Versailles is a city on western edge of the French capital city Paris, now part of the sprawling metropolis within the Ile de France region. Versailles is best known for being the site of the vast royal palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV within what was previously a royal hunting lodge. It is also one of the wealthiest cities near Paris.
The Palace of Versailles, also known as The Château de Versailles, has been the scene for several historic events, not the least of which was the signing, on 28 June 1919 within the Hall of Mirrors, of the Peace Treaty between defeated Germany and the Allies that brought the First World War officially to an end. The signing of the treaty at Versailles, of course, mirrored the proclamation, in 1871 within the same long hall, of the establishment of the German Empire under the Prussian king, subsequently the Kaiser. Originally, the palace started out as simply a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII. However, after that Louis XIV decided he wanted to build the palace that we know today at that exact location. In 1789 the palace lost its seat in power, but today hosts the Museum of France's history.
The palace area consists of the main palace, a large garden, an extensive park, as well as a number of annex buildings which all are of historic and cultural interest. Seeing all of this in the pace it deserves, as well as the transport between different sites, take time. If you have only one day to spend at Versailles, make a plan and prioritize what you want to see, and take into account that there are large distances between some of the interesting locations and possibly also lines to wait in at the entrance. Versailles palace is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The easiest way to get to Versailles palace and avoid queues is to buy the ticket directly from the Château de Versailles website: it costs a bit more than the usual entrance ticket but includes return railway and metro tickets, an audioguided tour of the Chapel and Opera House, the King's and Queen's State Apartments, the Dauphin's and the Mesdames' Apartments, the Coach Museum, Trianons and all the temporary exhibitions.
However, you can get to the Palace easily by train and buy tickets for each attraction once there. This may be the best approach if you want to see something in particular or just want to explore the enormous gardens.
There are three different train stations in Versailles: Versailles Château Rive Gauche, Versailles Rive Droite and Versailles Chantiers. The Versailles Château Rive Gauche station is the one closest to the Palace (5 minute walk), though the other two stations are not all that much further away (about 15 minute walk).
- From Paris Montparnasse: Take Transilien N to Versailles Chantiers, the trip will take approximately 25 minutes. Every hour, a direct train will bring you to Versailles in 12 minutes, but the walk is not very nice from that station. If your train isn't non-stop, it will call at Viroflay Rive Gauche, where you can change for a line C train to Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche (see below).
- From Paris Saint Lazare: Take Transilien L to Versailles Rive Droite. You will reach Versailles in 33 minutes, with the opportunity to see (or visit) La Défense on the way. The walk from that station can be very pleasant.
- From Paris: RER C line, direction Versailles Château Rive Gauche (train called VICK), get off at Versailles Château Rive Gauche station. This train is very slow but the station is the closest one to the Palace so this makes it the fastest way of reaching the Palace from many locations in central Paris. Be careful not to get off at Viroflay Rive Gauche! The name looks somewhat the same, but it is not the right station! The RER C7, direction Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, stops at Versailles Chantiers (train called SARA or SLOM). Do not take RER C terminating at Versailles-Chantiers (train called CIME) as this takes a long tour of the southern suburbs of Paris before reaching Versailles.
Versailles is in public transport zone 4, so all passes that include zone 4 are valid, but passes for zones 1–2 or zones 1–3 (such as Paris Visite zones 1–3) are not valid. A ticket t+ is not valid for the train, you need to purchase a specific ticket. However, you can use the train ticket from Paris for a metro or bus ride in Paris to reach the train, and similarly in the other direction.
Route 171 travels between Pont de Sèvres (at the end of Métro line 9) to Versailles. The bus journey from the station to the château takes approximately 30 min. This is slightly cheaper than the train, but slower. You can use a ticket t+ (ordinary métro/bus ticket) on the bus, but you need to use a separate ticket for the bus and for the métro.
The main city is easily traversable on foot, however a good network of buses run throughout. Tickets t+ (the same tickets as for Paris buses and métro) are valid on Versailles city buses.
Once inside the palace it's possible to hire both bikes and battery-powered golf carts (see section below).
Château de Versailles
- Château de Versailles, , open daily (except Mondays, Jan 1st, May 1st and Dec 25th, when the château is closed) 9AM-5:30PM November-March, 9AM-6:30PM April-October.
One-Day Pass (all inclusive) Apr-Oct: €20 weekdays, €25 weekends; Nov-Mar €16; under-18s free. Château-only tickets also available : €13.50, museum pass holders and under-18s free. Marie-Antoinette's Estate and Grand Trianon-only tickets : Apr-Oct €9, Nov-Mar €5 ; under-18s free. The Grandes Eaux Musicales, week-ends and bank holidays only, Apr-Oct €8, under-18s €6, under-10s free.
