Day trip from Paris: Versailles

The Palace of Versailles, or the Chateau de Versailles, was the main residence of the Kings of France from Louis XIV until the beginning of the French Revolution. Even though the location itself existed way before King Louis XIV, he is always linked to Versailles due to the many projects he worked on to make the Palace the masterpiece we know it as today. Another notable royal who lived there was Marie Antoinette, who was married to Louis XVI. Nowadays, the Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a French Historic Monument. The Palace and the surrounding areas take you back in time to the royal apartments, breathtaking geometrically shaped gardens, fountains, and more.

Now in terms of when exactly to see it, note that the Palace is closed on Mondays. I am not one for crowds, so I go out of my way to avoid them! If you feel the same, then you are in the right place. I would suggest avoiding Tuesdays, as there is a musical fountain show, which draws a big crowd. I would also suggest avoiding the weekends, as it is packed! CJ and I visited Versailles on a Wednesday, and even then we made the mistake of popping back into the Palace in the afternoon and we felt like cattle. We could barely shuffle our feet and it took quite a long time to move from room to room.

That said, there is definitely a strategy you should adopt to avoid all of this shuffling! Get to the Palace in the morning. It opens at 9am but the crowds begin to form about 45 minutes or so beforehand. Get there early – it’s so worth it! Spend about an hour and a half in the Palace. Run to the Hall of Mirrors first, which is the most famous room in the Palace. Then you have about 2,300 rooms to see!

Around the time you are done touring the Palace, many people are now filing into all the halls and rooms. This is the perfect time to exit to the gardens. Spend about two hours amongst the gardens and fountains. You will generally have the place to yourself if you are walking around at about 10:30 in the morning. The gardens have beautiful flowerbed compositions and perfectly manicured lawns, first created by Andre Le Notre, taking 40 years to complete. It is a wonderful example of a traditional French-style formal garden. Mark Twain says it best when he wrote, “You gaze and stare and try to understand that it is real, that it is on the earth, that it is not the Garden of Eden—but your brain grows giddy, stupefied by the world of beauty around you, and you half believe you are the dupe of an exquisite dream.” Come see this “Eden” for yourself!

After this, go back to the Palace to grab lunch at Restaurant Angelina. It is accessible from the Royal Courtyard, or you can go to the smaller Angelina at the Petit Trianon. While screaming, “let them eat cake!” will probably get you a few confused looks, you can certainly order the hot chocolate. The thick rich chocolate is what Angelina is known for, and it does not disappoint. I took home a tin of caramels myself, which were divine!

Beyond the gardens of Versailles are Le Grand Trianon, Le Petit Trianon, and the Estate of Marie Antoinette. Spend four hours roaming around the sprawling green fields and the most extravagant architecture, showing you a glimpse of the incomparable beauty that is Versailles. After that, (if you have time and your feet haven’t fallen off) take a walk through the Coach Gallery on your way out.

Pricing:

Tickets are 20 euros, and you can choose a ticket that has a specific time or opt to do without a timed entry. Either way, buy your tickets in advance so you do not have to wait in line at the ticket office (which is a totally separate line from the entrance).

How to get there:

The RER line C arrives at Versailles Chateau – Rive Gauche train station, which is just a 10-minute walk to the Palace. The SNCF trains from Gare Montparnasse arrive at Versailles Chantiers train station, but that is an 18-minute walk to the Palace.

Helpful websites:

To buy your Versailles tickets:

http://billetterie.chateauversailles.fr/index-css5-chateauversailles-lgen-pg1.html

To buy your train tickets:

https://www.transilien.com