VERSAILLES, FRANCE: Versailles Palace made this town of Versailles in France a top attraction for the tourists. It’ not too far from Paris, may be an hour drive depending on the traffic. But it is worth spending a day looking few centuries back and feeling the luxurious lifestyle the kings and queens enjoyed once.
TIME of TRAVEL: We were lucky enough to go to Versailles twice. First time was in September of 2011. The trip was just for a weekend. We have been to Paris few time by then but never managed to go on top of Eiffel Tower. So, Saturday evening we went up to Eiffel Tower and on Sunday, we spent the whole day wandering around Versailles Palace…but mostly inside the palace.
Next time we were there in May of 2012 when my dad and step-mom were here in Belgium. We took them to Paris for a day and on our way we stopped over in Versailles for them to see such glorious palace. But this time my husband, my girls, and I spent time in the magnificent gardens of Versailles while my dad and step-mother were enjoying the interior of Versailles palace.
EATING and SHOPPING: Versailles Palace has small snack-bars and restaurants here and there in the complex. They can be pricey, so it’s best to bring your own food from outside. A big souvenir shop is also there to take something back from here.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We went to Versailles Palace twice and both of the times we ended up spending whole days here. Yes, it is pretty big and we had no problem just walking around on its ground and enjoying every corner of it.
– VERSAILLES PALACE AND GARDEN: We have seen quite a few palaces in the last few years from different parts of Europe. But I can boldly say that I haven’t seen anything as lavish and extravagant as Versailles Palace yet. Every room, every décor, every furniture, every vase, every chandelier or lamp carries intense and delicate beauty. The palace and garden of Versailles form one of the most illustrious monuments of the world and stand out as the finest and most complete achievement of French art in the 17th century. This palace is a symbol of absolute monarch of Old Regime of France. This magnificent ensemble has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for being an exceptional value of cultural and natural heritage.
Just to give you a brief history on Versailles Palace, this was the center of political power in France from 1682 when King Louis XIV moved here from Paris. The old brick and stone palace of Louis XIII was transformed and greatly enlarged by his son Louis XIV who installed the court and the Seat of Government here in 1682, thus making Versailles the capital of the kingdom. The work continued up to his death in 1715. The palace was embellished in the 18th century; new apartments were arranged in the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. The monarchy left Versailles after the first days of the French Revolution in 1789. The town that was built around the palace offers many examples of this rich past (churches, town houses, old squares, streets, and etc.). In 1837, King Louis-Philippe officially opened in the palace his museum dedicated to “All the glories of France.”
The gardens of Versailles Palace is massive in size…I mean it’s so huge that you may need a whole day to look around all of its corner. We rented a golf-cart from the garden entrance to make it easy on the girls (after waiting in the line for an hour). There are numerous fountains, groves, and sculptures all around this unique garden. Swiss Lake and Grand Canal shouldn’t be missed along with some fountains (like Apollo Fountain, Mirror Fountain, Neptune Fountain, Dragon Fountain, Saturn Fountain, and more) and groves (like Chestnut Grove, Domes Grove, Dauphin’s Grove, Triumphal Arch Grove, Star Grove, Obelisk Grove, and more). We also visited Orangery, Bathing Nymphs, Pyramid, Apollo’s Baths Grove, and many more magical sides in this garden.
The garden was laid out by Andre Le Notre from 1661 with parterres, groves, statues, fountains, and pools forming the model par excellence of the formal “French Garden”. They were later modified and completed by various artists. The ancient figure of Apollo, the Sun God, is present all over the Estate. After the formally laid out gardens of the Petit Parc, you come to the Grand Parc and its Canal, an ideal setting for strolls, boat, outings, bicycle rides, and long rambles. When in Versailles Palace, start your visit from the Royal Courtyard, make your own way around the different parts of the palace and then cross through the gardens and groves to visit the two palaces of Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate.
Visitors can buy tickets for the palace onsite or in advance on www.chateauversailles.fr. When you are there, you can also buy from the desk or from automated machines (where line is much shorter and many people don’t even know about them). Audio-guide, is available in 11 languages, is highly recommended. Palace ticket is separate from the garden ticket, we bought the garden ticket from the entrance to the garden at the end of palace tour.