Versailles is one of those places that I’ve learned about, heard about, and seen photos of, yet I never paid much attention to it.
So it happens to be a huge castle. There are plenty of other big impressive castles in the world. It was a destination to check off of my bucket list, but that was about it.
Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I can report that I’m officially drinking the Kool-Aid. This is a place to get excited about.
It has something for everyone: Priceless art. Soaring ceilings. Gilded everything. Mirrors. Feather-topped beds (bow chicka wow wow). Chandeliers. Flowers. Nature. Fountains. Power. Intrigue. History.
When you walk up to the castle from the train, it is hard to comprehend how big it is – even as you’re looking at it. It is absolutely massive.
The best decision we could have made was to arrive at 9:00 a.m. That meant an early train ride from Paris, but there are two reasons why it is so worth it:
- You get there before all the huge selfie stick-wielding tour groups.
- You have time to explore the castle, grounds, and guest palaces at your own pace. It is an all-day visit, people, so plan accordingly!
Here’s a recap of how we spent our day. (Well, half of it. The second half – and my favorite part of the entire visit – will be covered in my next post, dropping on August 25.) If you are just looking for tips for your future visit to Versailles, scroll all the way to the bottom.
Once you enter, you are shuttled through security and then have a chance to go into the large area inside of the gates. I encourage everyone to walk from the castle to the front gate imagining you are Louis XIV greeting the commoners. (Ok, we all know that never would have happened. But it’s fun to pretend.)
The castle only got more magnificent on the inside.
The architectural and fine decorative details in the palace were remarkable. My favorites were in the Battles Gallery, where the gilding on the intricate ceiling carvings was set off by the lavender wall color.
After spending a little over an hour on the indoor audio tour, we stepped outside to see the gardens in all their glory.
Unfortunately for us, only one fountain at the entire palace was turned on. Who knows why all the others were turned off in the middle of summer during high tourist season, but hey, conservation.
Hey, look this way!
My mom would love this fountain. She would be the woman at the top charming all of her amphibious friends.
We spent a lot of time just strolling the grounds. For those of you who have been to Versailles, you’ll notice in the photo below that we are maybe halfway across the grounds. There is so much to explore, so many places to get lost. The scenery is truly beautiful.
I could keep going, but I’ll save my favorite part of Versailles until my next post. For now, here are some practical tips and supplemental reading about the palace.
Top Tips for Visiting Versailles
- GO EARLY. While we didn’t notice the entry line outside getting longer during the day (we waited about 20 minutes with advance tickets), the volume of people inside the castle gates visibly grew. The grounds are expansive so it doesn’t make much of a difference when you’re outside of the castle, but I can only imagine how crowded the interior of the castle became.
- Buy and print tickets in advance. It will save you from having to wait in yet another line. Tickets to see the main palace, grounds, and smaller palaces are 18€ each for adults and free for children.
- Listen to all of the audio tour. It tells some really interesting history that gives a lot of context to what you’re seeing.
- Expect security: metal detectors and x-rays. Especially while France continues to be in a state of emergency. Backpacks are allowed.
- WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. We walked 11 miles that day, and thank goodness I wore sneakers or my feet would have been destroyed. They were sore enough as it was. I don’t want to think about the alternative.
- Make sure you save time to visit the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette’s estate). They will be the subject of my next post, and as you will see, they are absolutely stunning. They’re about a 25-minute walk from the main palace.
- Don’t bring food or drinks if you plan to go inside the palace. While it is totally fine to bring a picnic basket if you’re just strolling the grounds, it’s not allowed inside of the castle.