Things to do in Versailles
As a Parisian tour guide for five years now, I realized something about the way people visit Versailles. It’s a fact that 99% of tourists miss half of what Versailles has to offer. Here’s our list of things to do in Versailles.
What’s Versailles got to offer you? The Versailles Palace of course! But what’s Versailles to a local Parisian? It’s one of the most beautiful cities around Paris where the Sun King (read more about French Kings) built the most beautiful castle (in the world)!
Now, here’s the truth. Versailles is so much more than just the castle. It has many points of interest for the tourist, that only Parisians know of. There’s tons of family activities and an award winning food market. To enjoy Versailles Palace and Versailles city, the right way, it is best to plan two days.
So I’m going to help you do three things:
- Get the most out of your time in the Versailles Palace.
- Find tickets for Versailles.
- Help you enjoy the wonderful Versailles city too.
How to enjoy your visit of the Versailles Palace
You are Louis the XIV. You call yourself the “Sun King”. You’re the wealthiest king of Europe. You win most of the wars you’re starting. The other royal courts in “old Europe” are learning to speak your language. You throw the most amazing parties at the time. And, more important, you live a very very long time. Well it’s quite logical that you can pay for the most amazing palace of the world. That’s what Versailles is.
Let’s talk first only about the things to do inside the Palace. It brings four million visitors each year. So first word of advice, yes it is packed most of the time. Personally, I don’t mind that much, it’s part of the game. When you go to a famous spot, you expect crowds. But, if you come early in the morning, on weekdays, you’ll have more room to yourself. And, if you can avoid August, it’s better (learn more about how to beat the crowd in and around Paris).
How to get to Versailles
Anyhow, first question is how to get there? Use a taxi? Use the train? Which station? No worries, I’ve got you covered on this.
Most often the best is the train of course, the R.E.R to be more exact. The line C will get you to “Versailles Château Rive Gauche” station. There’s also “Versailles Chantiers” station but it’s less central in the city of Versailles (and further from the Palace). To get that RER C line, grab it from central Paris: in Saint Michel station, or in Gare de Lyon station, or in Orsay station. It will take about one hour from the station in Paris to the gates of Versailles Palace (including a ten/fifteen minute walk from the station to the Palace). Train costs around €6.90 round trip per person. If that is not a good option, then a taxi will work. From central Paris – near the Arc of Triumph or near the Louvre – a taxi will cost you around €40 each way (read more about the perfect trip from Paris to Versailles).
How to enjoy your visit in the Versailles castle
You’re now at the gates of Versailles. You’ve probably spotted the line to enter. The average waiting time is about twenty minutes – not that bad, but at peak hours it can go to an hour or more. Is there a way around it? Yes, but you need to book your tour with a tour guide, they’ll get you through a special entrance. Alternatively, you can also book tickets in advance – they come with an audio guide. Several types of e-tickets exist and you can buy them on Tiqets.com. Do not hesitate to visit the different product pages in order to check availability.
- Versailles: Access All Areas + Audio Guide. These tickets will give you access to all areas of the Versailles museum and estate and to all temporary exhibitions. A perfect way to avoid the queue !
- Versailles: Palace Entrance + Audio Guide. Access to the rooms and the gardens are included (the Grand Apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber and the Apartments of Mesdames).
Buying tickets with Tiqets is easy, safe and fast. Reviews are very positive and it will certainly save your time!
Do you need a guide or an audio guide to visit Versailles? That will actually depend on your budget and your level of curiosity I guess. To learn as much as possible, make sure you see all the special places and things, understand what happened in the rooms, and ask questions to a specialist, pick the guide. To learn basic facts at your own rhythm, pick the audio guide. If you just want to be amazed by the looks of the Versailles Castle, the sculptures everywhere and the golden ceilings, you can do that on your own. Click here to learn more about our Versailles guided tours.
Another great idea is to take a bike tour in Versailles! Learn more about Versailles by Bike Day Tour on Discoverwalks.com.
The main part of Versailles Castle lasts between one hour and two hours, depending on if you want to see the ground level or not. In my opinion, the first floor – where the king lived – really is enough for most people.
Not to miss: the Mirrors Gallery, it probably is the highest concentration in the world of gold and mirrors. Also, the apartments of the King, the apartments of the Queen and the view on the Garden from the windows.
The attractions of the Versailles Palace Grounds
Again, if you’re the most important king of Europe, your Palace has perks and bonuses – such as a magnificent garden 9000 square feet, with its engineered fountain system and a unique vegetable garden.
But that’s not all, you also get an extra ‘mini-palace’ for you and your best friends called the “Grand Trianon“. But what about the Queen? Does she get one too? Yes indeed, they call it the “Petit Trianon“.
