Built by King Louis XIV, the Palace at Versailles is the ultimate palace estate. In addition to the incredible palace, the sprawling gardens of the estate are absolutely breathtaking. To see the entire estate requires at least a two-day visit (I have tried to do it in one day twice, and failed both times).
If possible, go to Versailles during the “Fountains Shows and Musical Gardens” (available April to October). While the ticket is a little more expensive, it is worth the price for the experience. The gardens are filled with dozens of spectacular fountains that are more than 200 years old. If you follow the walking route on the map they provide, you won’t miss any of the fountains.
The gardens are spectacular and it’s like walking onto the set of a Jane Austen movie. As you stroll through the beautiful setting, you can get a real sense of what life was like for the royal family.
In contrast to the Louvre and the interior of the palace, there is plenty of open space in the gardens. This is a relaxing escape from the typical throngs of tourists that dominate most Paris attractions. Food and toilets are available throughout the gardens and across the entire estate which is incredibly convenient.
The interior of the palace is majestic in every way and oftentimes overwhelming. Every ceiling is covered with paintings, and the detail in each room is incredible. There is a free app available with an enjoyable audio guide that explains the history and function of each room.
Apart from the King’s Apartment, the ladies chambers were less crowded and provided an interesting glimpse into royal life. The king’s daughters were known as “The Daughters of France.” Each princess had her own library in which all of the books were bound using a unique leather color to distinguish one collection from the other princess’ library.
Finally, the Hall of Mirrors is the most famous room of this grand palace. When it was built, mirrors were incredibly expensive, and this hall was a distinct expression of the King’s virtually limitless wealth. The Hall of Mirrors also provides a stunning view of the gardens.
The palace is sure to be crowded at any time of day, but your best chance to avoid the crowds is to arrive very early in the morning. Dozens of tour buses arrive every hour, and there is a constant line outside the palace.
The Coach Gallery
While substantially smaller than the other attractions at the palace, the Coach Gallery offers a unique perspective on the evolution of royal transportation. Many royal coaches are on display here nearby the royal stables.
In addition to the standard royal coaches, you can also see several unique pieces that offer a glimpse into royal life. The children had their own miniature coaches to play with (which were often pulled by sheep). Additionally, the royal family’s sled collection is on display. During the winter months, they would race sleds in the snow-covered gardens.
The Estate of Trianon
Deep into the estate, you can find the Estate of Trianon. This lovely gem is a bit of an escape from the crowded, busy palace … and that is exactly why this was built.
Versailles was originally intended to be an escape for the royal family from the business of Paris. However, as Versailles grew in popularity with royal guests, the succeeding generations desired an escape from their escape.
In particular, the infamous Marie-Antoinette (“Let them eat cake”) longed for the “simple” life of a peasant. Here at the Estate of Trianon, you will find the idyllic “Queen’s Hamlet” that was built to imitate rural peasant life (without the starvation and hard labor of course).
Given the enormous size of the gardens and particularly long trek to this estate, it’s advisable to make use of the garden tram to take you to and from the Estate of Trianon.
You will need to purchase a special ticket available at any metro station to get to the Palace at Versailles. You can read an excellent summary of how to use the train here. The metro and train system is very useful and easy to use. We recommend using the Google Maps app to plan your route, and it helps to download the metro maps from the website.
Where to stay
We loved our AirBnb, and this particular apartment is in a beautiful neighborhood. Cheaper than a Best Western, you will get a more authentic experience along with a full kitchen and washing machine (which is useful if you’re traveling longterm). We especially loved the little espresso machine.
AirBnb is a fantastic way to travel, and much cheaper than a hotel. If you’d like to learn more about how AirBnbs can save you a ton of money on your next trip, read our tips here.
To read more about our trip to Paris, click here.