21 May Visiting the Palace of Versailles, famous residence of the Kings of France!
A brief history of the Palace of Versailles
In 1624, Versailles was simply a small country residence where king Louis XIII (the son of Henry IV) came to hunt game and spend the night. Between 1631 and 1634, he went about rebuilding the lodge and laid the basis of the Palace we know today.
The future king Louis XIV first came to Versailles in October 1641 at the age of three when his father, Louis XIII, sent both him and his brother there to escape a smallpox epidemic that had broken out at the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. But it was not until 1651, and now crowned king, that the he would start returning regularly to Versailles in the company of his brother, his mother Anne of Austria and his chief minister, the Italian Cardinal Mazarin. Louis XIV developed a real passion for Versailles and decided to extend it well beyond his father’s original designs, giving birth to the masterpiece we can visit today and which will remain ever associated with the ‘Sun King’!
In 1661, he began making large-scale changes to both the Palace and the surrounding grounds that would continue until his death in 1715. Over time, Versailles would gradually evolve from a simple hunting lodge to an elaborate summer residence with exquisite gardens; in 1682 it would become the principal residence of the Court and the government. On his death in 1715, the Palace and its estate were far from complete but Louis XIV, after fifty years and huge sums of money invested, had set out the groundwork on which his successors would improve, modify and expand on, each in their own way.
Following his death, the court abandoned Versailles for Vincennes before quickly moving to Paris. The Estate would enter into a long period of neglect. The governor in charge of the estate made sure that the Grandes Eaux Fountain Display was activated every two weeks to keep it from falling into disrepair. Not until June 15, 1722 did the young Louis XV come back to Versailles. One of his first objectives was to complete the work that had been started by his great-grandfather (Louis XIV); the timidity of the young king led him to create a multitude of small chambers in which he felt more comfortable than in the large public spaces created by Louis XIV. Nevertheless, the Castle underwent major internal and external changes, including the construction of the Royal Opera, originally planned by Louis XIV and in which a certain prodigy named Mozart, while still a child, had the opportunity to perform.
Born in Versailles, just like his grandfather, Louis XVI became king before the age of twenty. His marriage in 1770 to the Archduchess of Austria Marie Antoinette at the Royal Opera marked one of the biggest events to take place in Versailles during the late eighteenth century.
Very fond of his wife, in 1774 he gifted her the Petit Trianon – originally built by Louis XV for Madame de Pompadour. Marie-Antoinette would go on to make her home there.
If Versailles was still often used for parties and entertaining, the courtiers, however, would often abandon it to spend more and more time in Paris.
In 1789, at the height of the French Revolution, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were forced to permanently leave Versailles for Paris. After the departure of the royal family to the Tuileries on October 6th, 1789, the Service des Bâtiments du Roi (King’s Buildings Service) had the opportunity to begin repairs that would have been difficult to carry out had the royals still been in residence.
Napoleon, aware of the Palace’s reputation, decided to take up residence at the slightly more discreet Trianon.
Versailles would have to wait until 1830 and the coronation of Louis-Philippe as “King of the French” in order to see a revival. In 1833 he decided that the Palace of Versailles should become a national museum, dedicated ‘to all the glories of France’, and which would serve to reconcile all French: from Legitimists (supporters of the monarchy) to revolutionaries, and supporters of Napoleon to the Liberals. First opened in 1837, the museum celebrated glorious French events from the Middle Ages right up until the beginning of the July Monarchy.
He played an important role in saving the castle while undertaking major renovation work that would do away with former courtyard spaces.
Following the departure of Louis-Philippe, Napoleon III continued with the refurbishments and went on to use the Palace as a venue for celebrations and as a symbol of his power. In 1855, he received with pomp andcircumstance Queen Victoria herself.
The First World War also had in impact on Versailles forcing the Palace to close and its works to be protected.
When it was chosen for the signing of the Peace Treaty in 1919, Versailles once more came before the eyes of the world.
Thanks to Sacha Guitry’s film “Royal Affairs in Versailles”, Versailles once again found popularity with the public at large.
Did you know? The billionaire John D. Rockefeller made two huge donations to the Palace to help with its restoration.
The Palace of
Versailles is closed on the 1st
of January, the 1st of May and the 25th of December.
It is open on all other holidays, except when they fall on a Monday, its weekly closing day.
The Palace of Versailles is open everyday except Monday.
The castle opens at 9am and closes at 5.30pm.
The Trianon Estate andthe Gallery of Coaches are only open in the afternoons, from Tuesdays to Sundays. (The Trianon Estate can be accessed either through the gardens or via the town.)
Open daily, the Park and the Gardens are free (except during the Fountain Shows when a ticket is needed).
How to get to the Palace of Versailles?
Versailles is one of the Paris region’s major attractions and is consequently well connected to the city by public transport, with the train being the fastest and most economical way of getting there. Versailles is served by three different stations; the closest to the Palace being Versailles Château Rive Gauche.
