To enter the Palace of Versailles is to enter another world. All those period films we have seen about Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, or Louis XVI are condensed in the richness of its rooms and the beauty of its gardens.
There are several types of tickets to visit the Palace and its gardens, some include guided tour or transport from Paris... here's a summary of all the options so you can easily choose whatever fits your trip best:
The palace and gardens (let's not forget how majestic those gardens are!) of Versailles are located about 50 long minutes from Paris, but it is such a visited point of interest, that it is very well connected.
With this tour to Versailles with entrance to the Palace and gardens, a local guide will pick you up in the center of Paris, take you by train (RER) to the palace, show you the entire gardens, tell you all the stories of this historic enclave and then leave you the option to see the palace at your leisure. In addition, you will be able to return on the train of your choice, leaving you free time to discover Versailles at your own pace after the guided tour.
Please note that the price of transportation is not included in this tour, but you will get to Versailles quickly and comfortably by train.
Why I like this tour: this is the most economical way to visit the Palace of Versailles and its gardens with a specialized English-speaking guide.
Recommended if... you want to save on your visit and don't mind traveling by public transportation.
With this guided tour of Versailles, you will join the group from one of the three pick-up points in the city of Paris and arrive directly at Versailles, where you can skip the lines at the Palace thanks to the tickets included in this option. Once inside, you will walk through the rooms with your guide, who will tell you the anecdotes and best-kept secrets of the Palace and its construction.
You will also take a tour of the gardens. Why do I give so much importance to the gardens? Because the first time I went I spent hours touring them and the second time I was there I realized that I had seen only half of them. The gardens are impressive, their fountains, their statues, their flowers, their colors... are a real marvel.
Lunch is not included, but you will have time to eat or even buy some food there (you can also bring your own food from Paris in a backpack).
In the afternoon, you will head back to Paris from Versailles.
Why I like this option: with this tour, you will be able to visit Versailles and its gardens without worrying about anything, with a specialized guide.
Recommended if... you prefer to join an organized group from the beginning and be picked up in Paris by bus to and from Versailles.
Visiting Versailles with the Paris Pass
If you are going to get the Paris Pass during your visit to the French capital, entry to Versailles will be free as part of the Paris Museum Pass which is included in this pack. Just note that the return trip to Versailles is not included because, although this tourist card includes the metro, Versailles is outside the Paris downtown area.
If you want to know more about this tourist card you can read this guide I have written about Paris Pass in which I also talk about other similar cards with which you will get free entrance to the most important tourist attractions and museums in Paris.
Ana's Traveller Tip
The first Sunday of the month the entrance to Versailles is free, but don't even think about it in high season because the massive influx of tourists can make you not enjoy your visit.
How to get to Versailles from Paris
The Palace of Versailles owes its name to the commune in which it is located; located just outside of Paris (south) about 45 minutes by car. The palace complex and gardens are obviously the main attraction of Versailles so getting to them by any means of transport is easy and well signposted.
Going to Versailles by private transport
Organized excursions to Versailles or guided tours of the Palace and gardens usually include transportation from the center of Paris. Normally the transfer is by private bus leaving from a central point in the city, but you can also find more exclusive options that take you by car or in an air-conditioned van.
Going to Versailles by train
This is the easiest option. In Paris the metro and RER trains are perfectly integrated and from anywhere in the city you can access the RER C which is the line that takes you to Versailles with a stop at the palace. However, keep in mind that this line forks at the end of the line so before getting on the train check on the screens that the final stop is Versailles-Rive Gauche and not Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.
Going to Versailles by bus
There is a bus, 'Versailles Express' that leaves from the Eiffel Tower from Tuesday to Sunday and takes you directly to the Palace. The fare is 30 dollars and the frequency of passage is only once or twice a day depending on the season; for these reasons, people often choose city line 171 instead which will drop you near the Versailles complex for a much lower price.
What to see in Versailles
The interior of the Palace
The Palace of Versailles is the main attraction of the complex. The tour is perfectly delimited, so, once you enter through the main entrance (the Gate of Honor), it will be easy to walk through the entire palace without leaving anything behind. The first thing that will impress you is the luxury and ostentation that breathes each of the corners of this palace, but what is really interesting is to know the stories behind each room.
If you have not booked a guided tour, do not hesitate to make use of the audioguide you are entitled to with your ticket; it will tell you incredible stories of the characters who lived within these walls as Louis XVI or Marie Antoinette. I assure you that the eccentricities of what was the most powerful monarchy in Europe will leave you as impressed as the beauty of the palace and its decoration.
A classic French-style layout, vegetation cared for to the millimeter, fountains, and statues as decorative elements, and an area of 800 hectares; these are the gardens of Versailles. Many people do not know that the gardens of Versailles are actually free (except on occasions when a show is held) and you do not need to buy the entrance to the palace to access them.
