) and some of them also include the pickup and drop off at your hotel. After exploring Versailles Palace and Gardens for hours, how cool is to go back straight to your hotel on a comfortable van or coach?
» Some rooms in Versailles, like the King’s private apartments, are only possible to visit by special guided tours. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy these special parts of Versailles Palace with a small group and far from the crowds.
Compare our favorite Versailles Guided Tours ( all with skip-the-line tickets included)
|TICKET||DURATION||PALACE||TRIANON (+ Queen’s Hamlet)||HOTEL PICKUP /DROP OFF||PRICE|
|Versailles 4hr Guided Tour||4 hours||YES||NO||YES||View|
|Skip the line Versailles Classic||1.5 hours||YES||NO||NO||View|
|Secret Rooms of Versailles Half-Day Tour||4 hours||YES + restricted areas||NO||NO||View|
|Versailles Full Day Small Group||8.5 hours||YES||YES||YES||View|
|Versailles + Marie Antoinette Guided Tour||5 hours||YES + restricted areas||YES||NO||View|
5. MOST POPULAR VERSAILLES SHOWS
During the high season (April to October), Versailles organizes beautiful shows around the Palace and Gardens, and it is a good idea to extend your visit and enjoy also these shows.
Versailles Fountains Night Show
During this Fountains Night Show, the Gardens are transformed into an amazing 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 “grande finale” an awesome fireworks display in front of the Grand Canal.
Dates: Saturdays from 15 June to 15 September, from 8.30 pm to 10.40 pm. Fireworks Show is from 10.50 pm to 11.05 pm.
OUR TIP: transportation from Versailles to Paris (by private car, taxi or train) can be an issue because everybody wants to stay until the fireworks are finished and then there are long lines to leave the Palace. Looking for a romantic experience in Versailles? Both tours here below include the Fountains Night Show and the transportation Paris – Versailles – Paris
- Book an exclusive Evening at Versailles Palace with Fireworks and Fountains Show, Including Dinner and Transportation
- Book a Royal Evening at Versailles Palace with Royal Serenade and Fountains Show, including Transportation
Versailles Royal Serenade
Get a taste of King Louis XIV’s fabulous life and join the baroque musicians and dancers in the awesome Hall of Mirrors for a French-style evening ball.
Dates: Saturdays from 16 June to 15 September; Shows at 6.30 pm, 6.50 pm, 7.10 pm, 7.30 pm, and 7.50pm
OUR TIP: the Royal Serenade can be a fantastic prelude of the Versailles Fountains Night Show. The evening tour proposed here below includes the ticket to Versailles Palace, Royal Serenade, Fountains Night Show PLUS the pickup Paris to Versailles and drop off Versailles to Paris after the Fountains Night Show!
Versailles Musical Gardens Show
Enjoy a musical stroll in the heart of the French gardens, with the groves exceptionally open to the public (but not the fountains).
Dates: Tuesdays from 27 March to 15 May and from 3 July to 30 October; Fridays from 6 April to 26 October. Schedule from 9 am to 7 pm.
Versailles Musical Fountains Show
Enjoy a musical day stroll in the heart of the French gardens, with the groves exceptionally open to the public and the fountains displaying water at the sound of the music.
Dates: Saturdays and Sundays from 31 March to 28 October; Tuesdays from 22 May to 26 June. Schedule from 9 am to 7 pm.
6. UNUSUAL WAYS TO VISIT VERSAILLES
Explore the Gardens by Segway Tour
This easy, fun, and eco-friendly mode of transport is certainly a good way to see the entire grounds, something that would take you hours on foot! Follow your knowledgeable guides on your own Segway and have fun exploring the Gardens. This 2-hour guided Segway tour is one of the best ways to get the most out of the Gardens.
Versailles by Bike
A Versailles tour by bike is the perfect way to experience the Gardens and Château! Follow your guide through the Gardens and Park by bike at a very cool pace and visit the Palace and Trianons at perfect timings to avoid the crowds (Versailles tickets skip-the-line included). This Versailles guided tour starts with a visit to the local market in Versailles, where you can buy yummy things for your picnic later by the Grand Canal.
Rowboat Ride along the Grand Canal
Château de Versailles and its picturesque gardens are the perfect frames for a romantic date. But if you want to do something really special, a rowboat ride along the Grand Canal (13€, min half an hour) will be something difficult to forget. After visiting the impressive Château de Versailles, explore Versailles Gardens from another point of view, from the water! We are sure that a rowboat ride at Château de Versailles will blow you away.
Unfortunately, there is no possibility to book rowboat rides in advance. The hire point is located on the banks of the Grand Canal near Little Venice.
