Paris

Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a masterpiece of French architecture and includes not only the royal palace, but also spectacular gardens and an immense estate.

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palace of Versailles is one of the finest achievements of Louis XIVzFrench art in the 17th century. This immense estate, which is built around the royal residence, boasts magnificent gardens, fountains, terraces, canals and avenues enriched with precious floral displays.

The former hunting lodge of Louis XIII was transformed and enlarged by his son Louis XIV, who established his court and government here in 1682, creating a place of power, ceremonies, parties and perdition until the French Revolution. Every king of France who stayed here contributed improvements, extensions and embellishments to the castle.

Versailles is not only the castle once inhabited by Kings and Queens, but also an incredible museum dedicated to the History of France, housing a collection of some 60,000 works.

The Palace of Versailles consists of several areas: the royal palace, the beautiful gardens, the smaller palaces of the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, the Queen’s village and the stables.

The Palace of Versailles

The palace, or château, of Versailles is an immense residence: think of it containing some 2,300 rooms, 1,000 of which can be visited, spread over 63,154 square metres. You should allow about 1.5 hours just to visit the building.

The route inside is obligatory and will allow you to admire some truly astonishing parts, which will leave you speechless at the magnificence and elegance of court life. Let us take a look at the most important and famous rooms.

The King’s flat

This prestigious suite comprising seven salons had a representative function, i.e. the place for the official and public acts of the sovereign. For this reason, it received a very rich decoration, following the Italian model then very much in vogue at court: marble panelling and painted ceilings.

During the day, the Great Apartment was open to all courtiers, who could see the king and the royal family. Within the seven rooms, with symbolic names taken from classical mythology – Hercules, Abundance, Venus, Diana, Mars, Mercury and Apollo – great feasts were held.

Not far away, you will also see the Petit Appartement du Roi, where his most intimate belongings were kept. Consisting of six rooms with two antechambers and the bedroom, richly decorated, the king’s flat had an office, the Cabinet of the Council and the Cabinet of Terms, used by the king to change his costumes and wigs away from the gaze of the court.

The Mirror Gallery

This is the centrepiece and most famous room of the Palace of Versailles, located on the first floor of the huge building. It dazzles and enchants visitors with its impressive view: built between 1678 and 1684, it is over 73 metres long and 10 metres wide, has 17 windows and 357 mirrors, from which it takes its name. To further enhance the brightness and beauty of the place, the room overlooks the majestic gardens of Versailles.

The Hall of Mirrors was used daily as a passage, waiting and meeting place, frequented by courtiers and the visiting public. It was only exceptionally used as a ceremonial room, when the sovereigns wanted to provide the maximum splendour for the entertainment (balls or games) offered at princely weddings or diplomatic receptions.

In addition, during these social events, the gallery served to remind foreign guests of France’s political, economic and artistic achievements : through the thirty pictorial compositions, military and diplomatic victories, as well as reforms for the reorganisation of the kingdom, were represented in the form of allegories. But the opulence of the room also served to exalt both economic prosperity, symbolised by the 357 mirrors (France had wrested the monopoly of glass from Venice), and the artistic success of the French nation, thanks to the capitals with the national coats of arms.

The Queen’s flats

On the other side of the Hall of Mirrors is the Queen’s living space. Like her husband, she owned official flats and other more private ones, where her children lived. Today, the remains of the various queens who lived there are preserved, in particular Maria Theresa (wife of Louis XIV), Maria Leszcinzinska (married to Louis XV) and, of course, Marie Antoinette.

The bedroom is the main room of the flat, where the queen spent most of her time: this is where she slept, often joined by the king. In the mornings she also received courtiers here, during and after her toilette, which was a court moment regulated by etiquette. Public births also took place in this room: as many as 19 ‘Sons of France’ were born here.

The flats of Madame de Pompadour and Madame Du Barry

Closed to the public, these rooms of the palace are only accessible with the guided tour The flats of the King’s favourites.

The king’s favourites, his mistresses, made history and the legend of Versailles. Madame de Pompadour and later Madame Du Barry both occupied luxurious accommodations in the immediate vicinity of King Louis XV’s Petits Appartements.

Madame de Pompadour’s flat, from which there is a magnificent view of the Parterre du Nord and the Marly forest, is located in the attic of the main building, above the salons of Mars, Mercury and Apollo. To access its rooms and save herself the trouble of the stairs, the Duchess had a ‘flying chair’ installed, a veritable tiny lift, operated by means of a wheel and a counterweight.

In contrast, the flat of Madame Du Barry, Louis XV’s last favourite, is famous for a hidden staircase that communicated directly with the sovereign’s private rooms.

The other rooms

The tour of the Palace is very long and goes through several ale used for different functions.

On the first floor of the Palace of Versailles you can admire a series of rooms reserved for the king’s court:

Next to the royal flats, you can also admire the Gallery of Battles, commissioned by King Louis-Philippe to inaugurate the Museum of the History of France, and the Royal Chapel, where the court attended the King’s mass every day at around 10 a.m.

The Trianon estate

Not far from the castle, Louis XIV gave free rein to his love of architecture and gardens, creating an area reserved for his personal use. The premises, set up on the site of an old village, kept its original name, Trianon. Louis XV and then Queen Marie Antoinette fell under the spell of the place and contributed to its development and embellishment. Dedicated to the intimacy of the sovereigns, the places offer remarkable buildings set in magnificent gardens, whose variety and beauty give them a very special charm.

Grand Trianon

This section of the estate is composed of several parts. The Grand Trianon is a unique building, with its central loggia or peristyle providing true transparency between the court and the gardens. Most of its flats have retained their original sculpted decoration and today contain Empire-style furniture from the period. As for the gardens, the flowerbeds are a veritable explosion of flowers, as in the time of Louis XIV, when Trianon was nicknamed the Palace of Flora.

Petit Trianon

The Petit Trianon, considered one of the masterpieces of neoclassical architecture, was commissioned by the king in order to follow one of his passions, botany. In fact, the building is at the centre of the gardens that Louis XV had sought to develop from the 1850s onwards and which, at his death, were among the richest in Europe. In addition to the current French-style garden, the premises were later profoundly redesigned by Marie Antoinette who, from 1775, laid out a vast landscaped garden. This was the Queen’s favourite place, where she would escape from the constraints of court and live a simple life, sheltered from the pomp of the palace.

The Queen’s village

Le Hameau de la Reine, built between 1783 and 1786 by Richard Mique, the Queen’s architect, illustrates the taste of the time for the charm of country life. Inspired by traditional rural architecture and laid out to reproduce the paintings of the time, this small village included several houses built both for simple entertainment (billiards, intimate dining, hobbies) and with a real agricultural function, housing dairies and farms.

Finally, the theatre, inaugurated in 1780, is today one of the few examples in the world to have kept much of its original machinery intact. The Queen hired theatre companies for private performances and sometimes used it to perform a play herself, in front of a very small audience.

The Gardens of the Palace

From the central window of the Hall of Mirrors, the grandiose perspective unfolds before visitors’ eyes, leading the eye towards the horizon, along the 800 hectares of immense gardens. They are considered to be the masterpiece of the landscape architect André Le Nôtre and the greatest example of the French garden, a source of inspiration for all the Palaces of Europe.

The gardens of Versailles, commissioned by Louis XIV, were created at the same time as the palace works and lasted around forty years. Their creation required a gigantic amount of work to level the existing spaces, arrange the flowerbeds, build the Orangery, excavate the basins and the Canal, where previously there had only been woods, meadows and marshes. Trees were even transported in large numbers from many provinces of France and thousands of men, sometimes entire regiments, took part in this vast undertaking.

L’Orangerie

Located beneath the Parterre du Midi, the Orangerie was the pride of the King. Formed by three long galleries and arched windows, this wing was designed to house citrus trees, exotic plants and crops from warm countries in winter: oranges from Portugal, Spain or Italy, lemons, oleanders, palms or even pomegranates, some of which are over 200 years old.

The Orangery is an immense building, the central gallery of which is over 150 metres long and its vaulting culminates at a height of 13 metres. The walls, 4 to 5 metres thick, with their double-glazing and southern exposure, allow a winter temperature that does not fall below 5°C.

