Visit Versailles (the City)
Famous worldwide for the Royal Château, most tourists visit Versailles as a day trip from Paris since the capital is only 30 km away. One of the best castles near Paris, the Château of Versailles and its magnificent Gardens epitomize the Ancien Régime, and they are so stunning that everyone should stop by at least once. But there is much more to visit in Versailles, from antique shops to a beautiful cathedral and a charming Old Town.
That said, we recommend you stay at least one night in Versailles to explore the magnificent Royal Estate AND the city.
In 2024 Versailles will host the Equestrian competitions during the Summer Olympics, so it will be a great opportunity to discover the city for the first time or to revisit it and marvel again at its sightseeing.
Here’s our list of the best things to do in Versailles, France, besides the Royal Château.
Plan your getaway to Versailles:
What to Do in Versailles, France
What to do in Versailles town? There was not much in Versailles before King Louis XIV settled in the new Royal Palace. Versailles boasts a regular plan and beautiful and homogeneous architecture, mainly from the XVIII century.
Today, the city of Versailles consists of eight neighborhoods. The suggested things to do in Versailles are all located in the neighborhoods of Saint-Louis and Notre Dame, which are the closest neighborhoods to the Château.
DID YOU KNOW? The city of Versailles was used as a model for the construction of Washington DC.
1. Quartier Saint-Louis
Quartier Saint-Louis was designed in the 18th century during the reign of King Louis XV. This district is made of two distinct parts: the Old Town and Saint-Louis.
This second one occupies the site of the former “deer park” of King Louis XIII, the king’s hunting reserve. The area is full of sightseeing opportunities, starting with the Saint-Louis Cathedral and the King’s Kitchen Garden. Head to the Carré Saint-Louis to visit a group of small houses built under Louis XV that today host the neighborhood’s market.
Instead, the Old Town is the historical part of Versailles, and it corresponds to the site of the former medieval village. This area boasts many remarkable spots, like the Salle du Jeu de Paume, the lovely Cour des Senteurs, and the Jardin des Recollets.
2. Saint-Louis Cathedral
In the heart of the Saint-Louis neighborhood, Saint-Louis Cathedral is one of the best Versailles attractions. This French national monument was built in the mid-18th century as a simple parish church, and it became a cathedral only a century later.
Saint-Louis Cathedral boasts gorgeous Baroque architecture and is even more sumptuous on the inside, where you can admire many original sculptures and paintings made by famous artists. One of the best pieces you will see is a beautiful historic organ.
Saint-Louis Cathedral has been classified as a historical monument since 1906, so don’t miss it! The last time we passed by, there were restoration works on the façade, but it is still well worth the visit.
3. The Potager du Roi
Located in Versailles’ Quartier de Saint-Louis, Le Potager du Roi (King’s Vegetable Garden) is one of the top places to visit in Versailles, still unknown to many tourists.
This hidden gem is spread across nine hectares, and its construction was commissioned by King Louis XIV, who wanted a fruit orchard, vegetable, and herb garden to feed the royal table with fresh produce.
The King’s Kitchen Garden was plotted over five years on top of a swamp, and it is why the King’s Table became so famous. The Potager was connected to the Château through a royal fence, and it was very common to see the Sun King, a garden passionate, strolling around and chatting with the gardener-in-chief.
The Potager du Roi is still in use today, and the products grown are sold at Versailles’ market and the French National School of Landscaping’s shop. Today, this beautiful UNESCO Heritage Site is not part of the Royal Domain, so you will need to purchase a separate ticket.
The visit is self-guided, but there are also guided visits (in French) by the current gardener-in-chief, and you will learn lots of things about the King’s table, his favorite food, and gardening techniques of the time. Address: 10, Rue du Maréchal Joffre, Versailles; Opens from Tuesday to Sunday.
4. Salle du Jeu de Paume
Just south of the Royal Château, in the heart of the Quartier Saint-Louis, is one of the most important sites in France’s history, the Salle du Jeu de Paume.
The Jeu de Paume was an older version of modern-day tennis and was very popular among the nobility in the 17th century. It wasn’t until Henry VIII and his courtesans introduced rackets to the game that tennis as we know it was officially born.
