The most famous palace in the world is next to Paris. I tell you everything you need to know about Versailles and the spectacle of medicinal waters.
It seems obvious, but if you go to Paris you have to visit the Palace of Versailles. It’s a classic, a clasicazo, but you can’t get past it. I did it on my previous trips to the French capital and it was a mistake. In this article I tell you everything you need to know to prepare your day in Versailles.
Before I start to tell you more details you have to bear in mind that in this Palace there are people, a lot of people, almost all year round, but especially in summer. Be patient, go first thing in the morning and book your tickets well in advance; queues in July and August can be kilometres long. A little below I’ll tell you how to skip them.
The Gallic city has a lot to offer. In this article Monica told you what to do in 48 hours in Paris. We’ve also told you about one of the great attractions you can’t miss, Disneyland Paris. Now it’s the turn of another of the unavoidable excursions, that of Versailles.
What you can’t miss if you visit the Palace of Versailles
The first thing that has to be clear to you is how this great – great of great, of very great; enormous! – enclosure is formed and into which parts it is divided. These are for me the essentials you can’t miss:
Hall of mirrors
This is the most eagerly awaited moment of the visit. If you go in high season you may not enjoy it at all. The same thing happened to me as when I visited the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums: I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were obsessed with taking pictures with their mobile phones. However, I always recommend it to everyone who asks me what to see in Paris. It’s a must-see just like the Eiffel Tower or a boat trip along the Seine.
Nothing happens. Go to one of the corners, people usually gather at the entrance and enjoy this beautiful and sumptuous room, built to surprise visitors to Louis XIV’s palace. Admire the ceiling, the figures and the lamps.
It is important for you to know that this place is not just a great baroque room, this room has witnessed the history of France and the world. Here Marie Antoinette was married, the German Empire was proclaimed and the treaty of Versailles was signed with which the First World War ended.
You can’t miss them if you’re going to visit the Palace of Versailles. As I told you, its peak season is from April to October. You will be happy to pay the supplement. A walk along the great central corridor, observe them from above, lose yourself in their nooks and crannies on the left and right…; a lot of possibilities to enjoy them. If you go in summer, it will be the only place where you can find a little shelter from the suffocating sun that hits the complex of Versailles in the summer months.
Here are the famous fountains I’ll talk to you about later. You will also find lots of sculptures and small corners full of charm and magic.
From the Parterre of water, at the top of the steps of the Pond of Latona you will have the best perspective of the gardens of Versailles. Don’t miss Neptune’s pond with its 99 jets of water. But it is not the only one, you should also look for those of Bacchus, Apollo and Saturn.
Hall of battles
It’s at the end of the free circuit. A place that is sure to surprise you. It is decorated with large paintings with a war theme. Some donated by the Louvre Museum.
Are the fountain shows in Versailles worth it?
I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. Call me weird, but to go from one fountain to another you had to take a good walk and after a few minutes I found it a little monotonous. Having said that, do you have to go one day to have a water show? Yes, judge for yourself, but lower your expectations and enjoy the views, the gardens, the fountains -even if they’re not working-, without obsessing about the possibility of seeing one or the other show.
Why is it worth going to Versailles for a day of Great Waters and Musical Gardens? Because you can visit the Queen’s groves, the Ballroom and the Girandole.
During the days of the Great Night Waters you will be able to access the interior of La Orangerie.
4 tips that will save your life in Versailles
1. Do not carry weight unnecessarily
. In the entrance they are very strict with what you can put inside the Palace and the gardens. Leave at home tripods, selfie sticks and voluminous backpacks. Baby carriages, metal baby carriers, suitcases and umbrellas are also not allowed. But at least the slogan is free.
2. Don’t be frightened when you see the long queues.
If you have already bought your ticket in advance, you have to go to entrance A at the end of the courtyard on the left. If you have been fearless enough to go to Versailles from Paris without your ticket, you will have to go to the box office.
If you haven’t bought the Versailles tour with transport from Paris, I recommend that you choose the queue-free entrance to Versailles and the audio-guided gardens. It’s the way to visit the palace on your own, but with a little explanation of the places you have to see in the palace and gardens.
3. In Versailles you have a choice of restaurants, but it is not very cheap.
There are three restaurants in the Palace, the Angelina, located at the end of the Grand Chambers and accessible from the Royal Courtyard; the Grand Café d’Orléan, in the Pavillon d’Orléans; and the ORE restaurant, located in the Pavillon Dufour.
