If you have the luxury of spending several days in Paris then we would highly recommend adding in a day trip to Versailles. This countryside escape to one of the most famous landmarks in France is the perfect activity to complement your visit to the City of Lights. Visiting Versailles does require some planning. After all, there’s more to see than just the Versailles Castle and Gardens. This guide will help you plan your visit and also describes the transportation options from Paris to Versailles.
Map of Versailles
We’ve created a map of Versailles that features all the points of interest mentioned in this article. It will help you visualize the site and decide which highlights you want to experience when visiting Versailles.
Things to do in Versailles
The Versailles site is vast. If you want to see it entirely, then be prepared for some serious walking. Alternatively, you just visit the areas that appeal to you the most. Here’s an overview of all things to do in Versailles.
Palace of Versailles
The Versailles Castle was built on the grounds of Louis XII’s hunting pavilion by his son, Louis XIV. The Sun King hosted operas and comedies at the Palace of Versailles. He loved having an audience and even made a show of his getting-up and going-to-bed, ceremonies to which about 100 people were invited. After his death, the estate was neglected for a while until his son, Louis XV decided to return. He was very different from his father and his timidity led him to create more intimate spaces within the castles. The marriage of his son Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette, the Archduchess of Austria, was the last major event held in Versailles. The king offered the Petit Trianon to his beloved wife shortly before the French Revolution, ending the monarchy.
When arriving at the Cour Royale or Royal Courtyard, you’re ready to start the actual visit to the Palace of Versailles. Walk onto the courtyard, facing the Marble Courtyard.
The self-guided tour with the Passport of Palace ticket allows access to these areas:
– On the garden level: The History gallery (entrance on your right-hand side) and the Apartments of Mesdames, the daughters of Louis XV, via the Marble Courtyard and Lower Gallery. (entrance in front of you).
– On the first floor: The Grand Apartments (entrance on your right-hand side) with the seven parade apartments, the War and Peace room, the Hall of Mirrors and the King and Queen’s Grand Apartments. The Royal Chapel can only be visited as part of a guided tour.
Have a look at our Map of Versailles to visualize the site. You can pick up an audio guide from both the entrance in front of you as the one on your right.
Visiting the Palace of Versailles
We had Day Passport tickets without time slot. There was somewhat of a queue at the Cour d’Honneur’s entrance A, on a Sunday in July at 17h30. Luckily, we only had to wait for about 15 minutes, which is exceptional. The Palace of Versailles would close at 19h, leaving us just enough time to visit the highlights. We could leave our backpack in the luggage storage at the entrance and the staff brought it to the exit by the time we left the Palace.
We had hoped that our late arrival would have allowed us to visit the Palace of Versailles without the crowds. At first, this seemed successful, especially at the Garden level. Things changed we arrived in the Mars room of the Grand Apartments, where it got packed. It was pretty hard to admire the following rooms because we had to switch to survival mode, especially to keep it somewhat comfortable for the kids. The Hall of Mirrors is gorgeous but hard to enjoy because of the crowd. Can you imagine how much worse it can be in the late morning or early afternoon?
A visit to the Palace of Versailles takes about 1 to 1,5 hours. You are free to take pictures without flash; selfie sticks, however, are not allowed inside.
More information on the Palace of Versailles can be found here.
Gardens of Versailles
The Gardens of Versailles, from the hand of André Le Nôtre, are just as spectacular as the Versailles castle (even a little more, in our opinion). The numerous parterres, groves, sculptures and fountains make for an unforgettable experience. No matter the season, the monumental gardens of Versailles guarantee a pleasant stroll. The Musical Fountains Show only adds to the grandeur.
There’s more to explore onsite than just the palace and gardens. When visiting Versailles, you should also consider admiring the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon Palaces. These were built as a place of refuge for the royals, giving them a break from political obligations and courtly etiquette. Especially Marie Antoinette felt the need to break away from her role as queen and thus spent most of her time at the Petit Trianon.
The beautiful gardens became her playground. An outdoor theatre was constructed and even an entire model village, the Hameau de la Reine or Queen’s Hamlet, to give it that countryside touch. When you explore the magnificent garden, you can still feel a sense of escape and joy. It’s so different from the manicured Gardens of Versailles and well worth a visit.
Coach Gallery and Royal Stables
Located opposite the palace, on the other side of the Place d’Armes, you’ll find the Royal Stables. Draft horses were kept in the Small Stables (Petite Écurie), carriage horses and carriages in the Main Stables (Grande Écurie). Both buildings are identical and symmetrical, located either-side the Avenue de Paris.
The Small Stables currently house the Sculptures and Mouldings Gallery, which are only open to the public on special occasions. In the Main Stables you can now find the Coaches Gallery, which is open every afternoon except for Mondays, and the Academy of Equestrian arts.
Park of Versailles
The Park of Versailles lies beyond the Gardens and stretches out over 800 hectares. So, there’s more to explore than just the area surrounding the Grand Canal. You can choose to walk the straight paths or go on a Versailles bike tour, which brings us to the next topic.
