The Palace of Versailles is an iconic French spot, so here’s what you need to know for a perfect day trip to Paris!
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Visiting the Palace of Versailles is such a classic French destination. It makes most of our Paris lists, for a good reason!
Known for being built by Louis XIII, the palace that’s there today was put together over 150 years by at least four kings. But the iconic ornate, gold-filagree-on-everything-standing-still design comes from Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King.
What first-time visitors to Paris often don’t realize is that the Palace of Versailles isn’t in Paris. The town of Versailles sits about an hour outside the city, so it’s really a day trip if you want to go.
Getting there is still easy, you can take a train! It’s not the Metro, it’s a different train line called RER. You can find it at certain stations it shares with the Metro but requires a different ticket than any Metro line.
To plan my routes like this, I always use the CityMapper app. This isn’t sponsored – it’s just the easiest way to get around major cities!
For major attractions like the Palace of Versailles, I typically recommend buying your timed entry tickets for when it opens. Generally, it’s slightly less crowded than it will be in the middle of the day.
Versailles offers a few ticket packages. My advice is to make sure you get the Passport ticket, which includes access to the garden.
The audioguide is definitely worth the money here: it’s informative and easy to follow. You download it on your phone, so make sure to bring your own headphones! Because the audioguide is so excellent, I don’t know that I’d pay for a guided tour unless you do one of the behind-the-scenes tours – there are several options to see areas not open to the general public.
The Town of Versailles
While you’re here, you’ll probably need something to eat! I have a few suggestions.
Need breakfast first? Head to Darras Versailles. They have a ton of bakery and pastry options, good for both breakfast and dessert.
If you arrive before your ticketed entry, they have a lovely weekly market on Tuesday mornings. It’s a classic European market with produce, cheese, and much of the daily staples locals need all week long.
The Palace of Versailles
The palace: it’s what we all came for! Don’t rush inside before soaking up the gorgeous golden gates. The level of detail is incredible.
Before you start, know that exploring the palace is a one-way endeavor, so if you skip things, you can’t circle back. That being said, the first floor is mostly the history of building the palace, so if that’s not your favorite, skim ahead. The second floor is where most of the best rooms are.
The audio guide does a good job of explaining the functions of each room and setting the scene for what would’ve happened here.
Like many European buildings, the ceilings are probably my favorite parts. The details and stories they tell are amazing, and here they all fit the theme or name of the room.
While the famous Hall of Mirrors loses a touch of its glamour when full of tourists, it’s still beautiful! Don’t miss the adjacent rooms along the side: there’s so much to see.
It’s always cool to see places that are so pivotal to history: Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, or the room where the Treaty at Versailles was signed. There’s also a hall of paintings of French history – see if you can spot George Washington in one of them!
The Park, Gardens and Beyond
Don’t skip the gardens! The perfectly manicured greenery up close is so iconic to Versailles.
While you’ll get some great views from above when looking through the palace windows, there’s so much more to see.
The gardens are massive – you can spend hours wandering them! The audioguide extends out here so you can get some backstory if you want it for each area. From perfectly shaped walls or dancing fountains, there’s a huge variety of styles within the grounds.
Yes, you read that right. There are multiple fountains with musically-coordinated displays. In summer they play once every 10-15 minutes, so it’s easy to catch their performances.
There are also tons of statues – both classic and a few modern dotted in, fruit trees, and hidden groves. There are even gondolas imported from Venice to ride in the Grand Canal.
By this time, you’re probably hungry, and there’s a snack/sandwich cart set up near Apollo’s fountain. That being said, it’s expensive. Captive audience and all that. I noticed locals brought their own picnics to enjoy, as long as they didn’t bring bulky bags into the palace itself.
In summary: don’t skip the gardens! If you’re tight on time and don’t care about gardens in general, okay, maybe skip. And I can’t speak to how they are in winter. But other than that, they’re worth it!
The Trianon Palaces
In addition to the main palace, there are two other small palaces on the property. The Trianon palaces were created to give the royalty a bit of a getaway from the usual expectations of the court.
Full disclosure: after hours of wandering the palace and gardens, I never seem to have the energy to check these out. If you do, you can expect to see more beautiful rooms that were intended as a country estate for the royals and their contemporaries.
If you choose to stay overnight in Versailles, you can always buy the ticket that gives 2 days of access – this would be the ideal way to have an unrushed experience of all parts of the palaces!
Overall, I love Versailles as a day trip from Paris! Definitely worth the time and money. Make sure to buy your tickets online in advance!
Want more Paris? I have tons of tips here!