The Versailles Palace, the history, the splendour, the glamour and above all, a major draw for visitors who come to the nearby French capital of Paris, 20km away. The palace was built in the 17th century and King Louis XIV moved the royal family here from Paris. At the beginning Versailles Palace was just a building with fancy gardens in the middle of the countryside until centuries later when Paris grew in size, swallowed up the trees and the green fields around. Versailles is practically a part of Paris now but isn’t (if that makes any sense).
Our experience of Versailles Palace
Still, I had to see this palace as it is very famous in France’s history regarding the royal family and the French Revolution and Olga wanted to check out the gardens. A short ride from Gare d’Austerlitz on the RER along the southern banks of La Seine started our morning and arrived in the heart of Versailles around forty minutes later. The sky was blue, the air was crispy and there was silence all around apart from a couple of cars going up and down the main street.
On the approach to the gates at Versailles Palace, there are two or three brown metal bars which have been bent and both ends point upwards to the sky. I do not know why they were there, but they are and I still haven’t found a reason for this (see my photograph below). In my view it spoils the landscape of the area and looks out of place.
Inside the palace it looks very nice with such golden decor and nice paintings on the ceilings. Carpets hung on the walls, the dust on the bed sheets still can be seen and the wooden flooring making a lot of noise when people are walking on it. Whilst walking around the palace, I have to admit I got slightly bored as a palace is a palace to me. There are so many similarities between this palace and ones back in the United Kingdom. Maybe because despite the two countries having so many famous battles between each other, that behind the scenes both Royal Families were having secret meetings, or planning future weddings to secure land in certain parts of France, Europe or anywhere! A lot of French people will tend to disagree with this but if you research the history you will find that certain people, like, Queen Mary of Scots, well, she is French, ruled France for a while, really annoyed certain people and then took a boat to Scotland to get a quick getaway, ruled Scotland for a while, annoyed them for a while and then try to do a deal with England to rule there, not sure what happened, I did read about it but she died in the end. Also there was a certain King Henry, was it the sixth or seventh, I can’t remember but when it was party time in France, he was there. He couldn’t be bothered to deal with the boring problems back in England, he loved to party a lot and have sex with loads of sexy French woman. Then he got married and lied to his wife about his whereabouts. He tells her he has business to attend to (like sorting out Scotland) but really he was at one of the King Louis party’s at the Versailles or in the heart of Paris itself! (best place to read up on this is in Stephen Clarke’s book – 1000 years of annoying the French).
Anyway, after looking around the place and seeing many paintings on the walls, it was time to go outside in the cold crisp air and take a look around the gardens, which were pretty but as you can imagine, there weren’t many flowers blooming as it was October. Instead, green grass, lakes and trees which were bare was the scene and it was just nice to walk around.
That was my experience above, not really exciting to read of course as basically it was just a wander around the palace and the gardens. However I don’t want to put visitors off. If you are a first timer to Paris and France, then of course it must be visited. There is a lot of history here as well as being a beautiful city palace, to which ten million visitors visit the palace every year. Can’t be that boring then? For me, as mentioned, I did a lot of palaces similar to Versailles so it didn’t have the wow factor. That’s just my own personal opinion.
Did you know?
Recently stats in the last few years made Palace of Versailles the second most visited site in the Paris region (and France as well), falling short of the top place which was taken by the Louvre. The Eiffel Tower was the third most visited site.
What to check out at Versailles Palace
The palace is huge and will take some time to get round however the highlight has to be the Grand Gallery which is a set of three decorated reception rooms, dedicated to the celebration of the political and military successes of Louis XIV, and used for important receptions, ceremonies and celebrations.
Other areas in the palace to check out have to be the Royal Apartments, Royal Chapel and the Opera rooms. There is the museum of the history of France.
Still think you got energy to the gardens? I hope so. This is one of the best outdoor parks in the Paris Region as the park has wide boulevard and stunning fountains (check out the Orangerie Garden near the palace as well as the many beautiful fountains located near the Grand Canal).
