After spending a wonderful day at Versailles with Bo and my in-laws on Friday, I think it deserves a dedicated post. The seat of French power until 1789, it’s gold and over the top splendor continues to attract visitors such as us on a daily basis. It is elaborate and can be a bit overwhelming at first but given the right preparation, it can also be the perfect French day rich in beauty, history and spectacle!
Many people who are traveling to Paris debate whether to add a day trip to Versailles as it is located outside of the city and can therefore be difficult to fit in short visit.
In order to help you plan your visit, here are some things you should know.
How much does it cost? The passport ticket for Versailles is 18 euro ($25) and provides access to ALL sites and areas of Versailles. While you buy a ticket for only the palace, it is 15 euro. Audio guides are included in the price of the ticket and are available in 11 languages.
What is the easiest way to get to Versailles from Paris? The train is the easiest and most inexpensive way to reach Versailles. It took us 40 minutes on the RER C train which is available from many Paris stations and takes you within 5 minutes of Versailles. Exit the train at the Versailles-Rive Gauche station and follow signs to the Chateau Versailles. The roundtrip ticket was 10 Euros ($13.75). The only tip to know is that on your return trip, double check that you are getting on the RER C back to Paris versus an express train. This site was very helpful as well as it provides a pictorial guide for Paris beginners!
What is there to see? There is far more to see than just the palace. When visiting, it is recommended that visitors allow themselves time to explore the palace, gardens, Trianon Palace, and Marie-Antoinette’s hamlet. We ended up having 6 hours and felt that was the perfect amount of time.
Is it crowded? We made the mistake of going to Versailles on one of their high attendance days due to French national holidays. They have a great calendar on their FAQ site which allows you to search the calendar for their low, normal and high attendance days. This way, if you’re in Paris or France for a longer period of time you can schedule your trip on a lower attendance day. Even though it was quite busy, this didn’t affect our visit other than during our time in the Palace, especially the Hall of Mirrors. In hindsight, we should have started in that area as it will only get more crowded later in the day.
Would you recommend a guided tour for Versailles? Yes! We spent the extra 7 Euros ($9.60) for an official Versailles guided tour. There are 3 different tours offered depending on the time of year and we chose the Private Apartments of the Kings which provided us with a great history review as well as a glimpse into the gorgeous and very ornate private apartments and the opera theatre, which only open to public through this tour. If you enjoy history or don’t know much about the era, I highly recommend this option! The guided tour also meant that we were able to avoid waiting in the very long entrance and security line as there is a separate side entrance for visitors taking a guided tour.
What is the best way to tour the gardens? As you can see from the below pictures, the gardens are enormous! How to tour them is a personal choice as there are golf carts, mini trains, bicycles and your own two legs. Since the weather was beautiful we opted to walk but in hindsight we wish we’d rented bikes. There is so much to do in the gardens whether you choose to rent a row boat, spend the extra money on a golf cart, or just explore. There are handy maps which can help you find hidden fountains and statues. Note that there are certain days when fountain shows take place on site and due to construction, not all the fountains are functioning.Any other tips? We didn’t realize that each attraction at Versailles opens at different times. Therefore, we walked all the way out to Trianon Palace only to find that it didn’t open until noon. Also, the palace is not open on Monday so make sure to schedule your visit another day or you will only be able to see the gardens. Also, while there is food the lines tend to be long so plan ahead and bring snacks or a lunch to enjoy in the garden. You’ll have to check your bag while you tour the castle but can bring it all with you in the gardens.