Château de Versailles–Things to do in France

Château de Versailles–Things to do in France

Visiting Château de Versailles:

Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles; +33 1 30 83 78 00; http://en.chateauversailles.fr/

Hours: 

Peak Season (Apr 1—Oct 31):

The Palace:
Monday: Closed
Tues-Sun: 9 AM—6:30 PM
Last admission at 6 PM

 

The Estate of Trianon:
Monday: Closed
Tues-Sun: 12 PM—6:30 PM
Last admission at 6 PM

 

The Coach Gallery:
Monday: Closed
Tues-Sun: 12:30—6:30 PM
Last admission at 5:45 PM

 

The Gardens:
Open daily: 8 AM—8 PM*
Last admission at 7 PM
*On Saturdays with Fountains Night Shows, the Gardens close at 5:30 PM.

 

The Park:
Open daily: 7 AM—8:30 PM
*The Gardens and the Park hours are subject to conditions of the weather, i.e. snow, violent winds, etc.

Musical Fountain Shows and Musical Gardens: on Tuesdays, Fridays, and weekends during summer time; please refer to the website for actual dates and information.

Rates:

As there are 4 different attractions in the estate, please refer to the rate comparing table on the website to see which type of ticket is the most suitable for your needs (Versailles Ticket Rate Table).

The Gardens (without Musical Fountains Show or Musical Gardens): Free for all
The Coach Gallery: Free for all
The Park: Free for all
The Palace (with an audio guide): €18
The Estate of Trianon: €12
Musical Fountain Shows: €9.50
Musical Gardens: €8.50
Passport (entrance to ALL attractions, without Musical Fountain Shows or Musical Gardens): €20
Passport + Musical Fountain Shows or Musical Gardens: €27
2-day Passport (entrance to ALL attractions, without Musical Fountain Shows or Musical Gardens): €25
2-day Passport + Musical Fountain Shows or Musical Gardens: €30

*All attractions of the estate except for Musical Fountain Shows and Musical Gardens are free for those under age 18, EU residents under age 26, and disabled visitors and an accompanying person. Musical Fountain Shows and Musical Gardens are free for children ages 0 to 5.

Frontal view of Château de Versailles

Château de Versailles started out as a hunting lodge in the 17th century by King Louis XIII and turned into a palace and estate for the royal court by Louis XIV and Louis XV, and eventually expanded by Louis XVI for his wife Marie Antoinette. The royal court left for Paris in 1789 and miraculously survived the French Revolution. Napoleon took residence in Versailles, although not in the Palace, but in the more “modest” Estate of Trianon. Château de Versailles was eventually turned into a museum and opened its doors in 1837. As there is a lot of history and information about Versailles, I recommend reading about the history and estate provided on the website prior to your visit here.

We decided to visit Versailles on a Thursday to avoid a huge crowd after gathering online information on crowds. Instead of leaving early in the morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and had a leisurely start. If you’re keen on visiting every single attraction, then I wouldn’t recommend doing this since the estate is huge and you wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy everything. To avoid waiting in line, we had purchased tickets the day before at Carrousel du Louvre when we bought tickets for the Louvre. We purchased the 1 day passport that gave entrance to all parts of the estate for €20 each person.

Getting to Château de Versailles:

The concierge told us to take the metro line 8 to Invalides and from there, to take the RER C for Versailles-Rive Gauchè. There are different stops/stations for Château de Versailles, but the Versailles-Rive Gauchè is the closest to the actual palace. We purchased one-way tickets for the RER C ride at the République station kiosk, but realized that we could have just purchased them at the Invalides station prior to transferring to the RER C. The stations were not crowded at all when we got there late morning, and we didn’t have to wait too long for the trains either. Once we arrived at the Invalides station, we just followed the signs for RER C for Versailles-Rive Gauchè. Next to RER C for Versailles-Rive Gauchè, there was a sign for Château de Versailles. Once we arrived at the platform, we looked at the screen for the ETA of our train. We also double-checked with other travelers that the train indeed was going to Château de Versailles. The RER C for Château de Versailles train was decorated with the influence of the Palace and each car had a different theme. The ride took approximately 40-45 minutes.

It was not difficult to know when/where to get off, as I was keeping track of each station we were stopping at, listening to the announcements and checking the signs, and I realized later on that Versailles-Rive Gauchè station was the last stop on the line. Once we arrived at the station, we purchased return tickets to Paris at the kiosk (instructions are available in English) in an attempt to avoid waiting in line later on, which we found later to be unnecessary for us. Since we left later than other visitors when the Palace closed, there was no line at the kiosk on our return. The roundtrip ticket for RER C costs about €7 per person and t+ tickets cannot be used for RER trains.

