The city of Versailles was, for more than a century, the center of the power of the Old Regime in France. Located in the suburbs of Paris, it became a royal residence in 1682, as soon as Louis XIV decided to leave the capital.
What started out as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII, has surprisingly turned into the largest palace in the world, a symbol of the Absolute Monarchy. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979, the Palace of Versailles is one of the most visited places in France, with 10 million tourists per year!
So, do you want to know more about the Palace Of Versailles: Best Tips For Visiting In 2024? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of the Palace of Versailles
- How to Get to the Palace of Versailles
- What to See at the Palace of Versailles
- More Posts about Castles and Palaces
- More Posts about Gardens and Parks
- More Posts about World Heritage
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Brief History of the Palace of Versailles
King Louis XIV had always shown great interest in the Versailles domain, ever since his father – King Louis XIII – installed a royal hunting palace there. Therefore, in 1669 he ordered the architect Louis Le Vau and the landscape architect André Le Nôtre to undertake a detailed renovation of the property. Essentially, the aim was to abandon the then tumultuous city of Paris and convert Versailles into the new French capital.
The renovations were joined by painter and decorator Charles Le Brun and architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the latter responsible for the current look of the Château de Versailles. It was he who added the famous Hall of Mirrors, the north, and south wings, and the Orangery, between 1678-1684. With this, the Sun King and his court finally settled in the Palace of Versailles in May 1682.
Before Louis XIV’s death in 1715, there was still time to build the Royal Chapel and make some modifications to the King’s Apartment. During Louis XV’s reign, the monarch contributed significantly to a series of rooms (such as the Ladies’ Apartments) in the Château de Versailles, in addition to a Royal Opera and the Petit Trianon.
When Louis XVI came to the throne in 1774, he concentrated on resuming unfinished works by his predecessors, with his wife Marie-Antoinette being the real influence and inspiration for the Court of Versailles. However, with the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, the king was forced to return to Paris with his family, taking much of the furniture and works of art to the Tuileries Palace and the Louvre Museum.
Did you know that the Palace of Versailles was part of France’s first set of inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage List? This 3rd session of the World Heritage Committee took place in Cairo and Luxor (Egypt), between October 22nd and 26th, 1981.
Four other French sites were announced in the session: the Chartres Cathedral; Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay; the Prehistoric Sites, and Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley; and the Church and Hill of Vézelay.
Nowadays, France is the third country in the world and the second country in Europe with the most UNESCO sites, tied with Germany. It has fifty-two heritage assets (both cultural and natural) inscribed on the world list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization!
In the meantime, I’ve already had the opportunity to visit nine of them:
- Castle of Sully-sur-Loire (2000)
- Historic Center of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge (1995)
- Le Havre, the City Rebuilt by Auguste Perret (2005)
- Mont Saint-Michel and its Bay (1979)
- Nice, Winter Resort Town of the Riviera (2021)
- Palace and Park of Fontainebleau (1981)
- Palace and Park of Versailles (1985)
- Paris, Banks of the Seine (1991)
- Provins, Town of Medieval Fairs (2001)
How to Get to the Palace of Versailles
With over 800 hectares, get ready to book a full day in the Versailles domain! Visiting times are variable, but consider 2-3 hours for the Palace, 1-2 hours for the Gardens, and 2-3 hours for the Trianon domain.
Departing from Paris, take the RER C suburban train at one of the main stations: Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel, Musée de Orsay, or Saint Michel – Notre Dame, although you can consult other stations on the official website of the Transilien.
The journey takes about 35-45 minutes and the terminal station is exactly where you should leave: Versailles Château – Rive Gauche. As for tickets, you can buy them at any station and the prices are fixed at two rates: €3.65 (adults) and €1.80 (children between 4 and 10 years old).
Opening Hours & Ticket Prices
Regarding schedules, the Palace of Versailles is open every day from 9 am to 5:30 pm, except on Mondays. The Trianon domain – which comprises the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, and the Queen’s Hamlet – is open from 12 pm to 5:30 pm, from Tuesday to Sunday. The Gardens and Park are accessible free of charge from 8 am to 6 pm, all year round (except on the days of the “Grandes Eaux Musicales et Jardins Musicaux” show).
Admission is free for children under 18 and young people under 26, residing in the European Economic Area. For the rest, there are all-inclusive passports for €25-€27 and individual tickets for €12-€18. I strongly recommend that you buy tickets at the online ticket office of the Palace of Versailles, in order to avoid the long queues (especially in the morning).
What to See at the Palace of Versailles
Château de Versailles
The Château de Versailles offers tours with an audio guide included, allowing its visitors to know 350 years of history in a more detailed way. On the ground floor, you can visit the Gallery of the History of the Palace – with eleven rooms dedicated to it – as well as the Ladies’ Apartments, where Louis XV’s daughters slept.
Upstairs, you’re likely to spend a large part of your visit in the Grand Apartments, the heart of the Palace of Versailles, and testimony to court life (Hall of Mirrors, King’s Apartment, etc.). In the north wing, you have the Louis XIV Rooms and in the south wing, the famous Gallery of Great Battles.
