Things to See and Do in Versailles
Your trip to Paris would not be complete without a detour to Versailles. Located 20 km southwest of Paris (only a short ride by train), Versailles is one of the most visited sites in Europe. It is renowned for its opulent palace and spectacular gardens. While you’re there, you may want to explore beyond the royal grounds. In this royal city, you’ll be glad to know you can access everything on foot. I recommend a full day or two of exploring if your schedule permits.
Here are my tips for getting the most from your visit:
The Palace of Versailles is the principal home of French Kings and Queens from the time of Louis XIV and Louis XVI, the Palace was built as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII and then transformed into one of the largest palaces in the world. The Allied nations and Germany signed the Versailles Treaty here, so it’s not surprising that the Palace and its Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are a few things you should take into consideration before you visit the Palace. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes, the estate is huge and you are going to walk a lot. The Palace is open daily except on Mondays, but the garden is open every day. You can avoid long lines by purchasing a Skip-the-Line ticket or by visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Also, try to avoid visiting the Palace on Saturday, Sunday, (tourists usually crowd the weekends) and Tuesdays (all Paris museums are closed on Tuesdays). Walk through the famous Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, and the King & Queen’s grand apartments.
The Versailles Gardens are a magnificent work of art, so get your camera ready. Each season at the Palace has its charm but the gardens are most enjoyable between April and October. Boasting 800 hectares (1,978 acres) with trees, manicured lawns, statues, and fountains, the grounds demand a stop at the Petit Trianon and the Hameau de la Reine. If weather permits, pack a map of the gardens, a baguette, some cheese and pâté to have a nice picnic along the Grand Canal.
Town of Versailles and Markets
Versailles is not only a Palace but also a beautiful town. The royal influence can be seen everywhere in the architecture of the city. Versailles has two main districts: St. Louis district with its well-preserved architecture and the Notre Dame district known for its food market and antique shops. Spend some quiet time away from tourist-filled areas. Wander the streets and mix with the locals by stopping in a café, visiting specialty shops, or tasting authentic French food at a local market.
The King’s Kitchen Garden
Visit the King’s Kitchen Garden which harvests and sells the fruit and vegetables that made royal banquets so famous. Just steps away from the Palace, the Garden is open to visitors throughout the year. Watch the gardeners at work and stop by the boutique to purchase fresh produce, delicious preserves, or take home an apron as a souvenir.
Royal Tennis Court
Walk from the Palace to this former gymnasium, one of the first in France. Find historical documents, busts from contemporary sculptors and the unfinished Tennis Court Oath painting. The Tennis Court is managed by the Palace and is open from Tuesdays to Sundays. Admission is free!
The Musée Lambinet is a must-see attraction for fine art and history enthusiasts, it is located just north of the Palace. Originally a private mansion, the Musée houses nice furnishings typical of the era, art collectibles, and even a tea room. This estate is truly beautiful and grand inside and out.
The Trianon Palace Versailles, now a Waldorf Astoria hotel. Stay in pure luxury or visit this beautiful property for a fun photo op. Enjoy everything that Versailles has to offer and experience the rich history and beautiful details that make up this grand city.
Versailles is a magical place full of history, beautiful landscapes, and royal experiences. Start planning your next vacation to enjoy delicious food and incredible sightseeing.