Walking to the Chataeu from the Versailles-Rive Gauchè station with the view of the chateau in the background
Walking to the Chataeu from the Versailles-Rive Gauchè station

Once we exited the station, we crossed the street and turned right onto Avenue de Sceaux, and walked straight ahead for about 7-10 minutes to reach the Château. Surprisingly, there was no line outside the gate as I had seen online, and since we already had tickets, we were able to get in right away. The staff in front of the gate advised for us to go to the Palace first as it was less crowded at the time, then to visit the rest of the estate afterwards. We went through security check and had our tickets scanned, where again, surprisingly, there was no line. There was a line to rent the audio guide due to a large Chinese tour group, but this went by quickly.

View of the entrance of Chateau de Versailles
Entrance A on the left for pre-purchased ticket holders; entrance B on the right for those without tickets.

The Palace was beautiful and opulent, and it was remarkable how well-maintained everything was. Although the staff informed us that the Palace was not crowded, a lot of the rooms were pretty crowded, so I can’t imagine how much more crowded it gets during peak times. The most popular room was the Hall of Mirrors, as I had expected, and there was no way we could get a picture without anyone in it.

The famous Hall of Mirrors with the infamous crowd
The famous Hall of Mirrors with the infamous crowd

The whole estate spans over 800 hectares of land, or about 2000 acres. The gardens are perfectly manicured and symmetrical. There are all kinds of trees, plants, and flowers that are planted, making it a feast for the eyes, along with statues, fountains, and a canal. Instead of trying out alternate modes of transportation within the grounds, we chose to enjoy everything by foot, which I would not do again. Whilst the grounds were beautiful, my feet were so tired from walking all day, they refused to cooperate towards the end of the trip. Due to lack of time (the French are very serious about closing on time, or even earlier than closing times), unclear map and road signs, and my feet being on strike, we gave up on trying to get to the Queen’s Hamlet after multiple attempts. From the website’s description, I think I would have enjoyed the Queen’s Hamlet quite a bit. 🙁

View of the Leto's Fountain, the Park, and the Grand Canal of Chateau de Versailles

After spending 6-7 hours at Versailles, we were only able to cover the Palace, the Grand Trianon, the Petite Trianon, and some parts of the Gardens and the Park. We didn’t have time (or the energy) to check out the Gallery of Coaches or the Queen’s Hamlet. As splendid as the Chateau was, I’m not sure if it will be on my priority list of places to visit when we return to Paris.

Picture of the Grand Trianon at Versailles

Tips: 1) Busiest days are the weekends and Tuesdays (the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays), so if your schedule allows for flexibility, try to avoid visiting on those days.

2) If you or people in your party have limited walking abilities, or you would rather save your energy for exploring the actual palace and the Estates of Trianon, pay the extra €7.50 fee for a tram ride. You can also rent a golf cart, bicycle, or Segway to transport you throughout the estate. Rowing boats are also available for your leisure at a fee except in winter. See http://en.chateauversailles.fr/plan-your-visit/facilities?tid=190 for more info.

3) If you didn’t have a chance to purchase tickets online in advance, or if you’re unsure about your itinerary, you can purchase tickets at the tabac inside Carrousel du Louvre (cash only). Prices are the same and according to the cashier, the tickets are redeemable for a year.

4) Food at the cafeteria/café right next to the Palace was pretty bad and overpriced, so bring sandwiches, cheese, etc., and enjoy a nice picnic in the gardens or the park. Just remember that food is not allowed inside the Palace, so you have to leave it at bag check. It seems like food options may be slightly better near the lake, but we didn’t have a chance to try anything there except for an ice cream cone, which again, wasn’t the best we had. There are several restaurants throughout the estate, but not all of them were open and they seem to be overpriced as expected at tourist attractions.

5) As always, be mindful of pick pockets inside and outside at major tourist attractions.

6) If you’d like to take pictures of the estate and exterior of the Palace without a massive crowd in it, stay around a little longer after the Palace closes. The Gardens and the Park remain open for about an hour to hour and a half after the Palace closes, and we found that as soon as the Palace closed, the crowd cleared out. We were able to get some nice pictures of the Palace and the Garden without a thousand people in the background.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *