The Palace of Versailles
I’ve been dreaming of Versailles ever since I was little. There was a series of childrens novels which were written as diaries of famous royal princesses throughout history, called The Royal Diaries series. I loved these books as a kid, but none more so than the Marie Antoinette novel.
This is when I first heard about Versailles, and having been a time before google images was even a thing, I had these grand dreams of what this sprawling, gilded palace must have looked like.
As I grew older, my dreams of this place grew even more elaborate. I knew I wanted to go to versailles more than anywhere else in the world. I also learned more and more about the history of France, the French revolution, and the way that this chateau evolved over the centuries.
I finally got my chance to go to versailles in September, 2018 when I went to my first ever trip to France (or Europe for that matter). We planned to stay in Paris, and make a day trip to Versailles, however things don’t always go as planned. The Fates, and some rather unfortunate food poisoning, prevented my dreams from coming to fruition on that trip.
I managed to get myself back to France this past June and made a point to be as close to the palace as possible. I couldn’t miss this again!
Below are all of the tips, tricks, and suggestions I could muster for you to make a great trip to the Palace of Versailles.
Stay in Town:
We knew we wanted to spend the whole day there, and being that it would take almost an hour to train and walk from Paris, it made more sense to just stay in the town itself. This was the best decision I could have made!
We were able to wake up and take our time to walk through the gardens when they opened at 7am. This was beneficial for two reasons. First, it was so, so hot out during out stay that being out before 10am made a huge difference in enjoying the space. Second, we were able to see the grounds and gardens with absolutely no one around. It was perfect!
The grounds of versailles are so big, there is no realistic way you’ll see everything in one day. Having been enthralled (read: obsessed) with Versailles since I was a child, I already had a map in my head of everything there is to see. The chateau, the grand Trianon, petit Trianon, the hameau de rein, the gardens, every single fountain, etc.. Pick the things you want to see and plan them out accordingly.
This is also important, because you cannot see the entirety of the palace and the grounds in one day. It just isn’t possible! We were there from 7AM and did not leave the grounds until after 7PM, and hadn’t managed to see absolutely everything.
We started our day going through the grounds, backwards. We entered at the Gate of the Queen and strolled through the gardens for a few hours, from about 7AM - 10AM, and then headed for the palace. We spent a couple of hours strolling through, seeing the bedrooms of the kind and queen, the hall of mirrors, and more!
We then excited the palace to eat some lunch and spent some time in the gardens, and then made it to our private tour of the kings chambers (more on this later!). Afterwards, we meandered out to rent some bikes and went to both of the Trianons, and then through the gardens some more.
We ended the day with an ice cream cone, sitting along the canal!
Just like any tourist attraction, the food available in versailles is not especially good, and very over priced. There are two indoor restaurants inside the palace itself, however it is very expensive and you must make reservations in advance.
In addition, there are small outdoor restaurants peppered in along the gardens, but again, the food is underwhelming and pricey.
Instead, pack along a lunch and some snacks. There is a grocery store only a few blocks away, where you can grab a baguette, some cheese, cured meat, fruit, maybe a sandwich or two. When you are ready in your day, you can sit along the canal and have a picnic!
If you MUST sit down for food and would prefer a full meal to a picnic lunch, head off the beaten path to a restaurant a few blocks away from the chateau. I promise that the food will be much better and you’ll be farther away from the run of tourists all clamoring for food at the same time.
It makes a huge HUGE difference to purchase your tickets ahead of time.
We purchased the “Passport with timed entry” option, which allowed us to see everything, and have a scheduled time to enter the palace. This is important because a huge line forms as soon as the gates open.
We were able to walk in, get through security, check our bags, and walk into the palace in as little as 10 minutes!
Download the App!
The Versailles App is such a great tool, especially if you don’t know much of the history of the palace before going. You can use this to learn about each room you walk through, and go at your own pace.
The Chateau of Versailles is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. And this is evident by the fact that there are TONS of people all over the place, ALL DAY.
In addition, the palace itself is also incredible crowded, and there is no escaping it. You will have to deal with the crush (literal crush) of people, room to room. There are small passageways between each room which just amplifies the crampedness of it all.
Something else to keep in mind, as related to the crowds, id that the palace is not air conditioned. This means that if the day is especially hot (like when we were there) and all of the human bodies packed together, the inside of the palace can be stifling. Pleas remember to bring water and stay hydrated!
If you do not like crowds, or feel claustrophobic easily, a recommendation would be to schedule a time to see the palace later in the day. There will still be lots of people, but far less than in the morning and early afternoon.