Fun ways to explore Versailles
There’s a lot of ground to cover on the Versailles site. Just to give you an idea of the distances: we’ve walked 8 mi (or 12.7 km) during our visit. Luckily, walking is not the only option when visiting Versailles. Here are some alternatives to make your intensive Paris to Versailles day trip a bit more comfortable:
- You could rent a bike to explore the vast park. You’ll find all kinds of bikes, also models for kids, at Petite Venise. Enjoy a Versailles bike tour along the Grand Canal or make your way to the Trianon estates.
- A pre-booked segway tour will give you a similar experience.
- It’s important to note, however, that bikes nor segways are not allowed into the Gardens. That’s where the electric carts come in, with which you can enter both the park and the gardens. A built-in geolocation system will keep you on the right track.
- If these options are too active for you and you’re looking for a shuttle between the castle, Little Venice and the Trianon sites then you can hop on the mini-train. No need to buy your tickets in advance, you can do so on the spot.
- And what better way to end the day than by giving your legs a rest in a rowing boat on the Grand Canal? Life jackets for kids are available.
Do note that one or more of these transportation options can be unavailable during the winter months.
Which Versailles ticket to buy
When visiting Versailles on a day trip, you don’t want to waste your time queuing at the ticketing desk. You can simply by your tickets for the Palace in advance on the official website or via Get Your Guide.
Wondering how to avoid lines at Versailles? We strongly advise to buy a ticket with a time slot, it’s called the ‘Passport with timed entry’ and costs $31 or € 27 per adult, children enjoy free admission.
You could also opt for the Paris Museum Pass which does include access to the Palace of Versailles and the Trianon sites. It also allows you in the Gardens of Versailles EXCEPT during the Musical Fountains Shows and the Musical Gardens.
The Versailles Palace is closed on Mondays. The Trianon Estate is only open during the afternoon. You can find the Versailles opening hours on the official website.
The Gardens of Versailles and the Park are open every day. You can visit them for free, except during the Musical Fountains Shows and the Musical Gardens. Click here to check out the dates of these events.
How to get to Versailles from Paris
Public Transport: The RER
Getting to the Palace of Versailles from Paris is very convenient with public transport. Line C of the RER regional train will take you from the central Paris straight to the ‘Versailles Château Rive Gauche’ train station. The most convenient stops from which to take the RER are located at Rive Gauche (left bank, the southern bank of the Seine):
- Musée d’Orsay
- Gare du Pont de l’Alma
- Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel (right next to the Eiffel tower)
It can get quite hectic at the train station in the evening so it’s advised to buy your return ticket in advance. From the train station it’s just a 10 minute walk to the Palace of Versailles.
There’s a shuttle bus that runs from the coach stop at the Eiffel tower to Versailles every day (except on Mondays). A return ticket is priced at €29, children under the age of 9 can join free of charge if accompanied by an adult. The transfer takes about 45 minutes. Further information can be found here.
Driving from Paris to Versailles
The distance from Paris to Versailles is 18 km (or 11 mi). It will take you a little over 30 minutes to arrive (traffic not taken into account). Click here for an overview of the different parkings in Versailles.
Organized transfer with or without visit
If you prefer an organized transfer and/or visit, then you’re spoiled with choice.Have a look at some of the guided tours on offer:
Visiting Versailles with kids
Visiting Versailles makes for a wonderful family-friendly getaway. There’s plenty of things to do in Versailles to keep the kids entertained: rowing a boat on the canal, taking the little train from the park to the Trianon estate, exploring the Queen’s hamlet, petting the goats, discovering the many fountains in the Gardens of Versailles by golf cart, enjoying an ice-cream…
The Palace itself might be the most boring part if you’re visiting Versailles with kids. Entrance for kids is free so, just make sure to buy your adult time slot tickets in advance to avoid queuing. The downloadable game booklets can add some fun and context to your family visit but unfortunately, most of these only exist in French.
A Paris to Versailles day trip takes some preparation, especially when you’re traveling with children. On the other hand, you don’t really need to see all the sites. Focus on the gardens and then opt for either a visit to the Versailles Palace or one to the Petit Trianon. The kids will enjoy themselves much more when you keep the program light.
Where to stay when visiting Versailles
A convenient location is crucial for any Paris to Versailles day trip. You need a hotel that guarantees both a central location in the City of Lights and that minimizes the traffic time when making your way from Paris to Versailles. Here are some Parisian (boutique) hotels that fit the bill:
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Are you looking to spend more than one day in Versailles? There are several Versailles hotel options but one really stands out. Click here to check out our review of the glamourous Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf Astoria hotel with its unbeatable location, right next to the Grille de la Reine (Queen's Gate) entrance.
Where to eat when visiting Versailles
An exceptional onsite Versailles restaurant option is Ore, Ducasse au Château de Versailles. The ‘Thé de la Reine’ is definitely on our bucket list.
Alternatively, you could bring a picnic. There are plenty of designated picnic spots around the park.
The offsite Versailles restaurant we can recommend, is La Véranda by Gordon Ramsey. This restaurant is located in the Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf Astoria hotel.
(If you’re looking for an afternoon break, then the Afternoon Tea at the Bar Galerie is a must.)
Time to plan your visit to Versailles
Now that we’ve got the practical side of visiting Versailles from Paris cleared up and you know how to tour Versailles, there’s no more excuse to postpone a visit. It’s one of the best day trips to include in any Paris itinerary. We look forward to reading all about your visit to Versailles in the comments below.
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