Ideal times to visit on busy days
- During the summer, and especially on Tuesdays and weekends, we recommend getting there as early as possible. (opening at 9am)
- In the afternoon, head to the Trianon and the Estate of Marie Antoinette. The Gallery of Coaches opens just after noon at 12.30pm.
- To make the most of the Palace and the Estate, set aside a full day for your visit.
What tickets to choose?
We always strongly recommend getting your tickets on-line and in advance. This is the best way to avoid the long queues!
The Versailles Entrance Ticket gets you priority access to the Castle. Forget the queues!
The Versailles Skip-the-Line: Palace and Gardens ticket, as the name suggests, gets you full and easy access to both the Palace and gardens.
Make your day at Versailles one to remember! Enjoy priority access and let yourself be guided by our friendly, expert guide who will accompany you throughout your visit, while relating the fascinating history of France’s most famous royal residence!
Good to know: The Estate of Versailles is open and free to visitors on the first Sunday of every month from November to March.
What areas are free to everybody?
Located in Versailles’s Royal Stables, the Gallery of Coaches can be visited all year round from 12.30pm to 5.30pm (during low season) and to 6.30pm (during high season). Access is free for all ages and does not require the purchase of a ticket.
Except on days with Fountains Shows and/or Musical Gardens shows, access to the gardens is free to all.
During high season, on days with Fountains Shows and/or Musical Gardens shows you’ll need a ticket (Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and a few additional dates (including holidays). Children under 5 enter for free however. On these dates, 15 groves are opened exceptionally to the public.
The Estate is free and open daily, year-round.
If you’re hungry and need to relax, there are many options scattered around the Estate, ranging from takeaway outlets to more elegant restaurants.
- Ore: an elegant contemporary restaurant with classic French cuisine, snacks and pastries
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5.30pm/6.30pm
- The Brasserie de la Girandole provides food to eat in or take away. Enjoy salads, pizzas, crepes, Italian ice cream and more on their terrace.
Only open during high season from Tuesday to Sunday; 8am to 8.30pm
- Gourmandise de la petite Venise: this takeaway stand offers hand-made ice-cream, sweet treats (waffles, crepes), cakes and hot drinks.
Open: every day during high season
Tuesdays, weekends and school holidays during low season
- La Petite Venise: Fine Italian cuisine on the terrace
Open daily from noon to 5pm/6pm
- La Flotille: traditional French cuisine
Open daily from 10am to 6pm/8pm
- La Petite Flotille : It offers food and drinks to take away including sandwiches, salads and crepes.
Open daily from 8.30am to 6pm or from 9am to 5pm
- Grand Café d’Orléans: Fast-food and sandwiches either sitting down or to take away
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30am to 6pm or 10am to 5.30pm
- La Buvette du Dauphin: a takeaway stand for sweet and savoury snacks
Open during the school holidays, Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 5.30pm
- Angelina Petit Trianon: to take away. A selection of sweet or savoury treats including the famous “Angelina hot chocolate.”
Open Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 5pm/6pm
- Angelina Restaurant: an elegant restaurant with both a sweet and savoury selection to sit down to and enjoy
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5.30pm/6.30pm
- Picnic: enjoy the park to its fullest with an outdoor picnic.
Open daily from 10am to 6pm/8.30pm
Enjoy on-site services provided by the Palace including:
- Self-service mobile charging points
- Toilets and baby-changing tables are located throughout the Estate and are free of charge.
- Audio-guide: Download the free app to your mobile.
- Information points: Information and advice on visiting the Estate
- Wi-Fi Two free Wi-Fi spaces are available.
- Cloakrooms: Free and located at the different entrances; leave all your bulky personal items (strollers, baby carriers, canes, crutches, large luggage, umbrellas etc.)
The Castle also offers various different transport options to make getting around the Estate a little bit easier:
- Small electric vehicles
- Bicycles for rent
- Segway: guided and commented routes for groups of 8 (35€/person for 1 hour)
- Small train (8€)
- Boats (12€ per 30 min)
If you’re thinking of spending the night in Versailles, opt for one of the local hotels.
- Hôtel Le Versailles
- Les Étangs de Corot
- Hôtel La Résidence du Berry
- Hôtel Le Louis Versailles Château
- Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles
Wander around the many souvenir shops and find the perfect memento to take away with you.
- Librairie des Princes
- Le Cabinet des Médailles du Roi
- Boutique Angelina
- Librairie des Princes
- Boutique LaDurée
- Boutique du Domaine
- Boutique des Jardins
Tips for your visit
- Inside the Palace, photographs without flash are permitted although selfie poles are strictly prohibited. Photographs of the temporary exhibitions without permission are not allowed however. Think about putting your phone on silent mode.
- Be careful! Pickpockets are known to operate both inside and outside the Palace!
- Strollers and metal baby carriers need to be left at the free cloakrooms.
- Animals are not allowed.
- To reduce your waiting time at the audio-guide counter download the free application on your mobile. It contains all the audio-guides and additional tour information.
Enjoy your visit to the Palace of Versailles!