The Gardens and Park
The gardens are absolutely magnificent. You could truly spend a full day just wandering the gardens and park grounds. We didn’t even get to see a fraction of the gardens, just because they are so expansive.
There are little nooks and corners all over the place, and so much space that you almost could feel alone walking through. We also might have felt this way because it was 90 degrees outside and no one wanted to be in the heat of the day trekking through some shrubbery.
Oh, but such beautiful shrubbery! And flowers, and fountains, and trees and more! While we were there in summer, with all of the blooming flowers, I have heard that the gardens are just as impressive in winter.
The Chateau and Trianons
The inside of the palace is overwhelming. It is unbelievable, just the sheer size of the space, each room more grand than the next. The palace has been built upon over itself in the 3 centuries since being converted from a simple hunting lodge by Louis XIV.
It is absolutely worth touring the palace, if only once in your life. Despite the mass amount of people there seeing the same space, it is really jaw dropping to remember that this is somewhere that people lived. Their house, so to speak.
Adjacent to the main chateau, are the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon, which I personally enjoyed seeing more than the Palace. The Grand Trianon was the private residence of the King, and the Petit Trianon, while originally built for the mistress of Louis XV, was most famously the private residence of Marie Antoinette.
Surprisingly, there were very few people visiting these spaces when we biked there in the early afternoon. I don’t know if it is just because we lucked out, or of that is common place. It was nice seeing these areas with far fewer people around that in the main palace.
The gardens along both the Grand and Petit Trianon were my favorite spaces out of the entirety of the grounds. Simple, elegant, quiet, and just really breathtakingly beautiful.
Like most museums, The Chateau of Versailles will host temporary exhibitions for a time, to feature specific things related to the history of the palace. While we were there, there was an exhibit on the mistress of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintanon and a separate exhibit on Marie Leszczynska, the wife of Louis XVI.
The latter was especially great because it was adjacent to the gift shop, and seemed to be away from the direct line of sight for people just exiting the main palace. Additionally, this was one of the only spaces in Versailles which was air conditioned and was SUCH needed reprieve from the heat of the day.
These exhibits add a nice layer of in depth history of the people who inhabited the palace throughout its 100 years of max occupancy. You get to understand the behind the scenes of the monarchy and what live was actually like behind closed doors.
Bikes are available to rent on the grounds of Versailles, which are an excellent way to get around from the palace to the gardens to the trianons and more.
The bikes are pretty well maintained, and you can even get a bike with a basket to hold your things! One thing to keep in mind though, is that they are expensive depending on how long you use them for.
Personally, I think that the best way to go is to see the palace early in the morning, and then immediately rent the bikes for the rest of the afternoon. That way, you get the most bang for your buck if you end up having to pay for a full day (€20 per bike, per 8 hours).
Now, I will be the first to admit that I really love touristy things. It doesn’t bother me one bit to go on a tour or be smashed into the sardine can that was the palace of versailles.
Well, there was a “private” tour offered to see the private rooms of the King, which are not actually open to the general public. It is 100% worth doing, if this tour is still available when you go. Now, the tour isn’t completely private, you will end up with a group of about 15 or so people, unless you are unusually lucky.
Not only do you get to see more intimate spaces in the palace, but you also get to see these spaces without 1 million other people. Additionally, the tour guide was incredible knowledgable and you get to learn some tidbits about 18th century life.
There are a bunch of other great tour options to see other aspects of the chateau and surrounding grounds. Check out the Versailles website to see what other options might interest you!
If it is hot out, bring a hand fan! This could go for traveling anywhere that has lots of heat.
Bring lots of water. Even if it is not hot out, the grounds are large and you’ll be doing a lot of walking
Pack a picnic lunch
Go early and expect to stay all day
Spend as much time in the park and gardens as possible, it is the best part of the Chateau
Don’t wait to get your ticket the day of, or else you’ll spend most of your day waiting in line
Don’t get t food from a restaurant in, or around the palace grounds!
Expect lots of people, but enjoy the space anyway!
Go on a private tour; You’ll get away from the crowds and see spaces not open the the public
The palace closes at 6:30PM (5:30 in the winter), however the park stays open until 8PM.
The Chateau of Versailles is by and far one of the best experiences of my life. It lived up to every single expectation I had of it and more. Yes, it’s touristy and more people go there than anywhere else in France, but it was special to see.
I had dreamed of visiting Versailles for nearly 20 years, from the time I was a kid. By planning ahead, and researching, I made sure that I got to do and see everything I could to fill up the day.
I hope these tips help you when you take your trip to the Chateau!