And what happens if you’re bored of all those palaces and want an easy, relaxing, rural retreat? Well that’s included in the Versailles package as well. It’s called The “Hameau (Hamlet)” of the Queen. Of course that’s a long list of things to do in Versailles, so let’s break it down:
The Versailles Gardens
The Versailles Gardens are composed of groves (“bosquets” in French) and ponds. They are of royal proportions and numbers: fifteen groves and eleven ponds.
About the ponds, you can focus on two of them:
- The Apollon basin – the emblem of Louis the 14th received very special care with a gigantic statue in its center.
- The Neptune basin – conceived by the star of the time of basin and garden creations. It is one of the most celebrated fountain system with “only” 99 water jets.
As for the groves, they used to be secret rendez-vous spots, improvised dance floors or simply enclosed relaxing areas. We recommend these two:
- The Ballroom (or the “Salle de Bal”), where the King and the Queen used to bring their orchestra so they could dance with friends. It includes one of the most amazing fountain of Versailles.
- Apollo’s grove. Again, Apollo was the symbol of the Sun King so wherever you see the name Apollo’s in Versailles, a fantastic surprise awaits.
The Grand Trianon of Versailles
The Grand Trianon was built by Louis the XIV and his best friends. It’s further away in the huge Park of Versailles, but it definitely is worth a visit. Specially for the outside of the building and its range of columns of pink marble. If the weather and the sunlight is right, you’ll be amazed by that much.
The Petit Trianon of Versailles
This part of Versailles Castle has been built by Louis the 15th for his mistress (a classic for French kings). But, as the building was constructed, Louis the 15th found another mistress. Thus, a new “favourite” inaugurated the building.
Then, the next king, Louis the 16th offered it to his queen Marie-antoinette. For this building as well, the most impressive part to me is the facade and the harmonie in the architecture and ornaments.
The Hameau of Versailles – Versailles with kids
It is such a cute part of the Versailles Castle and of course one of the best thing to do in Versailles if you have kids (more activities in Paris with children).
Marie-Antoinette was a very young girl thrown in the world as the most important queen of Europe at the time. Well it didn’t go well. There was so many rules and traditions at the French court.. She wasn’t French and, as the Queen of France, you mainly have enemies or friends waiting to take advantage of you.
That’s why nothing is better than a nice rural retreat. That is where the queen Marie-Antoinette used to play the young farm girl. That way she would drive her mind away from the stress of the court.
Well folks, that’s all about the castle. Now Versailles is of course not only a Palace but a city of more than 90,000 inhabitants. And, of course, there’s a lot of things to do in Versailles! Personally, I like it when people are able to spend a night in Versailles. They can split their time in the Palace over two days, enjoy the city, get a great dinner and in the morning beat the growing crowd that is coming from Paris.
The Town of Versailles
Having the biggest palace and the most important king in the world in your city certainly helps to build a beautiful city. Well that’s Versailles for sure. It’s a combination of grand royal planted avenues and a charming city center. Versailles is thus a very elegant city. The influence of the palace can be felt everywhere in the architecture of the town.
And, over time, the inhabitants have also become quite elegant. If shopping is your thing, get ready because you will find the best brands France designers can offer. But, as Versailles is outside of Paris, the shops are not chains. They are locally owned and operated, which helps keep the caring feeling most people prefer (more information about shopping in Paris).
On the cultural aspect, Versailles is quite an important city for artistic production, in music especially. I’m sure you’ve heard of Daft Punk, and maybe also about bands such as Air or Phoenix. They are the best example of the now famous “French Touch” pop and electro music.
The Versailles Food market
Versailles is about twelve miles out of Paris. So it is very close to the country-side. It means the locals demand quality fresh products. So, the food you’ll find in the market is fresh and comes directly from the farm. Versailles has one of the best “art de vivre” (way of life) in France. That’s also because of the food quality that you won’t find anywhere else.
Good news there are more than five markets in Versailles. We recommend the covered market called “Halles Notre-Dame“. That’s where you will find the best food stands.
The Equestrian National Academy shows
The influence of the palace is everywhere. The National Equestrian Academy is no exception. Today this academy is a unique school that performs shows by horsemen. Those shows are famous throughout France and among the international horse lover community. The show are almost poetic. You can consider it as the “Cirque du soleil” with horses. It is the ultimate family attraction.
In a word, if you want to stay in a beautiful city and enjoy the best of French art de vivre, Versailles is for you. If you like food, shopping, beautiful shows, Versailles is for you. If you prefer a quiet and charming village like city rather than the noisy Paris, Versailles is also for you. If you want to have time to enjoy everything the most famous palace in the world has to offer, try to stay at least one night in Versailles. So next time I am out giving a tour in Versailles, I hope you will be there too!
See you soon !