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The most glittering jewel of France’s royal past is undoubtedly the Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles in French).
Once home to kings and queens of France, the palace is perhaps the most extravagant and beautiful in Europe.
At Versailles, you can walk the corridors and gardens where Queen Marie Antoinette enjoyed an incredible life before meeting her famous and untimely end.
Imagine yourself as a courtier attending a ball in the Hall of Mirrors and enjoying a stroll in the beautiful gardens.
One of our favourite day trips from Paris, it does require a bit of planning so you make the most of the experience.
Here are our tips for visiting Versailles.
What’s in this article
- 1 Why you should visit the Palace of Versailles
- 2 10 tips for visiting Versailles
- 2.1 The best time to visit Versailles
- 2.2 Plan your Paris to Versailles day trip in advance
- 2.3 Getting from Paris to Versailles
- 2.4 Tickets for Versailles Palace
- 2.5 Highlights and must sees
- 2.6 Audioguides, apps, maps and tours
- 2.7 Where to eat in Versailles
- 2.8 What not to bring
- 2.9 What to wear
- 2.10 Visiting Versailles with kids
- 3 Guided tour of Versailles from Paris
Why you should visit the Palace of Versailles
Versailles is one of the most important places in France and has been recognised as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
Originally a small summer palace, the Chateau de Versailles rose to significance in when King Louis XIV decided to develop the site.
He moved the French Court to Versailles, 20 kilometres from Paris in 1682.
For just over a century Versailles was the centre of diplomatic activity in Europe, hosting emperors, kings and queens at sumptuous banquets and events.
No doubt they were all dazzled by the opulence and grandeur of Versailles.
The palace under King Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette quickly became a symbol of luxury and excess.
But this extravagant living did not impress everyone.
In October 1789 the royal family were forced to leave Versailles by a march of hundreds of women angry at the chronic shortage and high price of bread.
The march is seen by many as the beginning of the French Revolution whose events changed France forever.
10 tips for visiting Versailles
The best time to visit Versailles
Versailles is beautiful all year round but especially so in spring and summer when the gardens are in full bloom.
The chateau hosts special events at that time of year and the magnificent fountains in the gardens are turned on in a display that absolutely must not be missed.
On some summer nights the fountains and gardens are illuminated followed by a spectacular fireworks show.
The Palace is open year round (except on 25th December and 1st January) from 09:00am to 17:00pm – except Mondays when it is closed.
The gardens are open daily from 08:00am.
Plan your Paris to Versailles day trip in advance
Expect to spend the best part of a day getting to and from and exploring Versailles, the gardens and the Trianon palaces.
Versailles is around 16 kilometres from central Paris and the return journey takes about 2½ hours by train including a modest amount of time for queuing to enter the palace.
If you want to avoid the busiest times, plan to arrive at 09:00am when the chateau opens and visit the main palace first followed by the gardens. The busiest days are Tuesdays and on weekends.
Prepare to queue for tickets if you have not bought them in advance. Security lines can be long too.
Your visit to the palace interior takes around an hour and a half and you could easily spend another 2 hours exploring the gardens and summer palaces.
Getting from Paris to Versailles
The best way to get to Versailles from Paris is by train. The closest station to the palace is Versailles Château Rive Gauche on Line C of the RER regional train system.
To find out the best routes from where you are staying use Google maps or Citymapper
Note – This train line is separate to the metro and you need a different ticket. The cost is around €7 and the journey takes around an hour from central Paris.
From the train station in Versailles it is a 10 minute walk to the chateau.
Make sure you buy a return ticket to avoid queues going back to Paris
Navigating this system during peak hour is not a relaxing vacation activity. If you prefer not to DIY your transport to Versailles you could join a tour that departs from central Paris.
Use code ‘UntoldParis‘ for 5% discount on tours with The Paris Guy
Tickets for Versailles Palace
Book in advance to skip the ticket line at Versailles. You can pre-book tickets for access to the entire complex for €20 via the palace website here.
If you want to visit the gardens during summer for the fountain and music show there is an additional €7 charge.
It is free to enter the gardens on days when the fountain show is not running.
Access to the Palace and the estate of Trianon is free for visitors under 18 (worldwide) or under 26 (residing in the EU). You will need to buy a ticket for the gardens on site on days when the fountain show is on.
Children under 6 can visit the gardens during summer for free.