The Orangery is only accessible with guided tours.

The Grand Canal

Creator of the Grand Canal, the designer André Le Nôtre transformed the perspective of the park into a luminous place that seems to have no end. The work lasted eleven years, from 1668 to 1679: the canal became 1,670 metres long and was the setting for memorable celebrations .

In fact, from 1669, Louis XIV even had small boats and miniature vessels sailing on its waters. Its festivities were loved by all the royals of Europe and in 1674, the Serenissima sent the Sun King two gondolas and four gondoliers, which carried the sovereign’s court around. From then on, the Grand Canal was also called Little Venice.

In fine weather, it is also possible to hire small rowing boats to enjoy an exceptional view of the estate from a unique perspective.

The fountains and groves

The palace gardens are dotted with more than 50 fountains and 300 statues, one of Louis XIV’s great boasts. They are true architectural gems created by the greatest sculptors of the time. The fountains and sculptures adorn the park’s famous groves, places for all kinds of entertainment and lovers’ encounters, created by the gardener and architect André Le Nôtre and redesigned over the years.

Arranged in the wooded areas bordering the pathways, these green areas form small gardens enclosed by pergolas or palisades of climbing flowers, accessed by discreet hidden entrances. Under the reign of Louis XIV, the gardens of Versailles contained 15 groves: they served to surprise visitors by their diversity from the strict regularity of the general layout of the gardens.

The most famous is the Queen’s Grove, which replaced the famous Labyrinth Wood, laid out in 1665-1666 with a series of thirty-nine painted lead fountains depicting animals from Aesop’s fables. The new arrangement, simple but elegant, was designed to highlight, in the centre, a new species introduced to France, the Virginia tulip.

In this section of the gardens alone, you will lose considerable time visiting all the groves.

  • the dance grove: an amphitheatre of greenery with an island in the centre surrounded by a two-level canal and accessible by four small bridges.
  • the Girandole grove: designed as a green room.
  • the Grove of the Colonnades: a circular peristyle over forty metres in diameter supported by thirty-two pillars.
  • the hall of the chestnut trees: with its remarkable collection of sculptures from antiquity, it was conceived as a true open-air museum.
  • the grove of domes: the arena is occupied by a hexagonal pool and houses three sculptural groups.
  • the fountain of Enceladus: it tells the story of the fall of the Titans, buried under the rocks of Olympus, from the gods they had wanted to dethrone.
  • the grove of the Baths of Apollo
  • the forest of the stars: named after its plant, one of the most complex in the garden
  • the grove of dolphins
  • the grove of the Theatre of Water: this consisted of a space for spectators and a stage dedicated to the spectacle of water, which offered phantasmagorical representations and often formed figures considered to be real technical feats.
  • the grove of the three fountains
  • the grove of the Arc de Triomphe

The French gardens

Below the castle façades, on the garden side, are three large areas: the Parterre du Nord, the Parterre du Midi and the Parterre d’Eau. The latter consists of two large rectangular pools, while the other two feature incredible plant embroideries designed by Le Nôtre.

In these areas of the park, large basins decorated with symbolic sculptural figures alternate with floral compositions, embellished with statues and fountains, and are linked by alleys and avenues positioned in symmetrical plays to create optical and surprise effects, typical of the French garden.

Spectacle of fountains and musical gardens

The marvellous gardens of the Palace of Versailles show all their splendour especially during the Fountains and Musical Gardens show, where you can experience a walk like a real courtier, in the groves where Louis XIV loved to relax amidst the water games and fountain gushes.

From the end of March to the end of October, the show takes place on set days and times, while every Saturday of the summer season, the Musical Fountains can also be admired in the evening, with the Great Night Fountains show.

These events require a separate ticket, which does not include a visit to the palace:

The Grand Park

In addition to the marvellous gardens, the estate’s large park is home to two immense bodies of water: the Grand Canal and the Swiss Reservoir.

Traced out by straight paths bordering wooded areas and cultivated fields, the park covers an area of approximately 800 hectares. Bounded by a wall punctuated by gates and doors, it has preserved its unique appearance over the centuries, a true green lung at the gates of Paris.

