Versailles - a Day Trip Back in Royal History
by Youliana Veltcheva
February 25, 2020
If you are staying in the French capital for a few days, a day trip to Versailles from Paris would be a perfect getaway, as the distance between the two locations is only 20 kilometers.
Being at the top of the main Paris trip itineraries and wishlists, Versailles has a deserving reputation as a luxurious palace with expansive grounds, making up one of the most opulent royal residences on the planet.
About the Castle of Versailles
Versailles is more than a palace. It is a surreal estate that transports you back in French history and immerses you in the local culture, architecture, and traditions. With its lush green gardens, stunning baroque fountains, the estate is built to impress and dazzle.
The 400 years-old Versailles is a place that has seen war and peace, turmoil and tranquility and had withstood the test of time to bring its rich history and fascinating story.
From barborous wars, through the French revolution, it is hard to imagine that once Versailles was nothing but a hunting lodge. Nowadays, it is a popular tourist attraction, visited annually by more than 10 million people.
Tour of the Versailles
Start your tour with the lavishly decorated and furnished Private Apartments where the royal families of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI lived from 1682 to the French Revolution. Visit the stylish Mistresses’ Apartments
and Louis XV’s daughters’ Apartments. Proceed to see the Royal Chapel, the Royal Opera House, State Apartments, and the famous Hall of Mirrors.
The Hall of Mirrors is a large gallery in the Palace of Versailles which is named that way because it houses 357 mirrors over the 17 arches opposite to the windows. The hall was built in 1678, when mirror manufacturing was at its high tide in France.
Finally, finish off your tour strolling through the sumptuous Gallery of the Great Battles. It is the largest room in the Palace and depicts the history of the rise and fall of the French rule from Clovis to Napoleon.
Gardens of Versailles
Located west of the Palace, the Garden of Versailles is an impressive landscaping project, spanning 800 hectares of land. It is designed by the legendary Andre le Notre, who also designed the gardens of Vaux-le Vicomte
. The gardens are simply breathtaking and it could be overwhelming to walk through the premises as it could take way over several hours.
If you visit during the springtime or summertime everything is lush green and blooming and simply stunning. Because the gardens are so huge, you never feel crowded even at the busiest times of the year. You can easily spend a couple of hours exploring the many secretive gardens and some of the hiding spots and beautiful sculptures.
The Mirror Fountain, located across from the peaceful English-style ‘King’s Garden’ appears to be just a small-scale version of the many ornamental pools created by Louis XIV to reflect his image - the sun. But you are in for a big surprise when the fountain is operating as it transforms from a reflecting pool into an amazing water display with classical music in the background synchronized with the water movement.
The centrally located Apollo fountain is also very impressive with the sculpture of the sun god, Apollo and his chariot and horses leaping right out of the water. The surging water goes high up, conveying an image of explosive energy and power.
The Orangerie is a place well worth spending time in. In the summer you can see orange trees, lemon trees, oleander, palm and pomegranate trees spread outside in the French formal garden.
When Louis XIV started building Versailles, he hired a vegetable and fruit specialist to design a garden to grow rare and out-of-season fruits and vegetables and provide the King and his court with fresh produce. The 22-acre vegetable garden was built between 1678 and 1683 and exists to this day in its original location. It is only a short walk from the palace and still produces veggies and fruit for sale in the shop. Check out the hours when you can visit here.
With the perfectly manicured greenery, gracefully dancing fountains, soaring Vivaldi music, and an atmosphere of royal luxury living, the gardens are a magical place to see. To take a little break from walking you can rent a rowing boat for 30 minutes and take a little paddle on the Grand Canal. It will definitely be a hit if you have kids with you.
lies tucked into a quiet corner on the outskirts of Versailles. It was built on the request of King Louis XIV as a retreat for himself. The Palace was inspired by Italian architecture with a flat roof hidden by a balustrade and consists of two sets of buildings linked by a peristyle adorned with columns, revealing harmoniously planted gardens.
Napoleon lived here and had it refurnished and it was also the home place of Louis-Philippe, who also restored it.
A smaller charming palace, Petit Trianon
was built by Louis XIII as a gift for his longtime mistress, before being gifted to Marie Antoinette when Louis XIV took the throne.
Compared to the palace of Versailles or even Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon is quite a bit smaller but still has a lovely air about it. Surrounded by beautiful bucolic gardens, it is isolated from the main palace of Versailles and served as a perfect quiet escape from court life.
If time permits visit the Gallery of Coaches, where you can the most amazing collection of travel vehicles of past times. From coaches and small carriages for Marie Antoinette’s children to sedan chairs and sleds, decorated with carvings, golden embroideries, golden details, the collection is impressive.
When you get tired from sightseeing, you can take a break and stop at the Versailles’ old and active open-air market. Racked up with street food stalls and antique stores, the market will provoke your appetite. You have a choice of assorted artisan cheese, wine and fruit. Some of the stalls offer hot rotisserie chicken, fresh crêpes and more. It is a perfect spot to relax and enjoy some treats.
Events, hosted at Versailles
Versailles hosts some fun and entertaining events, such as operas, ballets, concerts, plays, art exhibits, balls with masks, fireworks displays, and more. With its glamour and fame, this is a venue like no other. Check out the upcoming schedule of events to make sure you don’t miss out on one of the incredible events hosted here
Add Giverney to your day trip to Versailles
The Palace of Versailles has outlived its time only to share with us the tales of the French and their plush lifestyle. You can’t help but imagine what it must have been to walk in the footsteps of the Kings and Queens, who have lived here while strolling through the lavish halls and lush gardens.
Visiting Versailles is a delightful experience that will forever remain in your memory with its amazing palaces, enchanting gardens, and the royal halls, keeping many secrets and preserving the French customs and traditions.