Hidden away in the gardens is the Grand Trianon which is where King Louis XIV decided way back in 1668 to build a smaller palace where he could spend some quiet time. After the French revolution some time later, the Trianon served as a residence for Napoleon I and King Louis-Phillippe when they were in the area.
In the park there is also the Hameau de la Reine (the Hamlet of Marie Antoinette), which is a set of buildings built for Queen Marie Antoinette around 1783 and its facades are designed on the styles of buildings from the villages in Normandy. Queen Marie Antoinette loved to have her friends around, party around and go crazy.
Conclusion: Would I recommend a trip to Versailles Palace. Yes and I am hoping to come back again one day soon with the family. I came here in the Autumn months and whilst the weather looks great with clear blue sunny skies, the gardens by this point, well, the flowers are gone for the season. To get the true feel of the gardens, come in the spring or summer months. The palace itself can be visited all year round and is full of history and charm. Plan your visit in advance to experience the best day out and if needed, buy those tickets in advance.
The lowdown on Versailles to make a visit more enjoyable
How to get to Versailles: There are three ways of reaching the palace by train, the most common and easiest way is taking the RER Line C from central Paris to Versailles Château – Rive Gauche and from there the palace is a 5-10 minute walk. There is a SNCF train from Gare Montparnasse which goes to Versailles Chantiers and then its a 15 minute walk from there and the other SNCF train is from Gare Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite and again, a 15 minute walk to the palace. Anyone traveling by car there is car parking spaces outside the main entrance to the place on Place d’Armes but get there early especially during busy periods.
Essential information on the palace: The palace is open Tuesday to Sunday from 0900-1730 (closed on Monday) and the last entry into the palace and gardens is at 1700. If arriving at the palace without a ticket, expect queues to be long during tourist season so I would totally recommend buying tickets online. All information can be found here.
Accommodation: There are a lot of accommodation options and a lot of websites which can do some great deals. My first point of call is always Booking.com and can offer a range of hostels, hotels, campsites, apartments, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts and they can also be booked up on my website (just go to the right hand side of the screen). After that I always have a look through AirBnb for great deals on apartments and other lodgings especially when traveling as a family.
Currency: France uses the Euro currency which is also widely used in most European countries. Currency can be exchanged at the airports and train stations (for a huge fee) so I would recommend either going to a currency exchange place downtown, to a bank (if they have good rates) or if you got a good bank account with fantastic exchange rates, then use an ATM machine (may incur a small fee but I always do this option as I got good bank accounts).
Language: It’s France, so it would be French. However at major tourist sites, a lot of staff do speak English (it is not like the old days where French people refuse to speak English, that has changed you will find the locals here love to practise their English as well as visitors trying to learn French). If there are places like Versailles Palace which has tour groups, there maybe groups which do tours in different languages like German, Chinese and Japanese. Enquire with the tourist site in advance.
Watch out for: Dodgy people selling fake souvenirs near the tourist sites and ladies who want to plat women’s hair for a huge fee. Always watch out in the Metro system, people will approach you offering you their services to help buy tickets or try and sell you used tickets. Never buy anything from them. Go to the ticket machines or ticket offices at the big stations.
Flying into this area? Then I would recommend using Skyscanner to find flights as that is my first point of call. Then if necessary use the airlines direct to find a good deal. I sometimes use Momondo as well to compare prices before booking.
Travel insurance: This is essential to anywhere you go in the world. I always carry travel insurance. I always recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance which can be brought through my website here. Having travel insurance will cover you from theft, illness and those annoying cancellations which can happen on the road.
Need a visa for France? Always check if you need a visa when coming to France, especially for those who come from outside Europe. I always go to iVisa first and they can be found here.
Other places to check out near Versailles
Of course a visit to the Versailles can be combined with a visit to Paris and there is no introduction needed there, however check out my first timers guide to the French capital here. However if visitors are really into their castles and palaces, check out my blog post on other places of interest near the French capital here.
Please note that while I was not working with Versailles Palace, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! There maybe some links above which are affiliate and are at no additional cost to you. If my readers use them, I earn a commission to buy their products and remember, I only mentioned products and companies I use. The income from this keeps this website going. Thank you.
Blog post updated: 27-02-2021