On our last day in Paris, we decided to go to the Palace of Versailles. It’s a full-day excursion, so plan accordingly. Let’s start off with some quick facts about the Palace.
- Versailles is not just a palace; it is actually a town about 20km from Paris. The Palace is located within the town of Versailles. When the palace was constructed, Versailles was a small village. Now, it is a upscale suburb of Paris.
- Louis XIII began construction in 1623. The original “palace” was simply a hunting lodge. Louis XIV expanded the grounds into a royal chateau. It is estimated that Louis XIV spent approximately 60% of France’s revenue to build the palace. This extravagance led the country into economic turmoil, and eventually, the French Revolution.
- Now, the Palace is a huge revenue source for the country; it costs €18 for entrance to the Palace and its full gardens.
Off to Versailles
So we set off for Versailles. It’s easy to get there from anywhere within Paris, as long as you arm yourself with information before you go. The cheapest option (about €7 round-trip) for getting to Versailles is to take the RER C line from one of any number of Paris metro stops to “Versailles Chateau-Rive Gauche.” This is the train stop that will put you closest to the palace. The best website that we came across while looking for information on traveling to Versailles was this one on Mike’s Travel Guide.
Once you get to the town of Versailles, it’s an easy walk from the train station to the palace. It should take you about 10 minutes – just follow the signs posted just outside the station, and you’ll be there.
Overall, Versailles is a worthwhile day trip from Paris. If you have time and are particularly interested in the history and the grounds, you could spend the night in the town of Versailles and purchase a 2-day pass to the palace grounds. While the palace is quite large, the grounds themselves are overwhelmingly so – there’s just so much to explore.
I would recommend buying your ticket ahead of time. This will save you from standing in line to buy a ticket. You’re going to stand in line to get through security and into Versailles regardless, but pre-purchasing will save you one step. For us, we only waited in line a total of about 20 minutes (we arrived about noon on a weekday). However, we read and heard of horror stories about Versailles lines – I guess we just happened to come at the right time.
The entrance to the palace
The guy who is responsible for this dump
I wonder where I can get some of that gold moulding…
Some Biblical scene involving babies; a giant organ.
If you sleep here, you’re the boss. No, you ARE boss.
I wonder how long it took to clean all the crystals in those chandeliers.
Jolyn’s personal garden…for a few minutes.
Has anyone ever hurt themselves on those shrubs?
Not a bad view into your backyard
The predecessor of the Chicago Bean
Early crop circles
Pretty beautiful place. No wonder the peasants were T.O.’ed!
Seeing the actual palace is probably about 1/5 of what you could actually do on the royal grounds. Fortunately, for your €18, you can wander around the entire property to your heart’s content.
The Colonnade Grove – while serving no official purpose, it did allow the nobility to enjoy substantially more arches than before
Idyllic walking paths in the Gardens
A gate blocking fence-jumpers from coming onto the palace grounds without buying a ticket…I pity the fool who tries to get by those barbs.
One of our favorite parts of the grounds were the Trianon Palaces and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. Unsatisfied with just the main palace, Louis XIV has the Palaces of Trianon constructed as a retreat from his primary retreat. Even more interesting to us was Marie Antoinette’s Estate, which was a series of simple farm buildings where the Queen would go when she wanted to escape the pressures of royal life. We thought these simple French country buildings were the most interesting; not only were they charming, but they told a story of the life that the Queen perhaps wished she had.
Chapel inside the Petit Trianon
The Tetragrammaton – God’s name in Hebrew – in the chapel
The grounds enjoyed by Marie Antoinette
The lighthouse where Marie would stand guard to warn ducks about to crash into the rocky shoals
The farmkeeper’s house
Near where the animals are kept
A beautiful day to visit the grounds
So there you go. I definitely recommend devoting one entire day to Versailles, if not more. You will want to take some time to wander around the grounds and take your time. And start early; it’s a long day.
After experiencing the life of royals for a day, we were in need of a meal for royals. Conveniently, the palace is not the only place to find golden arches in this town – there is a McDonald’s just across from the train station in Versailles. So naturally, being Americans, we decided to eat a quick meal there before heading back to Paris.