We visited the Palace of Versailles last year in September and it was truly spectacular! But a well planned trip will enable you to see this enormous place in style and comfort. So here is my ‘essential guide’ for maximising your visit to Versailles!
My first recommendation is to choose accommodation close to the Palace. We stayed at the Hotel Le Versailles which was about a 5 minute walk to the Palace Gates. Our medium priced rooms were comfortable, but not luxurious, and the staff very helpful. There was also parking available.
Dining in Versailles
Our hotel breakfast was most enjoyable and kept us going till lunch time. The Palace Gardens do have restaurants and we had an enjoyable lunch in La Girandole café. So, do take a break and have coffee or ice cream in one of the cafés in the gardens.
A picnic would be great for lunch. But the only one designated picnic area is the Hamlet at the far end of the gardens. Also, if you walk on the grass, a guard will blow a very loud whistle and seriously embarrass you!
The town of Versailles has lots of great French restaurants. Staff at hour Hotel recommended two which we very much enjoyed. At Le Boeuf À La Mode we fell in love with the desserts. I indulged in the largest piece of lemon meringue pie I have ever seen. The waiters were very pleasant and helped with food and wine choices. We enjoyed the taste of local food at Les Quatre Saisons as well as very good service and great local French wine.
Visiting the Palace of Versailles
We visited the Palace over two days on a Tuesday and Wednesday, purchasing our tickets on line. We also purchased tickets for a tour of the private king’s rooms and the opera house. The Palace and grounds do need at least two days, but it is best to visit on Friday and Saturday. This will enable you to see the Palace on Friday and the fountains in the gardens on Saturday. On Mondays the Palace is not open.
The Palace opens at 9 am making it possible for an early start, beating the crowds. Also, our guided tour began at 9:30 am lasting most of the morning. The tour guide gave us special ear phones that enabled us to hear her no matter where she was. We found out heaps of interesting snippets of information. For instance, ‘the largest sail in the French navy’ was a nickname for Marie Antoinette, due to her size.
The Opera House is a must see! It has amazing features like a ‘floating floor’ and a stage as big as the seating area. A dining room, a ball room, and a theatre were some of its uses. Apparently girls as young as 8 began to train for their presentation at court. They had to learn how to dance and move in 54 m of fabric! There were kneelers in one of the dining rooms for the women to use because they could not sit in all that fabric!
Louis XIV used his State Apartments for public show and ceremonies. He made his way daily to the Chapel via the Hall of Mirrors with his entourage.
The Gardens of Versailles
The gardens are so immense it is wiser to buy tickets for the train to avoid sore feet! I had blisters on my feet by the end of the day and we had no cash for tickets! We visited countless garden rooms all with different themes. Even with the fountains not running, they were magnificent!
Louis XIV was privileged with the sight of the gardens from his balcony. The photo above is his view to the left. Directly in front, is the Latona Fountain, with its golden frogs, illustrating the sun myth, and leading the eye straight up the main axis of the gardens. You can read about Latona’s visit to Canberra in my previous blog story.
The Hamlet, beloved by Marie Antoinette, lies in the far reaches of the garden. Here is one of the delightful Austrian style houses with its vegetable garden.
The entire garden is organised to have spectacular views from every vantage point. This is one of the avenues leading back to the Palace.
Here is a lovely view of the Palace at the end of the avenue.
I have presented just a tiny glimpse of the golden magnificence that awaits you at the Palace of Versailles! But do heed my advice to visit the gardens in the weekend to see the fountains turned on. And above all, don’t miss out on visiting this extraordinary place that somehow seems to have immortalised Louis XIV!