The town of Versailles is one of France's most well-known historical cities. Just a mere 17 kilometers south-west of central Paris, it is located in the Yvelines départment, in the Île-de-France region. Originally founded by King Louis XIV, Versailles acted as the capital of the kingdom for almost an entire century, between the 17th and 18th century before becoming known as the iconic 'cradle of the French revolution'. It is historically known for the treaties that were signed within its boundaries, such as the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that brought the American Revolutionary war to an end as well as the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 at the end of the First World War. Today Versailles is a wealthy, 21st-century suburb boasting a population of 88 641 people, which is most famous for its beautiful Palace and gardens.
Things to do & Places to see in Versailles, France
1. Le Château de Versailles
The Palace of Versailles or the Château de Versailles is not only one of the most famous places to visit in Versailles but has been considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a world heritage site for the past thirty years. It was built in 1623 by Louis XIII originally as a hunting lodge but was later expanded and embellished and instead became a place of political power before the royal family was chased back to Paris during the revolution. Due to the French revolution, the role of the palace was left uncertain until 1837 when King Louis-Philippe decided it should become a museum to collect and display France's masterpieces. Thus the Château du Versailles became the Museum of the History of France, and today is still featured as a museum to the public. It is considered to be one of the finest examples of French 17th century art. Not only is the palace marvelous due to its wonderful architectural design but it also consists of 2300 rooms or apartments that feature pieces of art that were collected right up until the 20th century.
A great example of the wonderful contents featured in the Palace is none other than the famous Hall of Mirrors. The hallway stretches over 73 meters and pays tribute to the successes of France on an economic, political and artistic level through the display of brilliant pieces of art, mirrors, and statues. Among being used for many other things in the past, the Hall of Mirrors is well-known as the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War One. The building has been wonderfully preserved over the years and is a royal treat to explore, no pun intended. Today it is open to the public from 9 am until 5:30 pm at a cost of 18€.
The Palace of Versailles is not an attraction on its own, though, surrounding the Palace are the gardens of Versailles and the estate of Trianon, which collectively form the park of the Château du Versailles. It stretches over 800 hectares, allowing its visitor to really experience the grandeur of what a royal estate once was.
2. Jardins de Versailles
The Gardens of Versailles is a lovely place to visit as it is a masterpiece of its own. Viewed the best from the central window in the Hall of Mirrors, the gardens are perfectly symmetrical and pay a lot of attention to detail. From the architecture of the gardens themselves to the landscaping of the greenery, to the fairy-tale like sculptures and fountains that are scattered all over, and the brilliant rare floral range that is featured all around the gardens, walking through them would only make you feel nothing less than royalty. The best time to visit would be during the summer, as every evening there are musical fountain shows that take place. The gardens are open every day to the public free of charge from 8 am to 6 pm.
3. Le Domaine de Trianon
Situated a not too far from the Jardins de Versailles you can find the estate of Trianon. The estate was designed in aid of allowing the royals more privacy than the Palace offered. The estate is equally as beautiful as the palace but it seems offers a bit more character, being tucked away within the refuge of beautiful surrounding gardens. The Grand Trianon, found on the estate is a beautiful work of architecture that is well-known for its pink hue caused by the wondrous red marble stone used to build it. Le grand Trianon has a unique composition that allows access to the courtyard from one end and the gardens from the other. Today it is used to house foreign officials when in France.
There is also the Petit Trianon that was constructed after the Grand Trianon. It lies more hidden among the greenery than its larger counterpart. The Petit Trianon displays real character with its marvelous woodwork, grand marble columns, and beautiful embellishments. Its original purpose was to house Madame de Pompadour, the noble mistress, but was later used as an escape for Marie Antoinette. Today both palaces are open to the public for viewing every day except Mondays from 12 pm until 5:30 pm. It is accessible from the city but also through the park of Versailles, admission costs are only 12€. There is an option if you wish to visit both the Palace of Versailles and the estate of Trianon of only 20€.
4. Le Notre-Dame de Versailles
Another historical place to visit in Versailles would be the beautiful Notre-Dame de Versailles. Situated only a few minutes away from the beautiful gardens,the Notre-Dame is quaint. It was built in 1686, providing the growing population of Versailles a place to worship. It is famous for its neo-classical architecture displayed in its magnificent ceiling and floor designs. Up until recently it was home to all records of the registered births, marriages, and deaths of the royal family. Just recently, in 2005, the Notre-Dame was named as one of the historical monuments of France.
5. Markets of Versailles
If historical sites are not for you there are brilliant local markets in Versailles that encapsulates an authentic French ambiance. Having started in the 17th century the markets are still standing today. They consist of different categories, making it convenient if you're in search of anything in particular. For example, the Notre-Dame market is very well-known for its authentic fresh French food such as frog legs whilst the Jussieu-Montreuil market is known as being the best place in town to buy fresh organic produce. It all just depends on what you like, you could end up spending a day just exploring the all the different things to buy.
How Do I Get Here From Paris?
With Versailles being so close to Paris, traveling there is not a problem at all. The most advised method of transport when going to Versailles is the RER suburban train, as it is cheap and easy to navigate. It costs only 7€ per person for a round trip, and takes between 60-90 minutes there, depending on where you are coming from in Paris. There are three stops in Versailles, with the use of a map you can determine which one is more convenient for you.