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:

  1. You get there before all the huge selfie stick-wielding tour groups.
  2. 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 – was spent exploring the stunning Estate of Trianon and its gardens.)

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.

Ornate ceilings inside of the Palace of Versailles

The mark of Louis-Philippe can be seen in the center.

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.

The gardens at Versailles

The behemoth fountain in the distance was the only one working on the palace grounds that day. Perhaps its massive waterfall was sucking all the rest of the fountains dry.

Hey, look this way!

My mom would love this fountain. She would be the woman at the top charming all of her amphibious friends.

A fountain at Versailles

Is it just me, or does it look like they could be singing a tune from The Little Mermaid?

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.

The gardens of Versailles

A couple strolls the gardens.

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.

Common Questions When Planning a Visit to Versailles

  • What time should I arrive at Versailles? My advice: 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.
  • Do I need tickets to get into Versailles? Yes, you need tickets to get into the palace. No tickets are needed to simply walk the grounds. You can buy and print tickets in advance, which will save you from having to wait in long lines. Tickets to see the main palace, grounds, and smaller palaces are 18€ each for adults and free for children.
  • Is a guide provided? An audio guide is provided, and it’s very good. It tells some really interesting history that gives a lot of context to what you’re seeing.
  • Is there security at the entrance of Versailles? Yes, you should expect metal detectors and x-rays at the entrance.
  • Are backpacks allowed at Versailles? Yes, backpacks are allowed. But no food if you’re going inside the palace – more on that below.
  • Can I bring food into Versailles? You can’t take food into the palace itself, but you can bring food and beverages onto the grounds if you skip the interior tour. There are also food vendors on the grounds if you want to do both!
  • What should I wear to Versailles? While the palace and gardens are definitely Instagram heaven, my best piece of advice is to wear or bring comfortable walking shoes. I walked 11 miles on the day of my visit, so my feet would have been destroyed if I wasn’t wearing sneakers. They were sore enough as it was. I don’t want to think about the alternative.
  • Does Versailles have any other attractions besides the palace and gardens? YES – make sure you save time to visit the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette’s estate). They’re about a 25-minute walk from the main palace, and are very beautiful in their own right.

Additional Reading and Resources