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What to See at the Palace of Versailles

If you are thinking of visiting Paris, one of the mandatory stops is the Palace of Versailles, an impressive 17th century building that has been named a World Heritage Site for its importance in the history of the country. With more than 800 hectares and 2,300 rooms, this place will make you feel the essence of French royalty.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

What to See at the Palace of Versailles

Vesalles Palace, France | ©Cristian Bortes

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most important places of the entire continent within the period of the seventeenth century and certainly one of the things you have to see on your trip to Paris. What began as the hunting ground of Louis XIII, became over the years one of the most important monarchical complexes in the West.

The arrival to the throne of Louis XIV or the irruption of the French Revolution have been modifying and nurturing this huge palace and its surroundings, making it today one of the most visited museums in France. Halls full of jewels and ornaments, huge royal gardens ... If what you want is to live for a day in the flesh how the monarchy lived, get ready because I will review what you can not miss on your visit to the Palace of Versailles.

1. Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors| ©Myrabella
Hall of Mirrors| ©Myrabella

Built in 1684 and with a marked baroque style, the Hall or Gallery of Mirrors is undoubtedly one of the rooms of the Palace of Versailles that attracts more tourists throughout the year. What was originally commissioned by the king to impress his visitors, today has become the emblematic icon of the Palace.

It may seem banal now, but at the time, the manufacture and possession of mirrors was a luxury that not many could afford. That is why Louis XIV wanted to fill the room with huge windows and mirrors throughout the room to demonstrate the power of his reign.

The room has an impressive vault painted by the artist Le Brun and has been used for centuries as a place to celebrate events, balls and parties, but also to sign important treaties such as the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the First World War. Undoubtedly, a historic place worth a stop.

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2. The King's and Queen's Chambers

King's Bedroom, Mercury Room| ©Diliff
King's Bedroom, Mercury Room| ©Diliff

If you want to know firsthand how the 17th century kings who changed the history of France lived, there is no better way than to visit their own rooms. The King's and Queen's Chambers are two of the most important and central rooms in the entire Palace of Versailles as they constitute the most personal and intimate part of royal life.

Although the image of unity of the kings was just as important as today, both had separate rooms adapted to the needs and protocols. Thus, although both Chambers are equally decorated and luxurious, in the King's chamber the court attended every morning his morning awakening, his lunch hour and his bedtime.

These two chambers have as a centerpiece the royal apartments, where you can see the bed where Louis XIV himself slept and where he perished in 1715. Knowing in the flesh the ostentation and luxury of the time is a fundamental part of your visit to the Palace and you can easily access after seeing the acclaimed Hall of Mirrors.

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3. The Royal Chapel

The Royal Chapel| ©Diliff
The Royal Chapel| ©Diliff

Every self-respecting palace at that time needed to have a chapel at the height of the renown of its members to be able to perform daily masses and ceremonies. As you may have guessed, in the case of Louis XIV and his Palace of Versailles, the Royal Chapel ended up becoming one of the most sumptuous places in the whole complex.

Already from the outside you can see how it stands out from the rest of the building due to its vaulted ceilings but, undoubtedly, what will leave you speechless is its interior. With an impressive solid marble floor and all the walls and ceiling painted by artists of the time, the Chapel Royal cost more than two million pounds in its time.

The Chapel that the Sun King never got to enjoy

The paradox of this Chapel Royal is precisely that Louis XIV put a lot of effort and money in its construction. However, the result that you can enjoy on your visit, was not completed until 1710 and it was only five years later when the monarch died, ending the era of absolute monarchy in France.

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4. The Battle Gallery

The Gallery of Battles| ©Stéphanie Le Lay
The Gallery of Battles| ©Stéphanie Le Lay

Before photography and social networks existed, memories were kept through paintings and, as in Versailles they liked to do everything in a big way, King Louis Philippe had the idea in 1837 to build a huge gallery in the Palace that would portray the great battles and achievements of the country throughout history. This gallery occupies practically the entire floor of the south wing of the palace and has become one of the must-see stops of the visit.

As if it were a pantheon of old glories, the reign of Louis Philippe was responsible for creating and collecting as many busts as paintings that will tell how the Kingdom of France was forged, from battles as old as that of Tolbiac, to some of the same century as that of Wagram.

This gallery has become, practically, a museum within a museum and usually attracts a lot of attention to visitors for its enormous proportions and the magnificent historical classification, serving almost as a script to understand the entire history of the time.

Some of the great paintings that are exhibited here and you can not overlook are:

  • The Battle of Austerlitz by François Gérard.
  • The Entry of Henry IV into Paris by François Gérard
  • The Battle of Fontenoy by Horace Vernet
  • The Battle of Bouvines by Horace Vernet

5. The Halls of the Empire

Hall of the Palace of Versailles| ©Jean-Philippe Delberghe
Hall of the Palace of Versailles| ©Jean-Philippe Delberghe

In these three rooms, you will have the opportunity to see the remains of a great project carried out by Louis-Philippe to reflect the great glories of France. His reign was very important for the Palace and you will quickly realize upon arrival that two major periods can be distinguished; that of the Royal Residence of the absolutist monarchies and that of the Museum of History.

Much of the splendor of the Palace of Versailles developed during the seventeenth century and the reign of Louis XIV. However, after the French Revolution, it was abandoned and it was the arrival of Louis-Philippe, in the nineteenth century, which was responsible for giving a new air to the complex.

The king wanted to return to the palace its essence and royal distinction and you can see this stage clearly reflected in the Salons of the Empire, a huge section of the palace consisting of three rooms that are part of what was known at the time as the Museum of French History.