Check temporary closures as some rooms may occasionally be closed, either for renovation or to accommodate state functions (the palace is sometimes used to host visits of foreign dignitaries or joint meetings of the National Assembly and the Senate).
Fares from 01.01.2010: One Day Pass (all inclusive) €18 except on Grandes Eaux Musicales days : €25. Château-only tickets also available : €15, reduced fare €13, museum pass holders and under-18s and under-26s (EU only) free. Marie-Antoinette's Estate and Grand Trianon-only tickets : €10, reduced fare €6, under-18s and under-26s (EU only) free. The Grandes Eaux Musicales, week ends, bank holidays and some Tuesdays, Apr-Oct €8, under-18s €6, under-10s free.
Another famous "must see" location on the western outskirts of Paris. Not only does it have enormous historical significance but also it is a very beautiful building. Do other tourists a favour: do not use your mobile phones inside as it ruins the atmosphere. The rear of the palace also is partially covered by scaffoldings.
If you plan to visit the palace it cannot be stressed enough that getting there earlier is recommended, because the lines stay very long all day until early evening. So if the lines are already too long once you get there, you can speculate on a shorter queue around 4:00 - 4:30 pm and visit the park first where you can easily spend a few hours. During the tourist season, the lines are meandering over the entire square in front of the entrance already around 10 a.m., and it takes at least 1 h to get in. On a warm and sunny day, it is recommended that you bring water, sun shade and patience. If you also need to buy the ticket at the palace office, add another 30 min to get in.
Even if you have a Paris Museum Pass or something similar, you will still be directed to stand in the long line while construction is underway. If you are under 26 (EU only) or with a EU student visa over 6 months, congratulations as you can skip the long queue and proceed directly to the 'A' entrance with your student card and your passport!
- Alternatively, especially if you have young children, access to the grounds is free.
- Note that it is often free to access the park from the Rue de la Paroisse entrance (leads to the Bassin de Neptune), or if you are walking, from the Boulevard de la Reine (next to the four-star hotel Trianon Palace).
If you are travelling with children then beware that you are not allowed to bring the baby trolley inside the palace. However, there are plenty of chairs around the palace that can be used to have a rest.
- Historic buildings are scattered in the west part of the town. See for instance:
- Hôtel de Ville: the 19th-century town hall building (you can get inside), on the Avenue de Paris, a 5-min walk from the Château, or from the Versailles-Rive-Gauche station .
- Cathédrale Saint-Louis, in the old Quartier Saint-Louis neighbourhood.
- Église Notre-Dame, rue de la Paroisse.
- Hôtel de la Péfecture, a nice façade across the town hall.
- The municipal Library, in the former Louis XIV's ministry of foreign affairs, 5 rue de l'Indépendance Américaine. You can enter on opening hours. They also organise open-doors on certain days, to get a glimpse inside the old cabinets.
- You may also have a look at the Potager du Roi, where the king used to have his vegetables cultivated. Avenue du Maréchal Joffre.
- Consider visiting the Royal Stables. If you plan to go at the right time, you can even get into a royal horse show. Not only will you get the opportunity to see horses who have been trained by the best of the best perform, but you will also have the chance to see the fascinating royal stables. This is a sight many children often enjoy.
- If you are in Versailles between the beginning of August to late September, you may have the opportunity to view a show put on at 9:30 pm by the French government. The show includes fantastical fireworks, classical music, and about 200 people dressed in period costume.
- The Grand Trianon Castle is located in the northwestern part of the Domain of Versailles. Louis XIV requested that it be built as a retreat for the king or as a place for the king and his guests to dine without the strict etiquette of the court. Today, it houses visiting foreign dignitaries. It is renowned for its Italian architecture, pink marble, and geometrical french-style gardens. All visitors who come to see the Trianon leave in awe of the beautifully designed castle.
- For all of the history buffs, jump on the train for a quick ride to Place de la Concorde. This is the location where aristocrats were taken during the time of the French Revolution to be beheaded at the guillotine. Also, famous aristocrats, King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, were beheaded here. Today it has been replaced by a fountain and an obelisk.
- The Temple of Love is a nice sight to stop by. The temple was built in 1778 in the middle of a small island in The Parc. In the center of this circular temple is a replica Bouchardon statue. The original can be found in The Louvre Museum. It is an especially popular sight for couples who often enjoy sharing a kiss at the center of the temple.
