If you go to Paris, a day trip to the Palace of Versailles, by most people’s opinions–including mine, is a must. The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family (including his wife, Marie Antoinette) was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. You can do a 1/2 day or full day trip, and they are easily scheduled from your hotel once you get there. Most hotels are happy to set up the arrangements for you and most day trip companies will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel.
The town of Versailles where the Palace is located is a pleasant ride (approx 30 minutes) from Paris and our driver was very versed in the history of Versailles. The first time I visited there, I shared my transport with two other couples, a Russian couple in Paris on holiday and a lovely American couple from Texas who were in France, on their way to Italy, to visit a daughter who was studying abroad. They graciously offered to take some pictures for me.
For me, a 1/2 day trip was just enough to see the main palace and walk just a small portion of the gardens, though I have heard others say the 1/2 day trip left them feeling rushed. If you are a meanderer, or have a proclivity for gardens or palaces, then consider the full day trip. If you wish to see the Estate of Marie Antoinette while you are there, then the full day is necessary, as it can only be visited by walking and is, I am told, about a 45 min walk each way. If you want extra time to browse the multiple gift shops, read, or revisit any sections before leaving, again, the full day trip is probably for you. If you are only in Paris for a short trip, then, the first time anyway, just do the 1/2 day tour, in order to be able to maximize your sight seeing time.
The park and the gardens are open every day, but the palace and estate of Marie Antoinette are closed on Mondays and holidays.
Depending on if you are going for a 1/2 or full day tour, price can run approx. 23,00(Euro) to 56,00 (Euro), per person. If you book through an agency affiliated with your hotel, your cost will include transportation to/from and your entry into the palace and/or gardens.
For first time visitors, I recommend getting there early (the lines to see inside the Palace can be quite long–up to two hours during high season), but the palace is definitely worth the wait. I was there during off season and got there when it opened; my wait was approximately 15 minutes.
If you get there early, right when it opens, remember, a whole bunch of other people did too. This can cause some bottlenecks at the beginning of the tour in the main palace area. Be patient. They ease up and you can always meander back to an area you felt rushed or crowded through. This is especially true of the viewing of the chapel which comes at the beginning of the tour.
I recommend either a guided tour (which has to be set up in advance) or the self guided audio tour,especially if you are a history buff like me.
The tour can be divided into three main areas: The Palace, the Gardens and the Estate of Marie Antoinette. My first trip to Versailles was an early morning day trip in the late fall. The weather was brisk and windy, but clear, and the gardens, though not in full bloom, were breathtaking none the less. If you go during cooler weather, remember that a good half of your tour will be outside and dress appropriately…scarves, hats, gloves!
Don’t forget your camera!
Both the Palace and the Gardens are deserving of their own multiple posts, and I will be sharing more of my own photos from my trips there (most recently, Darcy and I took our eldest girls there) in future posts, but for today…
Take an online Tour of the palace….
or take a tour of the Gardens at Versailles…