Highlights and must sees
Did you know that there are over 2,000 rooms in the Versailles complex? At its height the court was home to 5,000 people.
These days you can only see a handful of the most grand apartments and galleries. Each has its own story to tell of intrigues, gossip and scandal.
Absolute must sees are the King’s State Apartments, Hall of Mirrors, the King’s private apartments, the Queen’s apartments and the Gallery of Great Battles.
Apart from the palace interior you could spend several hours in the gardens alone. Wander through the magnificent parterres or formal gardens.
Make sure to enjoy the many fountains and bosquets – formal plantation of trees.
We loved the Orangery and the incredible Apollo fountain but my favourite part of the garden is Latona’s fountain with its 24 cheeky frogs peeking out of the water.
A 30 minute walk through the gardens will take you to the Trianon Palace and Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet
For those traveling with children or people with mobility issues – you can jump aboard the little train that covers a circuit including Petit Trianon and Grand Trianon.
Audioguides, apps, maps and tours
Personally I am not a fan of audioguides particularly in crowded places. If you do like them, the palace offers free audioguides in 11 languages.
More useful are the smartphone app guides – there are two apps – one each for the palace and gardens. For more information on the apps and audioguides click here
The palace offers guided tours of the King’s Private Apartment in English. They are available for an additional €10
Where to eat in Versailles
Make sure you bring a small bottle of water and a snack. There are several dining options onsite however they do get very busy.
If you want to revel in your luxurious surroundings, you can eat at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s gorgeous fine dining restaurant Au Trianon.
Another option is to have a picnic in the grounds. Pick up supplies from the Marché Notre Dame – a lovely covered market not far from the train station.
The market is open from from 07:00am to 19:30pm Tuesday to Saturday. If you are visiting on a Sunday, pick up your supplies from the outside market open from 07:00am to 14:00pm [Marché Notre-Dame: Rue de la Paroisse, 78000 Versailles]
There are designated picnic areas at Saint Anthony Plain and the Lake of the Swiss Guard inside the chateau grounds.
What not to bring
Security is tight at Versailles as with most major sites in Europe. Some items are not allowed into the palace – umbrellas, pushchairs, and baby carriers with metal frames. You can leave them at the left luggage desk.
Make sure you leave large bags, suitcases, rucksacks and sharp objects at your accommodation. Items larger than 55 x 35 x 20 cm are not allowed on the estate including the gardens.
You may not use a selfie stick inside the palace.
What to wear
To ensure your comfort make sure to check the weather for your Versailles day trip.
You will be doing quite a lot of walking so whatever the season wear comfortable shoes. The walk from the train station is over cobblestones that are hard on your feet too.
The area around the chateau is open and can get quite windy so take a warm layer of clothing in every season.
In summer the palace and grounds can be very warm – remember your hat and sunscreen.
If there is a chance of rain a plastic poncho or rain jacket will come in handy.
Visiting Versailles with kids
We attempt most cultural activities with our kids but I would think twice about Versailles. It is a long day, a large site and perhaps not the most exciting for small children.
If you are determined to go, I recommend taking a guided tour from Paris so you can focus on the kids and having a great day – not navigating the Paris transport system and crowds.
The added advantage of this is being able to skip the lines for tickets and having an expert help guide you through the extensive grounds.
On site, once you have done your tour spend most of your time in the gardens where you can hop on the little train or hire a golf cart to get around.
There is a little farm at the Queen’s Hamlet that is fun for kids.
From March to November you can hire row boats on the Grand Canal or bikes to ride around the grounds. On the gardens app there is a children’s trail that takes you around the most interesting fountains.
The onsite bathroom facilities are adequate and many have change tables.
Guided tour of Versailles from Paris
I think the best way to see Versailles is with a small group tour.
When you explore this incredible royal complex with a guide you uncover the stories and legends that make this one of the most important sites in French and world history.
With a tour guide you can easily navigate the train and ticketing system meaning you are able to relax and enjoy your time at the palace.
The Paris Guy has tours departing from central Paris most days.
Book using code ‘UntoldParis’ and get a 5% discount on Versailles tours. This code also applies to their tours of The Louvre and Paris Catacombs.
Their fun local guides will take care of the logistics and make sure you have all the juicy details of court life at Versailles.
So you can relax and swan through the palace corridors and gardens like Marie Antoinette.