- The Chapelle Royale is a Palestine Chapel that contains a royal gallery dedicated to St. Louis. It was finished in 1707 by Robert de Cotte. The intricate detailing of the chapel's ceiling contains paintings by the artists Jouvet, Coypel, and La Fosse. Van Cleve sculpted the front altar out of marble which is decorated in front with gilded bronze.
- Appartement de la Reine is also known as Queen's Apartment. This suite was originally built for Louis XIV's wife Marie-Therese. The original decoration was redone between 1729 and 1735 with renowned white and gold woodwork. It features several famous rooms including a battle gallery room, a coronation room, and the royal birthing room. Tourists are always welcome to tour through the house and gaze at the spectacles of each room.
- The Grandes Eaux Musicales is a beautiful garden composed mostly of fountains. The largest of which was built in the 17th century and is called Bassin de Neptune or Neptune's Fountains. These consist of 99 individual fountains. Also in the garden is the Bassin d'Apollon or Apollo's Fountain. For visitors looking for a gorgeous eye catching experience, they should definitely visit this lovely location.
- The Musee Lambinet is located just north of the chateau. It is housed in a beautiful 18th century home and displays many 18th century furnishings such as ceramics, sculptures, paintings, furniture, and other objects that are a part of Versailles' history, some of which are from the revolutionary period. People who appreciate fine arts and history will definitely want to make this a stop during their trip.
- Take a trip to the Paroisse Saint Symphorien de Versailles. This quaint and beautifully constructed chapel was dedicated to Saint Symphorien. It is a landmark in history dating all the way back to 560. In 1722 a monk requested the expansion of the chapel believing it was far too small to hold services and his request was answered years later under the order of Louis XV. This chapel contains classic and gorgeous architecture as well as beautiful historical paintings. Any one who travel to this chapel can not help but to fall in love with the cascading decor.
- Consider taking an audioguide tour of the château, available in several languages from various reception points within the palace and grounds. The day pass price includes the audio tour.
- Within the grounds in the Summer there are a number of activities including a train ride, rowing boat and cycle hire. The mini-train is really the only time efficient way to get an overview of the entire grounds, which include his and hers residence palaces, which otherwise are at least a 30 minute walk each way from the main palace. The mini-train also stops along the main canal, where there is a cafe and a snack shop. For 30 euros it is also possible to hire a golf-style buggy for one hour in order to explore the expansive grounds.
- Consider taking a guided tour of Versailles that will allow you to bypass the regular entrance line and visit the palace and grounds with your own guide. There are several companies that are known for their Versailles Tours, departing from Paris: Aeon Tours of Paris, Oui Paris Tours, Classic Walks, and Gray Line. If you prefer to go by train (RER C) to Versailles, you will find just outside the railway station Versailles Rive Gauche a local company called Guidatours that offers either entrance tickets or guided tours of the Palace of Versailles at very attractive rates:
- Additionally, a short walk into town can provide a welcome contrast to the hectic, tourist-filled château. The town is like most others in France, with a couple of small, historic churches and lined with small shops. While eating on the grounds of the château can save time and walking, finding food at a small café, patisserie, or sandwich shop in the town is less expensive and an authentic experience. Eating a picnic along the lake at the château is a pleasant experience, and you can find a couple of small grocery stores in town to pick up things like bread, sandwich meat, cheese, wine, etc to take back for a picnic at the château.
- Look into taking a private tour around the city. There are websites that provide information on tour companies that will provide tourists with personal tours and introduce them first hand to the beauty and culture Versailles has to offer.
- Look into taking a private scooter tour from paris to versailles for a guided tour of the castel and to ride inside the park (2 WHeel Tours).
- Shopping is one way to spend some of your time visiting Versailles. The Palace of Versailles contains its own giftshop as well as other souvenir shops outside The Palace. If you're looking for shopping other than souvenir scavenging there are several shops located around the city centre. Most of these shops are located along the Boulevard de La Reine, the Rue Chantiers, Rue Mar Foch, and the Rue Mar Joffre.
- If you are looking for a relaxing time, you can head down to the Cinema Cyrano. It offers patrons showings of films, motion pictures, events. This is a great place to go for everyone whether you are traveling alone, or with the family. It offers tickets at a good price including discounts for students, seniors, and happy hour.
Versailles itself (the town) has any number of good places to eat whilst visiting. Once you have made it into the palace grounds, however, it should be noted that it is far more convenient to eat within — the alternative is to hike back into the town, before returning to the Palace (time better spent viewing the rooms and grounds). The grounds are also perfect for picnicking in warm and/or dry weather.