The Salons de l'Empire are not open to the public in their entirety but you will always have the opportunity to see a part of these large rooms where you can observe the works that the king himself had painted to reflect the whole period of France that encompasses the Directory, the Consulate and the Empire.

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6. The rooms of Louis XV's daughters

Daughters' Chambers| ©Dr Bob Hall
Daughters' Chambers| ©Dr Bob Hall

One of the stories that most often catches the attention of visitors is that of the three daughters of Louis XV, or as they have been known for centuries, the Mesdames. The sisters lived their entire lives in the palace during their father's reign and remained unmarried all their lives, drawing the attention of the court and making them known as the "King's spinsters".

During your visit to the Palace of Versailles, you can visit the rooms where these three sisters lived practically all their lives, passing from king to king, until the arrival of the French Revolution, when they were forced to flee from the Palace.

7. The Hall of the Crusades

The room of the Crusades| ©PHGCOM
The room of the Crusades| ©PHGCOM

The Palace of Versailles is full of completely unsuspected places and one of them is undoubtedly the Crusades Room. If you like the Middle Ages, you will enjoy this place like a child. Formed in its interior by five smaller rooms, this space was commissioned by King Louis Philippe 1843 and was intended to pay tribute to the Crusades.

The interest in the Middle Ages at the time was continued throughout the French Revolution and much of this collection of gadgets and weapons can be seen reflected in this room, which has a vast collection of armor and shields of the main characters who participated in these battles.

8. The Versailles Gardens

Visiting the Versailles Gardens| ©Dennis Jarvis
Visiting the Versailles Gardens| ©Dennis Jarvis

The interior of the Palace of Versailles is a real spectacle in terms of architecture and heritage. However, what really attracts and conquers most tourists is its immense garden. With more than 800 hectares, this vast place is full of important fountains, caves and ponds and has a very rich flora.

To tour it in its entirety is unthinkable if you are only going to spend a few hours visiting it. However, you have the possibility of renting a bicycle for less than 40 euros per hour to move faster.

The Gardens of Versailles are one of the most obvious evidence of the reflection of wealth and power that the monarchy had at that time. Just passing through its labyrinths of shrubs and trees will make you feel as small as an ant.

The fountains of the Versailles Gardens

To cover the whole territory of the gardens is something unthinkable but, if you want to spend a little bit of time inside the Palace and pay attention to these huge gardens, there are some fountains that you can not forget to see during your visit, such as:

  • Latona Pond
  • Pond of Apollo
  • Mirror Pond
  • Pond of Neptune

9. The Grand Trianon

The Great Trianon| ©Wikimedia
The Great Trianon| ©Wikimedia

The Grand Trianon is a mandatory stop on your visit to the Palace of Versailles. Although it is a bit far from the Gardens and the Palace, it is worth walking a few minutes to see what was the resting place of the King of France during the 17th century.

At first, Trianon was a villa that was close to the Palace of Versailles, but Louis XIV soon saw the possibility of building a place where he could rest from the obligations of the court and ordered the construction of a huge marble building that, although impressive in itself, is much less ostentatious than the Royal Palace.

To access this part of the royal complex and see inside the Grand Trianon, you must pay an extra plus in addition to the general entrance to Versailleso, if you already know what you want to see everything, you can choose to take the "passport" pass with which you will have free access.

The Petit Trianon

A few steps away from the leisure residence of the King, you can find the so-called Petit Trianon, a place that was used for several generations as an alternative residence and recreation of the queen until it came into the hands of Marie Antoinette.

10. The Domains of Marie Antoinette

Mill of Marie Antoinette's village| ©Ahiyajorge
Mill of Marie Antoinette's village| ©Ahiyajorge

Marie Antoinette is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic monarchs to have ever set foot in the Palace of Versailles and, today, you can visit one of the buildings she had designed during her period. The Domains of Marie Antoinette not only includes the last residential period of the Petit Trianon, but also a picturesque village nearby.

Marie Antoinette's idea was to recreate in a somewhat idealized way the scenery of a rural environment in which she could feel "closer" to the people. Today, there is a little train that can take you to this area of the Palace of Versailles so you don't waste too much time on the journey.

Marie Antoinette's animals

Inside this invention of the Queen, you can visit the mill that she ordered to be built, the lake that surrounds it, the orchards and even the cowsheds, where it is said that Marie Antoinette herself milked her cows.

Today, the facilities are still preserved and it is certainly an alternative place to the rest of the Palace where you can be more in touch with nature, as Marie Antoinette intended.

If you travel with children to Versailles, this will certainly be their favorite stop as the space is still preserved as a farm and you can see animals living inside, as well as ducks, swans and geese in the centenary lake.

Where to eat and rest at the Palace of Versailles

Entrance to Angelina Restaurant| ©michen34
Entrance to Angelina Restaurant| ©michen34

Visiting the Palace of Versailles is an activity that will surely take you all day so it will be necessary to take a break for lunch and recharge your batteries. You should know that you are not allowed to bring food inside the palace, however, there are several places in Versailles where you can have a bite to eat and sit down.

These places are:

  • Restaurant Angelina
  • Grand Café d'Orléan
  • ORE Restaurant

Likewise, you can also find stalls and kiosks along the Gardens to eat something while walking around the Palace and enjoy the spectacular surroundings. In addition, you will also see that at the entrance and exit of the enclosure there are stores of the Palace of Versailles where you can take a souvenir.

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most historic places in France and it is worth spending a whole day to visit it and visit all its rooms and areas both inside and outside the Palace.

You can take advantage of the activities or temporary exhibitions depending on the time of year in which you go but, without a doubt, you can not miss the 10 essential that we have just reviewed and with which you can return home having felt in the flesh the distinction and luxury of the monarchy that decided centuries ago the future of the continent.

Book an excursion to Versailles from Paris