Now a museum, this place is important for French history because, in 1789, it became symbolic of the brewing French Revolution.
On 20 June 1789, the deputies of the Third Estate met there at the time of the Estates General, since the Hotel Menus-Plaisirs, their usual meeting place, had been closed by order of King Louis XVI. On that day, they took an oath not to separate until they had endowed France with a written constitution. And they kept their word. Address: 1, Rue du Jeu de Paume, Versailles; Opens from Saturday to Sunday (from April to October).
5. Notre Dame Market
The Notre Dame Market, in the neighborhood of the same name, is a must-see in Versailles. It is considered one of the most beautiful markets in France, and it sells everything from fresh veggies to flowers to French specialties, like cheeses, wines, and pâté.
Built under King Louis XIII, Notre Dame Market has been in the same location since the 17th century. The permanent indoor market, the Halles Notre-Dame, is open every day except Monday, while the open-air food market is open on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
Notre Dame Market is one of the must-stops of the Versailles bike tours. Here, they buy everything they need for a picnic later in the Park. Stroll around the market and stop for some shopping or a hot meal for a local experience.
6. Antiquarian District
This is one of the top Versailles things to do for antique lovers. Located in Quartier Notre Dame, between the Château de Versailles and the Notre Dame Market, the Antiquarian District is full of history and has plenty of shopping opportunities.
The district is made of four areas connected by narrow streets and courtyards, where you will find many antiquarian shops and art galleries: Le Bailliage, Le Village, Le Passage, and Le Carré des Antiquaires.
Head to Le Bailliage, an enchanting 18th-century building, to admire furniture, modern paintings, and artworks. Le Village, the former outbuildings of the Picardie hotel, displays art exhibitors, while in Le Passage, you can shop for jewels, ceramics, and miniatures.
The fourth area of the Antiquarian District is Le Carré des Antiquaires, which originally housed the stables of the Bailliage, and now has antiques galleries and crafts workshops.
Whether you are an antiques professional or an amateur, you will love Versailles’ Antiquarian District.
7. Hameau de la Reine
The Hameau de la Reine (Queen’s Hamlet) is a charming rustic farm that was the private retreat estate of Queen Marie Antoinette. Part of the Versailles Estate, located northeast of the Royal Palace, the Queen’s Hamlet is usually overlooked by tourists.
Built in the 18th century, the hamlet has half-timbered farm buildings, including a dairy, a tiny boudoir, a beautiful pond, and a mill with a waterwheel. The Queen’s Cottage is where Marie Antoinette used to hole up every time she got bored of the strict formalism of the royal court.
To visit the Queen’s Hamlet, you can buy a separate ticket which includes the visit of the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, and the Hamlet. If this is your first time in Versailles, buy the Versailles combo ticket, also known as Versailles Passport, to visit all the Royal Domain (Château, Gardens, and Hamlet) and save money.
8. Versailles by Bike
A great way to spend a day in Versailles is doing a bicycle tour. One of the best spots to explore by bike is the Grand Parc, north-eastern from the Royal Palace
Grand Parc is free to visit, and throughout the Estate, you will find kilometers of pathways immersed in green landscapes with a canal of almost 6 km. The Versailles Estate is flat, so you can enjoy your time even if you are not an experienced biker.
A bike tour around the city and the Royal Domain is one of the best things to do in Versailles. Check out our quick guide to Versailles by bike. You can take a bike tour with an expert guide or rent a bicycle in different places in the park.
9. Picnic at the Piece d’Eau des Suisses
Pièce d’Eau des Suisses is located in Versailles Old Town, bordering the neighborhood of Saint Louis. It is a great (and definitely less crowded) alternative to the busier Grand Parc for a French picnic.
The park’s name highlights the place’s main feature, an artificial lake that covers 13 hectares. The Pièce d’Eau des Suisses was created to add to the beauty of the southern area of the palace as an extension of the Orangerie.
To make the most of your time in Pièce d’Eau des Suisses, head first to the Notre Dame Market for some food shopping and then lie down in the park for a picnic and an afternoon bike ride.
And there you have it, the best things to do in Versailles, France, for those who want to visit the city. What Versailles tourist attractions do you like most?