7. WHEN TO GO TO VERSAILLES
Versailles is open all the year round. During the low season (November to March, except Christmas period) there are fewer crowds and not much waiting time. However, during the high season (April to October), it is much more pleasant to explore the Gardens which, in turn, are more beautiful. In general, prioritize Wednesdays and Thursdays (except during school holidays), when there are fewer crowds.
High Season (April to October)
» During the high season, the Château opens from 9 am to 6.30 pm while the Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s domain open their doors at 12 pm. The Park and Gardens are open from 8 am to 8.30 pm.
» During the high season, the average waiting time to enter Versailles is one hour without Versailles tickets skip-the-line. If you want to buy your Versailles tickets on site you need to add one extra hour to this time. The queue at the entrance of the Château is very spectacular, sometimes scary, but it moves forward fast.
Low Season (November to March)
» During the low season, the Château opens from 9 am to 5.30 pm while the Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s domain open their doors at 12 pm. The Park and Gardens are open from 8 am to 6 pm.
» During the low season, the waiting time is definitely shorter so your Versailles visit can be more flexible.
8. SKIP THE LINE VERSAILLES TIPS
This graphic is an estimation of the waiting times in Versailles during high season and low season. Please take them with a grain of salt, this is not rocket science 😉
» Versailles skip the line tickets are a life saver, especially during high season. Go straight to the entrance and do only the line for the security check.
» In general, the most crowded days are Tuesdays and the weekends. Avoid visiting Versailles on 14th of July (France’s national day) and on 15th of August.
» Prioritize Wednesdays and Thursdays (except during school holidays), when there are fewer crowds.
» The most crowded time slots are between 10 am to 3 pm, especially during the weekends.
» Try to arrive before 9 am to be amongst the first visitors to enter so you will better enjoy the place
Best Versailles Itinerary to avoid the crowds
» During the low season, visit the Estate as you wish. Check the weather forecast and prioritize the best time (in terms of weather) for the Gardens. We prefer the afternoon light for the Gardens and the Palace outside.
» During the high season, try to arrive before 9 am to be one of the first visitors to explore the Château. The Château gets more and more crowded during the next time slots.
9. HOW TO GET TO VERSAILLES FROM PARIS
The Cheapest: Paris to Versailles by Train
Transportation from Paris to Versailles by train is very easy. Direct trains connect Paris Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers (30 min ride). Also, RER C goes from Paris (St. Michel-Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay, Invalides or Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel stations) to Versailles Château. The cost of a train to Versailles is about 7€ round trip.
The Most Comfortable: Paris to Versailles by Coach
Avoid the trains hassle and the walk from the train station to the Palace! Travel to Versailles on a comfortable coach, with a pickup in Paris near to the Eiffel Tower. Choose a morning or afternoon Versailles tour from Paris and you’ll be dropped off outside Versailles Palace.
The Most Exclusive: Getting to Versailles from Paris by Private Van
Small private vans are perfect for families, a group of friends or group of colleagues, up to 7 people. Enjoy the Meet & Great service at the reception of your hotel and a smooth ride straight to Versailles Palace.
10. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR YOUR VISIT TO VERSAILLES
Versailles Main Accesses
The Versailles Estate is vast, with many entrance gates but some of them are permanently closed for security reasons. Find below the main gates or points of access to the Versailles Estate which are always open. Remember that due to the anti-terrorist security plan, visitors with large baggage items (exceeding 55x35x20 cm) are not admitted on the domain and every bag or vehicle is controlled upon access.
» The main entrance to the Place of Versailles is through the MAIN COURTYARD.
- ACCESS A is for individual visitors with their ticket already bought and printed
- ACCESS B, on the opposite side of the courtyard, is for groups with reservations
- If you do not have a ticket upon arrival and are not eligible for free admission, go to the ticket office first, situated on the left in the Main Courtyard in the South Ministers’ Wing, and then to ACCESS A to validate it.
» You can access the Estate of Trianon by the Gardens and Park (entrances located at Allée des 2 Trianons) or from the city via SAINT-ANTHONY GATE (located on the D186 arriving from le Chesnay)
» The DRAGON GATE gives access to the Gardens from rue de la Parroisse
» The QUEENS GATE, on Boulevard de la Reine, gives pedestrian access and car access to the Park
» The SAILORS GATE, on the route de Saint-Cyr (D10), gives access to the Park and Sailors Walk.
» Access to Potager du Roi is at 10, rue du Maréchal-Joffre
» Access to Royal Stables is on Avenue de Rockefeller
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