Jardins de Versailles
The Jardins de Versailles mainly comprise a set of flower beds, fountains, and groves, designed by André Le Nôtre. These extend to the Grand Canal (in the shape of a cross and with 1670 meters) and to the Park of Versailles (the former hunting forest of Louis XIV).
Of the more than ten Groves, the ones that stand out are Queen’s Grove, Obelisk Grove, Star Grove, and Water Theater Grove. Likewise, the most well-known Ponds and Fountains are Latona’s Fountain, Apollo’s Fountain, Neptune Fountain, and Dragon Fountain.
Trianon was a French village that disappeared in 1668, to join the Versailles domain. Two years later, King Louis XIV ordered the construction of a building on the site, resulting in the Porcelain Trianon. However, its wooden structures and tile coverings forced the recreation of a more robust palace: the Grand Trianon, or Marble Trianon.
The new property was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1687, with the same purpose: a refuge for Louis XIV from his stately court. Very influenced by Italian architecture, this pink marble palace extends on a single floor, between a large patio and an even bigger garden.
In this sense, it was the residence of several personalities after the Sun King: Marie Adélaïde of Savoy, mother of the future king Louis XV; Elizabeth Charlotte, her sister-in-law, and also Maria Leszczynska, wife of Louis XV. In fact, Louis XV himself determined the elaboration of the Petits Appartements, which he quickly changed for the Petit Trianon.
Napoleon Bonaparte also repeated numerous stays with his second wife, Empress Marie-Louise of Austria, after restoring the building. At this time, the Empress’s Apartment (on the left wing) was connected to the Emperor’s Apartment (on the right wing) by the Péristyle, an outer column gallery. Of the most beautiful rooms in the aile gauche, I highlight the Salon des Glaces and the Chambre de l’Impératrice.
On the other side, guided visits are made to the Petits Appartments de l’Empereur and the Trianon-sous-Bois (in the north wing). The first was intended for Napoleon Bonaparte and consisted of five bedrooms, living rooms, and offices. For the second, it was rehabilitated as the residence of the President of the Republic, by General Charles de Gaulles.
However, on the right-wing, you should still visit the Salon de Musique, Salon des Malachites, and the Salon de Famille de Louis-Philippe. The latter was the living room of King Louis-Philippe and his family in 1837, equipped with game tables and richly upholstered seats.
Jardins à la Française
The Gardens of the Grand Trianon are certainly what makes this property so refined and exuberant. Designed as Jardins à la Française, they have all kinds of flowers and shrubs, in addition to an open-air Amphitheater (known as Salle des Antiques, for its busts imitating antiques).
They also include two small lakes – Bassin Plat Fond and Bassin du Fer a Cheval – the latter perfectly aligned with the Grand Canal of the Park of Versailles, as well as a magnificent fountain named Buffet d’Eau and ornamented with marble of different colors and finishes in the sculpted lead.
The Petit Trianon is a domain of the Palace of Versailles, which was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and decorated by the French sculptor Honoré Guibert. Built during the years 1762-1768, it was primarily intended for Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour.
This property was located in the Jardin des Plantes, which the botanist Bernard de Jussieu and the gardeners Claude and Antoine Richard started planting in 1750. Thus, it ended up being inaugurated in 1769, by Madame du Barry.
In 1774, the newly crowned King Louis XVI offered the Petit Trianon to his wife, Queen Marie-Antoinette. In fact, this place quickly became her favorite and she even added a private theater (Théâtre de la Reine) and a village (Hameau de la Reine), by Richard Mique.
Around you, you can stroll either through the French Garden – where the French Pavilion (games and music hall) and the Fresh Pavilion (summer dining room) are inserted – or through the Anglo-Chinese Garden – which includes the Temple of Love, the Viewpoint (and its artificial Rock) and a Cave. Further back is the Jussieu Garden, where the gardener resided at the Maison de Richard.
During the First French Empire, the building was in charge of Napoleon’s sister, Princess Pauline Borghèse, and, later, his second wife, Empress Marie-Louise of Austria. A few years later, it was the turn of Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of Orléans and son of King Louis-Philippe I, to live here with his wife.
Today, the Petit Trianon palace is open to the public, with guided tours to the attic and the mezzanine level. On the first floor, don’t forget to enter the so-called Chambre de la Reine, since this is where Marie-Antoinette slept for twelve years!
Hameau de la Reine
The Hameau de la Reine is an extension of the domain of the Petit Trianon and was idealized in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, recreating the simplicity of country life before the French Revolution. Of the twelve cottages that make it up, some have been destroyed in the meantime, such as the Grange and the Preparation Dairy.
These picturesque properties are scattered around a small lake, where the Marlborough Tower stands out. In addition, each of them had a specific function, related to agricultural activities and services provided to Marie-Antoinette.
During the high season, it’s possible to access the Queen’s Hamlet not only through the French Garden and the English Garden of the Petit Trianon but also through an entrance next to the Farm. Nowadays, many domestic animals live on this farm, like donkeys, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, and chickens!
In this set of country houses, you can also admire the Maison de la Reine (connected to the Maison du Billard through a suspended gallery), the Boudoir (or Petite Maison de la Reine), the Réchauffoir, the Guardhouse, the Dovecote, the Dairy of the Property and the Mill.
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