The park is open every day of the year, except in exceptional weather conditions such as snow and strong winds, and admission is free.

The Royal Stables and the Carriage Gallery

Opposite the palace, Louis XIV launched the largest royal project ever undertaken to build stables. The Petite É curie and Grande Écurie, built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, close Place d’Armes and mark the beginning of three large avenues.

The location and size of the stables testify to the importance given to the horse under the Ancien Régime. Consider that during the reign of Louis XIV, the Royal Stables constituted one of the most important departments of the estate, with constantly intense activity. Almost 1,500 men worked there: squires, pages, coachmen, postboys, lackeys, carters, horsemen, chair-bearers, stable boys, blacksmiths, saddle-makers, chaplains, musicians, surgeons and veterinary surgeons, a kind of world unto itself. In the 18th century there were more than 2000 horses.

The Carriage Gallery is the largest exhibition ever built to house all kinds of royal vehicles: majestic carriages or small carriages for Marie-Antoinette’s children, sedan chairs or sleighs, representing an exceptional testimony to the life and splendour of the court under the Ancien Régime, the Empire and the Restoration.

The vast collection includes not only travel vehicles but also ceremonial ones, which tell the most important pages of French history through dynastic or political events: the wedding of Napoleon I, the baptism of the Duke of Bordeaux, the coronation of Charles X or the funeral of Louis XVIII.

Designed to impress, these carriages are true works of art, ostentatiously luxurious, richly adorned with gold and sculptures. They are stunning combinations of all the decorative arts, created by the best artists and craftsmen such as architects, carpenters, sculptors, painters, gilders, upholsterers, embroiderers and bronze workers.

Admission Tickets

As one of the top attractions in Paris, with more than 10 million visitors each year, the Palace of Versailles is taken by storm by tourists in practically every season. Queues at the ticket office are the norm and you may lose a lot of time.

We therefore advise you to buy skip-the-line tickets online and in advance, which will drastically reduce your waiting time: in this way, you will benefit from guaranteed fast entry. In any case, all visitors, even those with skip-the-line tickets, must undergo security checks.

Free Entrance

Certain categories of visitors are entitled to free admission and may present themselves directly at the priority gates and show their ID: all children under 18 years of age, EU citizens under 26 years of age and disabled persons with an accompanying adult.

We also remind you that some areas of the palace are accessible free of charge:

Find the right entrances

Please note that

Guided tours

If you wish to visit the Palace at its best, both inside and in the immense gardens, you should opt for a guided tour that will give you a more in-depth knowledge while optimising your time. There are also guided tours that allow access to areas of the palace and parts of the park that cannot normally be visited independently, such as the flats of the King’s favourites.

Tours from Paris

The following tickets include transfer by bus or train from Paris and entrance to the Palace of Versailles.

Travel Tips

Just 30 km from the centre of the French capital, the Palace of Versailles is a perfect destination for an out-of-town trip and one of Paris’ must-see attractions.

Its incredible size and the large number of elements to visit within it (Palace, gardens and estate) make it a very long and articulated visit, requiring a full day. We therefore advise you to plan your stay carefully, depending on the time you have available and your interests.

When to visit the Palace of Versailles

Although the Palace of Versailles is fascinating at any time of year, it is undeniable that spring and summer are the best seasons to appreciate it in all its beauty, when the gardens are an explosion of colours. In fact, April, May and September are ideal for admiring the incredible flowering of the flower beds. Inevitably, these will also be the months with the greatest influx of tourists and the longest queues.

On the contrary, we advise you NOT to visit the palace on Tuesdays. The reason for this is twofold: on the one hand, Tuesday is the closing day of some of Paris’ top attractions such as the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou, the Grand Palais and consequently, many visitors go to Versailles. On the other hand, it is the day after the closing day of the Palace itself and therefore a greater crowding is likely.

How long does a visit to Versailles last

There is no single answer: it depends on how much time you have available. To visit the palace, it takes about 1½ hours, and to visit the gardens and fountains another 2 hours.

To admire the estate in all its splendour, including the Trianon, the Orangerie, the Carriage Gallery, the Grand Canal and the groves, then you will have to budget for a full day. To optimise your journey and relieve your feet, remember that the estates are connected to the palace by a little train that runs every 15 minutes, while walking takes about 30 minutes.