A number of other options exist:
- Within the Château itself, there is a Angelina restaurant close to the Battles Gallery, on the 1st floor, and a cheaper Grand Café d'Orléans is positioned on the ground floor not far from the Royal Courtyard.
- Within the Formal Gardens, there exists 2 informal restaurants, La Flotille and La Petite Venise, on Petite Venise (from the Château, head back directly through the Gardens to the start of the canal - Petite Venise and the restaurants can then be found to the right).
- Several kiosks serving snacks and fast food can be found in the Gardens (Bosquet du Dauphin & Bosquet de la Girandole) and the Grand Trianon.
There are also a number of restaurants located outside of the palace that are also enjoyable such as:
- Monument Café, a new innovative restaurant where you'll find excellent all-you-can-eat buffets (brunch, cold dishes, hot french specialities, desserts) in an atmosphere that will show you a virtual visit of Versailles, with high tech tools. They also organize guided tours and wine tastings.
- A wonderfully quaint bistro called Le Resto du Roy. Here one can find many delicacies commonly found in France. However, don't be afraid, the chef also makes more commonly recognizable dishes such as scallops or salmon.
- There are many bakeries (boulangerie) throughout the city. During lunch hours many bakeries in the town center operate a fast food service to allow customers the ability to get in and out during which people can get already prepared foods such as pizza and sandwiches. If you're looking for a quick and easy lunch, this is definitely a good spot.
- Place du Marché Notre Dame (the main market square): If you're looking for more of an authentic French experience, the Place du Marché is a wonderful option. It is an outdoor market that offers only the freshest foods one can find. Here you can find vegetables, pizzas, fish, meats, fruits, and cheese. The outdoor market operates on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings and starts winding down around 1pm. Sunday is the busiest day here. There are also sit down restaurants located within the market.
- The Broadway Café is also known as the American Café seeing as it is decorated with stars and stripes. The Broadway Café offers a variety of foods many of which are more common to American tourists. It offers foods such as burgers, lasagna, pizza, and sandwiches. This is a great place to go if you're looking for an easy, relaxed atmosphere.
Versailles might not be the best town to party. However it is fairly easy to mix with the locals.
There is a little concentration of bars (and restaurants) on the Place du Marché, at the junction of the Rue de la Paroisse, and Rue du Maréchal Foch. This is where most young people go out at night. Tables outside the terraces are plentiful in the nice months. Exploring the walking alleys from the Place du Marché can also reveal less know restaurants.
Another popular bar with Versailles' youth is the O'Paris, on the Avenue de Saint-Cloud, very close to the Château's Place d'Armes (on the right-hand side when facing the Château). They often play sport events inside. Tables outside are also available when it is warm enough.
- Huttopia Versailles. A nice place to stay, in the forest and very close to the RER (train) station. Ideal for families as it is a campsite with a swimming-pool. Many accommodations to rent (cottages, ridge tents.). Wi-Fi for a small fee.
- Hotel Bleu France Eragny, Rue des Pinsons 95610 Eragny (Cergy Pontoise), ☎ +33 1 30378600. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Two star hotel. 42 comfortable rooms with restaurant on N184 near Cergy Pontoise on the road to Versailles. €55-71.
- Hotel La Chaumière Logis de France, 1 bis, rue des Pléiades 78130 Les Mureaux, ☎ +33 1 34747250. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Two star hotel with restaurant just near Exit 8 of A13 on the road to Versailles. €61-65.
- Hotel Les Jardins d'Epône, 220, av de la Mauldre 78680 Epône, ☎ +33 1 30956870. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. A beautiful hotel restaurant just near Exit 10 of A13 on the road to Versailles. €59-61.
- Hotel Mercure Versailles Parly 2, rue de Marly-le-Roi, ☎ +33 1 39551141, fax: +39 041 5246777, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Ibis Chateau de Versailles Hotel is in the centre of town. It has 85 air conditioned rooms three of which have been altered for disabled patrons. It includes a 24 hour bar, complimentary parking, and Wi-Fi. This is a wonderful place for tourists who are visiting for a weekend stay.
- The Pullman Versailles Chateau is a luxurious hotel just minutes from many attractions one of which is the Chateau Versailles. It includes a pool, their restaurant, the LM Cafe which serves Mediterranean Cuisine, 24 hour room service, free Internet access, a bar, and a 24 hour fitness center and sauna.
- The Residence Du Berry is the place to stay if you are looking for an old century feel with the amenities of a modern luxurious hotel. It is close to many shops and restaurants as well as just a five minute walk from the Parc de Versailles.
- Giverny - Visit the house and gardens of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet.