The Palace of Versailles is practically a mandatory day trip for anyone visiting Paris due to its dramatic history and opulent features. But what famous art or attractions should you see while there? Our licensed Versailles guide created this post of the top 8 things to see in Versailles.
Pro Tip: The best way to see Versailles is with a licensed guide. A guide elevates your experience and makes it more memorable which is the reason we start our company! Check out our guided small group tour of Versailles that starts in Paris!
Top 8 Things to See in the Palace of Versailles and Gardens
If you had spoken to anyone in the mid 17th century and told them that an old hunting pavilion 22 miles ( 37 kilometers) outside of Paris would one day in the near future become not only the home to the Monarchy and court, you would have been laughed out of the room. Largely thanks to Louis XIV, the Palace now has 2,300 rooms so it will be impossible to see them all, but I have outlined the main spots to hit.
8. Grand Trianon
The Palace of Versailles was so opulent that Louis XIV constructed another palace to get away from the craziness of the main Palace and his court. He also needed a place to be with his Mistress Madame de Montespan. The architect, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, called it, “A little palace of pink marble and porphyry, with marvelous gardens.” Supposedly Louis XIV had set very strict guidelines into what he wanted to build and Mansart followed them exactly- although the architect didn’t really have a choice since Louis was constantly following the construction.
Lavishness had no bounds already in the Palace and continued here in the Grand Trianon. One example of this was the flower display. The gardens are surrounded by huge flowerbeds and terraces which could hold thousands of flowers planted into individual flower pots. The goal of planting them this was way was to change the flowers out daily! Extravagance on steroids.
Later, King Stanislaw I of Poland stayed here when he visited Versailles and it the great Napoleon as well sojourned here from time to time. In 1963, General De Gaulle restored the Palace to host foreign dignitaries and use as his presidential palace.
7. Petit Trianon
In 1758 Louis XV decided that there were not enough Palaces on the Versailles estate and began construction on another one that was big enough to house the King and his royal entourage. To differentiate between the Grand Trianon ( Big Trianon) built by his grandfather Louis XIV, he was to call this the Petit Trianon ( Little Trianon). The in vogue architectural style at the time was Neo-Classical and the royal architect Ange-Jacques Gabriel did not dissapoint in building the perfect example.
Unfortunately in April 1774, King Louis XV felt his first symptoms of the pox at his new residence and died only a few days later. This pushes to the limelight his son Louis XVI who decided to give the Petit Trianon to his young bride Marie Antoinette as a gift. She began immediately to re-decorate the palace and even changed the botanical gardens that were set up by Louis XV into an Anglo-Oriental garden which was the in thing at the time.
During the French Revolution, the Petit Trianon was turned into an area of housing for those with little means. Napoleon later brought it back to life and had the entire area restored. He gave it as a gift to his wife and subsequently to his 2nd wife, Empress Marie-Louise. Ironically, in 1867 the Petit Trianon was converted into a museum by the wife of Napoleon III and dedicated to Marie Antoinette.
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6. The Queen’s Hamlet
Out of everything that you will see at Versailles, nothing will really prepare you for the Queen’s Hamlet. When you think of Versailles the first words that come to you are Extravagance and lavishness and I am sure many others that deal with opulence.
At first glance the Queen’s Hamlet would seem to contradict that entirely… Except when you understand that this Hamlet was commissioned by Marie Antoinette solely for her to feel what it was like to live in a peasant hamlet… Enough said.
The queen would take relaxing walks here and imagine she was a commoner, although naturally, she would never actually work. When many were starving in Paris, a popular saying to underscore Marie Antoinette’s lavish life was “if the people are starving, let them eat cake.”
The hamlet is defined by 5 features:
- The Windmill – Never used to grind grain, but just have the ” look” of a farm.
- Marlborough Tower and Working Dairy- A functioning Dairy farm where they could enjoy cream and cheese
- The Guard House and Dovecote- The house of the Queen’s guard and also where they grew hens and pigeons
- The Boudoir – A small house to host guests and to eat
- The Queen’s House and the Stove Room- A house solely for the Queen where she could host guests or have a rest
During the Revolution, the Queen’s Hamlet fell into disrepair. Napoleon later restored most of the area and gave it as a gift to his wife Marie Louise. This was a bit ironic and also symbolic since she was the grand-niece of Marie Antoinette!