If you are going to access the palace, I recommend that you see the gardens afterward because then you can use the audio guide; the stories of the fountains that adorn the gardens will delight you if you are a fan of greek mythology. Like the palace, the gardens of Versailles not only revel in aesthetic beauty but are the symbol of an era and the pinnacle of a political regime that was among the most powerful in Europe.
The Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon
With the full ticket (which is the one I recommend you buy as it only has a difference of about two or three dollars compared to the one that only serves for the Palace and gardens) you will have access to these two separate palaces called Trianons. The style of both these palaces and the surrounding gardens is different from the Palace and the main gardens, so if you are thinking that visiting them is "more of the same" you are mistaken.
The Grand Trianon is a baroque palace built by Louis XIV as a place of recreation and later occupied by many French monarchs and Napoleon. The decoration of this palace is of exquisite taste, but, between the two Trianons, my favorite is the Petit Trianon.
The Petit Trianon was a gift from Louis XV to one of his mistresses, but later Marie Antoinette used it for her private use. The palace inside looks like a dollhouse, but what is most charming are its surroundings known as The Queen's Village. With no other purpose than to serve as a decorative element for her amusement, Marie Antoinette built this miniature rural village with a mill, a farm, a lake, and cottages with small vegetable gardens.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Set aside plenty of time to visit the gardens. Most people concentrate on the main area in front of the palace, but if you explore a little further, you will discover unique and surprising corners.
Plan your visit to Versailles
When to go
Regardless of when you go to Versailles, there will be crowds. The Palace is one of the most important tourist spots near Paris and is visited by eight million tourists every year. However, it is so large that it will not give you the feeling of being crowded, especially if you leave the interior of the palace for the afternoon or if you go into the more hidden areas of the gardens.
At the Palace of Versailles on Tuesdays there is a musical show in the gardens and on weekends they light up the fountains; even if there are more crowds, it is worth visiting the complex during a weekend because the lighted fountains give much more life to the gardens. As for the time of year, it is best to plan your visit to Versailles for a sunny day to enjoy the long walk around the Palace.
Duration of the visit
On the day of your visit to Versailles, get your ticket online in advance to save time, otherwise expect a minimum of two hours of queuing in high season. Touring the interior of the palace will take you about two hours long, especially if you use the audio guide, which I recommend.
After that, visiting the gardens and the Trianons can take as long as you want, but seeing it all will take no less than three hours. In short, between the round trip, the visit to the interior of the palace, the gardens, and the Trianons, seeing the Versailles complex can take you perfectly a full day.
What to bring
The palace is not accessible with backpacks or large bags; you must leave them at the ticket office. Your bag must also pass the security checkpoint. If you go to Versailles in summer, include sunscreen in your luggage because you can get sunburned during your visit to the gardens and, of course, do not forget your camera.
In some rooms of the palace it is not allowed to take pictures or take them with flash, but the colors and vegetation you will find in the gardens deserve more than one shot. On the other hand, wear comfortable shoes because you will be walking a lot and don't forget to bring water during your visit to the gardens.
Where to eat
Throughout the Palace of Versailles complex, you will find different food stalls and also restaurants. Can you go out to eat in the surroundings and come back in? I do not recommend it, as you will lose unnecessary time since no restaurant in the vicinity stands out for its quality or prices above those you will find inside the palace.
What you can do and not everyone knows is picnic in certain areas of the gardens enabled for it, so do not hesitate if you visit Versailles on a day with pleasant temperatures.
Going to Versailles with children
Children get free admission to Versailles and both the palace and the gardens are perfectly equipped for family visits. Children will find more than one place to run and have fun outside the complex, but visiting the interior of the palace may tire them out a little more due to the length of the tour.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If you are hesitating about which day to go to Versailles, on Tuesdays there is a musical show in the gardens and on weekends they light up the fountains.
If you're interested in the Palace of Versailles, you'll also like...
There is nothing in Paris comparable to the Palace of Versailles. In fact, in all of Europe the closest thing is Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna. Versailles is unique, but if you want to learn more about the absolutist monarchy and about the history of the French Revolution (which is what you will learn most about on this visit) I recommend taking one of the walking tours through the center of Paris.
It is where they will tell you more stories about the past of the city and you have a great variety of options that you can consult in this article I wrote about Paris Tours.
If you feel like discovering one of the many symbols of the city, I can recommend (of course) the Eiffel Tower, the Garnier Opera, or the Louvre. I leave you linked here my articles on the subject in case you are interested in exploring some of the options: Eiffel Tower Tickets, Opera Garnier Tours and Louvre Museum Tickets and Tours.
Frequently asked questions
Is food allowed in Versailles?
You can bring food and drinks to the exterior grounds of the palace, but no food is allowed inside.
Are bags allowed in Versailles?
Suitcases and large bags are not allowed inside the palace. You can take small bags inside but you must leave them at the palace's office after going through a security check. Taking pictures without flash is allowed.
What is the best time to see the fountain shows at Versailles?
Usually the best time to watch the fountain show is during the afternoon session, where you will see a larger display of fountains at the same time.