Our advice is to arrive at the opening, taking advantage of the smaller crowds and the hours when you will be fresher and more rested. If, on the other hand, you want to do everything very calmly and without stress, you could consider visiting Versailles in two days in a row.

Versailles with children

Visiting Versailles with small children can be extremely tiring for both parents and children. In fact, prams and baby backpacks are forbidden inside the Palace. The endless halls of the Palace could turn out to be a real hell. We therefore recommend the use of soft straps, which are permitted, to allow everyone a pleasant visit.

In addition, the estate and gardens are immense: prams are allowed here but picnics are forbidden. For a quick snack, you will have to go to the park outside the estate, opposite the Orangery.

Clothing

Due to the vastness of the palace and gardens and the length of time you’ll have to spend inside the estate, we recommend dressing in layers, as the visit to the interior alternates with the outdoor areas, and wearing comfortable clothing, especially shoes, which will need to hold you up throughout the day.

Where to stay near Versailles

Most people who visit Versailles usually stay in Paris.

However, if you are taking a road trip, it might be convenient to stay in Versailles, a wealthy residential town.

The Notre-Dame district is the first district built during the creation of the new city under Louis XIV and is the best place to stay in Versailles. Many of the city’s historical, cultural and tourist attractions can be found here: the Montansier Theatre, opened in 1777, the Lambinet Museum, a former hotel that housed the local court under the Ancien Régime, the Place du Marché-Notre-Dame or the Carriage Gallery. Several prestigious hotels have also chosen this magnificent district, which overlooks the Palace of Versailles.

Close to the Notre-Dame district, the Saint-Louis quarter is located further south and is perfect for privileged access to the Palace and its gardens. It is also home to magnificent historical buildings such as the Salle du Jeu de Paume, the King’s garden, the Swiss water play as well as the cathedral of the same name. It is also served by the RER C via the Gare de Versailles Château Rive Gauche.

To the east of the city centre and the Palace of Versailles is the residential district of Porchefontaine, which extends around the station of the same name. Served by the RER C, this residential area is ideal for quiet and peaceful accommodation while remaining close to the city centre, easily accessible by bus, and benefiting from significantly lower rates.

Finally, one can also consider the Montreuil district, east of the city centre, known for its shopping street of the same name. In this district is the Gare de Montreuil, served by Transilien and Noctilien L, as well as the Gare de Versailles Rive Droite.

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How to get to the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles, which is about 30 kilometres from the centre of Paris, is very well served by public transport and is very easy to reach.

Regional RER trains

From wherever you start, using the metro and RER lines in combination is very convenient to reach Versailles.
The most convenient option is to get to one of the RER Line C stops and then get off at Gare de Versailles Rive Gauche, which is the closest stop to the entrance of the Palace of Versailles, just a 10-minute walk from the castle. From the centre of Paris, the transfer takes approximately 40 minutes depending on your starting point.

Please note that you will need to purchase an Origin-Destination ticket: in this case, we advise you to take the round-trip option. There will most likely be long queues at the ticket office at the Versailles-Château-Rive-Gauche station at the end of the day, especially near the closing times of the palace.

Or you can use a transport pass such as Paris Visite . Please note: the pass must include Paris Zones 1-5: Versailles is in Zone 4.

By SNCF train

If you are coming from outside Paris or are in the city but are more comfortable using SNCF trains, you can choose to get off either at Versailles Chantiers station or at Versailles Rive Droite station. In either case, you will then have to walk for just under 20 minutes or take a bus.

By Car

Those visiting Paris in their own car, or in a rented car, can drive directly to the palace by car, following the A13 motorway, exit Versailles Château.

The car park is chargeable and is located at Cartes de la place d’armes, allée de Bailly, Grand Trianon et Petit Trian.

Useful information

Address

Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France

Contacts

TEL: +33 1 30 83 78 00

Timetables

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM
  • Thursday: 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM
  • Friday: 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM
  • Saturday: 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM
  • Sunday: 9:00 AM  -  5:30 PM

Where is located Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is about 30 km from the centre of Paris.

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