5. The Empire Rooms
These rooms also created by Louis-Philippe, a contemporary of Napoleon, in an attempt to gain the support of Bonapartists and former members of the empire. He collected many of the largest paintings commissioned by Napoleon in the palace’s South Wing, where you can find them today, underneath the Gallery of Battles.
4. Place d’Armes & The Gate of Honour
Lucky for you, you really can’t miss this part if you’re visiting the Versailles Palace. Place d’Armes is the massive funnel-shaped courtyard that sits in front of the palace. It is the site where three streets converge; Avenue de Saint-Cloud, Avenue de Paris, and Avenue de Sceaux.
The gates are not original to the Palace (gasp). They were torn down during the French Revolution and were replaced in 2008 in a massive project. The gate is 80 meters long and made from steel coated with 100,000 gold leaves. It is the first thing you see when approaching the structure and defines the palce.
3. The Gallery of Battles
The Gallery of Battles is one of the most impressive galleries in the palace. Louis-Philippe I, created this gallery to glorify the French military efforts in a series of paintings depicting historical events, which line every wall.
2. The Gardens of Versailles
I have put this as number one which is probably the obvious choice. How to explain a garden so immense and grand with words? It’s a daunting task, but I will try.
The original garden took 40 years to build and is so big that thousands of workers and even entire regiments worked on it. It has to be replanted every 100 years to keep everything looking young and the last time this was done was in the early 2,000’s so if you go now, you will get an idea of what it looked like during the time of Louis XIV himself.
Main Fountains of Versailles Gardens:
The Four Season’s Fountain: As you walk down the Royal way, you will notice that there are alleys running parallel and perpendicular to this road. At the crossroads, you will find the Four fountains.
Neptune Fountain: The Neptune fountain is one of the biggest fountains with 99 jets that currently spout water up. Its name comes from the Towering statue of Neptune overlooking the sea creatures.
Latona’s fountain: This is one of my favorite and also is huge! Inspired by The Metamorphoses by Ovid, it potrays the goddess Latona protecting her two children Apollo and Diana who were being insulted by peasants from Lycia. Her rage forced Jupiter to turn all the residents into frogs. If you look closely you will notice frogs sculpted on the lawn around the sculptural group.
Walk freely: The Gardens are surprisely free to walk around if you don’t want to enter the palace throughout the week except on Tuesdays and the weekend where you will need to pay 9.50€ for the fountain show.
Rent a bike and Explore: You have 2 spots where you can rent a bike- one at the beginning of the gardens and one below towards the grand staircase where you can rent bikes and explore even more. Go for it!
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1. The Hall of Mirrors
is one of the most famous rooms in all of Versailles, and easily the most beautiful. This breathtaking hall has not only 357 mirrors, but also an impressive history. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in 1919, which ended World War I.
Versailles Palace & Garden Hours
November 1st – March 31st
- Palace of Versailles: Tuesday – Sunday | 9 a.m. – 5:30 pm
- Gardens of Versailles: Daily | 8 am – 6 pm
- The estate of Trianon: Tuesday – Sunday | 12 – 6:30 pm
April 1st – October 31st:
- Palace of Versailles: Tuesday – Sunday | 7 am – 8:30 pm
- Gardens of Versailles: Daily from 8 am – 6 pm
- The estate of Trianon: Tuesday – Sunday | 12 – 6:30 pm
Versailles Ticket Prices
There are a few ticket options on the Versailles website. I have listed them out here:
- Palace only Ticket: 18€
- Garden Fountain Show ( only on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays): 9.50€
- Passport ticket: 27€ and includes entrance to both Versailles Palace and the Grand and Petit Trianon. This is if you want to do everything!
Tips for Visiting Versailles Palace
- Come Prepared – buy a Versailles ticket or a guided tour in advance
- Off-Peak Hours – If you go on your own, arrive as soon as it opens or after lunch when crowds are at their lowest. Avoid late morning unless you are on a tour due to the crowds.
- Gardens in Late Morning – If you do arrive in the late morning, do the gardens first and really explore. Rent bikes or vehicles to get around.
- Bring Food – If you arrive in the late morning, bring some food to the gardens of Versailles to have a picnic. Check out Marche du Notre Dame Food market.
- Bring Wine! Yes, you can drink wine in the palace gardens. If you go there first bring cold wine and enjoy it!