I advise you to eat in the city and buy the drink there as well. Versailles has a couple of nice squares and a few interesting buildings. Eating in the centre will be much cheaper and the food will be tastier. If it’s good you can also buy something in the supermarkets or in the shops to have a picnic in the gardens. You can introduce your own food and drink it inside the enclosure.
4. When they told you about Versailles they might not have explained the areas into which it is divided.
This is important when planning your visit and knowing what type of ticket you want to buy.
Palace Inside the Chateau, with the normal entrance you can access the free circuit area which includes the History Gallery of the Palace and the Aposentos de Mesdames, daughters of Louis XV, on the garden floor and the Grand Rooms (King’s Chamber, Queen’s Chamber, Mirror Gallery) and the Battle Gallery on the first floor. The King’s private apartments are included in the guided tour. A supplement of €7 is charged. Please note that it is in English or in English and French, depending on the modality you book. If you want a guided tour in Spanish, I advise you to buy the Civitatis excursion to Versailles. Transport from Paris is included.
Gardens. Access to these famous gardens is included in the entrance fee, except for the days of Great Waters and Musical Gardens: from April to October, you will have to pay a supplement.
Park. Surround the Grand Canal. Access is free. From 8:00 to 20:30 in high season (April to October) and from 8:00 to 18:00 in low season (November to March). It is a good place to have lunch or a snack in one of the places reserved for picnics. There are also restaurants and kiosks to buy some take away food.
Dominio de Maria Antonieta. The palaces of Trianon and Dominio de María Antonieta are not included in the normal entrance fee you will have to buy a special one.
5. What day are there more people in Versailles?
A Tuesday in summer without a doubt. It’s the day of the musical fountains show. Also the weekends of July and August, there is spectacle. If you don’t like crowds: avoid it. You won’t see the fountains on Wednesdays or Thursdays, but your visit will be much quieter.
How to get to the Palace of Versailles from Paris?
The best and cheapest way to get from Paris to Versailles is to take the RER. Specifically the C line that leaves you at the Versailles-Rive Gauche station, just 300 meters from the entrance of the palace. From the centre of Paris – Austerlitz station, for example – the journey takes about 40 minutes. The frequency of trains depends on the hours and days, but is usually between 5 and 20 minutes.
This train has many ramifications as you can see in the line drawing, it is important that you pay close attention to the destination of your train and take one that ends in Versailles Rive Gauche / Chateau de Versailles.
The price of a round-trip ticket for an adult is €8.20 and €4.10 for a child.
You have more options, but I’ll patch this first one. If you want you can take a train -Transilien SNCF-. There are two lines, the N from Gare du Montparnasse and the L from Saint Lazare. The price is similar. The main difference is that you’ll get to the Rive Droite and Chantiers stations and it’s your turn to walk 25 minutes to the castle. When I was in Versailles, the RER C was cut by works and I had to take the L line.
There is also a bus line, the 171 that leaves from Pont de Sevres, which leaves you right in the Plaza de Armas.
Another option is to take a private transfer. There are bus departures from Gare du Nord (83, Rue Maubeuge, in front of the bakery): 10:10; Opera (11, Avenue de l’Opéra, Big Bus Information Centre): 10:30; Champs Elysées/Etoile (2, Avenue Foch, next to the traffic light): 10:50. The price is 35 € per person.
Prices and timetables of Versailles
Opening hours: the palace is open from 1 April to 31 October, except on Mondays and 1 May, from 9 am to 6.30 pm, the last admission is at 6 pm and from 1 November to 31 March, from 9 am to 6.30 pm. The gardens from 1 April to 31 October, except Mondays and 1 May, from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m., the last admission is at 6:00 p.m. and from 1 November to 31 March, from 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m..
Prices 2019: advance admission to Versailles and gardens costs 27 €. You have priority ticket and you avoid the queue at the box office. It can last between one and two hours.
Observations: On weekends during the summer season (between April and October) your ticket includes the fountains show. On Tuesdays and Fridays in summer you can enjoy the musical show of the fountains.
If you also want to see the Dominio de Maria Antonieta (Gran Trianón, Pequeño Trianón, aldea de la reina), then I recommend that you take this one which includes the Palace, gardens and Trianón for 35€.