The palace and gardens of Versailles are located near Paris. Both the building and its surroundings are so impressive that today it is a must-see (it has approximately 15 million visitors a year) and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
In this post I give you the tips you need to follow to avoid mishaps and enjoy your trip to the fullest.
1. If you are coming from Paris, hire an organized tour.
If your visit to Versailles is a getaway from Paris, you have the possibility to book an organized tour.
This is a very convenient option, because it allows you to save time in organizing transportation and deciding what to see, while having the help of a specialized guide. With him you will not miss anything: history, anecdotes... you will leave Versailles with a complete idea of the place.
There are several options to choose from: I will tell you the most important things about each of them so that you can decide which one best suits your trip.
Public transportation tour from Paris
The site of Versailles is close to the capital, the trip takes less than an hour and relies on the public transport network to get there. You can take the train (RER) accompanied by a guide who meets tourists in the center of Paris and once in Versailles tells you all the history of the place along the way.
One thing I like about this option is that it is very comfortable (you don't have to check schedules or be aware of the stops) but you also have time to live your own experience: when you arrive at the palace, the guide lets you explore on your own and enjoy this environment as you want.
After telling you the ins and outs of the history, you can finish the tour on your own and stay there as long as you like. Now you know which train to take on your return trip.
- Duration: Approximately 4 hours.
- Price: from 55€.
- Transportation: Train.
- Food included: No. You can eat on the premises or bring your own food.
Private tour from Paris
If you prefer to travel by private vehicle, you can choose a more complete guided tour. This second option has a bus that picks up travelers in Paris and takes them directly to the Palace of Versailles, where the guide tells you the history not only of the palace but also of the gardens.
The price includes admission, transportation and the guide's activity during the whole day. If you don't have time to prepare the visit on your own, this is a very comfortable and complete option.
- Duration: Approximately 7 hours.
- Price: from 75€.
- Transportation: Private bus
- Lunch included: No. You can choose where you want to eat in Versailles or bring your own food and have a picnic in the picnic areas.
2. Take advantage of the Paris Pass
A third option to travel to Versailles from Paris is to take advantage of the entrance to the palace included in your Paris Pass. In this case you will not have to pay the entrance fee, but you will have to pay for the round trip and lunch.
If you decide for this third option, I recommend you to download the app of the Palace of Versailles, so you can arrive with the necessary information to enjoy your visit (I tell you all about this app in tip number 7. Keep reading!).
3. If you go on your own, book your ticket in advance
The Palace of Versailles is a very popular tourist attraction. I advise you to buy your ticket to the Palace in advance. You can buy them in advance or at the ticket office, although if you plan to do the latter, keep in mind that you can find a very long queue. I recommend that you do not spend your day in Versailles and buy your ticket in advance.
The first Sundays of each month in high season (May to September) the entrance to the Palace is free, but even so, booking your ticket in advance is a must.
My advice is that, if you can fit the dates, choose another day to visit the Palace. On these free admission Sundays there are a lot of tourists and it is difficult to enjoy everything there is to see at the Palace of Versailles, such as a leisurely stroll in the Hall of Mirrors or the museum's painting and sculpture collections.
The Palace of Versailles is open every day except Mondays. The gardens and park are open daily, and can be visited free of charge. Being so large, this is a free visit that you can take advantage of and enjoy without any problems.
4. Decide before your trip the duration of your visit
I recommend that you dedicate at least 4 hours for your visit to the Palace of Versailles and the gardens. Keep in mind that the Palace of Versailles is neither a single museum nor just a stroll. It is one of the largest cultural World Heritage sites. If you want to spend 6 or 7 hours there, you won't get bored.
On your visit you can enjoy more than a hundred rooms, the painting and sculpture collections of the Museum of the History of France, the Hall of Mirrors, the royal chapel, the Gallery of Battles... and get lost in the 30 hectares of gardens. What I mean is that there is a lot to see.
For example, I advise you not to miss the stables. In addition to the carriages you can see the baby carriages of Marie Antoinette's children, or their sleighs. It is a part of the Versailles site that may go unnoticed next to the grandeur offered by other rooms of the Palace, but it is very interesting.
- Hours: The palace is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. The gardens have a slightly longer opening hours, from 8:00 to 18:00.
5. Wear the most comfortable shoes you have
It is inevitable to associate Versailles with period movies, but to visit its 787 hectares it is better to wear comfortable shoes, don't you think?
The duration of the visit to the Palace is 1 hour and a half (although I recommend that you give it the time it deserves and stop to enjoy it at your own pace), to which must be added the walk through the park and gardens and the return trip to Paris.
In short, the visit to Versailles takes all day, and although in the following tips I tell you some tips so you can rest or take it easy (like renting an electric car to visit the gardens or stop for a picnic in the park), do not let uncomfortable shoes prevent you from enjoying this unique environment.
6. Plan your meal during your visit to Versailles
Is it possible to eat inside the grounds of the Palace of Versailles? Of course it is! And you have several options that are sure to suit your expectations. The price reflects the situation of these places (it is a bit more expensive than what you will find outside), but you can eat something simple at a reasonable price and without leaving the enclosure.
But when to eat during your visit to Versailles? You can organize yourself according to the entrance to the Palace, which has a set entrance time and duration. A good option is to visit the gardens in the morning, sit down for lunch on a terrace or in one of the picnic areas and then visit the Palace.
Here are some of the places you will find in the grounds to eat, although you can also bring food from outside and eat at your leisure.
A simple option: La Brasserie de la Girandole
In the gardens is the famous Brasserie de la Girandole, with two terraces where you can eat, have breakfast or a snack.
They also offer take-away food, if you prefer to sit on your own or continue strolling while you kill your hunger. Would you like to take a look at the menu?
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 to 18:00h.
Have a picnic in a unique setting
You can also have a picnic on your own anywhere in the park (not in the gardens) except in the covered area. You can eat whatever you decide to bring on your own in the gardens or by the Canal. The best thing about this alternative is the view. A snack just doesn't taste the same in this setting.
Enjoy the cuisine of a chef in Versailles
Although if you have a little gourmet tastes or want to indulge yourself, you can enjoy in the Palace of Versailles the restaurant Ore, by chef Alain Ducasse.
It is a more expensive option than the two previous ones: for approximately 60€ you can eat in a 17th century pavilion.
This restaurant is open from Monday to Friday from 11:30 am to 3 pm and on weekends between 9 am and 5 pm.
7. Install the Palace of Versailles app
The app of the Palace of Versailles is free. You can download it on a tablet or on your phone, and thus have an audio guide of the palace and gardens, as well as an interactive map of the entire Versailles site.
The audio guide is available in 12 languages (it is also Spanish) and you can use it without an internet connection, so it is perfect for the trip to Versailles.
Once there, it can help you decide the itinerary: it has information about very curious things apart from the official visit, such as the trees of the Trianon and two audio tours for children (they have made an adaptation for the little ones of the visit to the gardens and the musical fountains).
It is a free and very useful resource for you to learn more about the history of the Palace of Versailles. A very well thought out luxury that can enhance your travel experience. I highly recommend it.
8. Hop on the Petit Train to tour the gardens
What's promised is promised: If despite the comfortable shoes you need to take a break from your visit to Versailles, here's one of those tips so you can rest and give yourself a break.
And the organization makes it very easy for you: to visit the gardens the Petit Trains are available. It is a little train that makes sightseeing tours.
train that makes sightseeing tours of the gardens, connecting the different buildings of the visit.
The Petit Train has stops at the Chateau, the Trianons, the Canal and the gardens. You can use them to go from one side to the other and see everything in the gardens of Versailles: or to sit for a while and enjoy the view while you rest for a while.
- Schedule: The Petit Trains run very frequently, every 15 to 20 minutes. You can get on and off at your leisure.
- Price: Approximately 8€. Includes an audio guide in 10 languages (yes, also in Spanish) from 5€.
- Route: The train goes from the North Terrace of the Palace to the Petit Trianon. It then goes to the Grand Trianon and continues to the Head of the Grand Canal.
- Suitable for children? Of course! See Versailles with children: it's a good idea.
9. Enjoy the show "Grandes Eaux Musicales"
In the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, every Saturday in summer (from the beginning of June to the end of September) between 8:30 pm and 11:05 pm there is an amazing show of music and light: Les Grandes Eaux or "Great Musical Waters".
Lights are projected on the fountains in the gardens and groves to illuminate this unique environment. There are choreographed water jets and light effects that are not to be missed. The night ends magically with a fireworks display. It is the perfect way to enjoy the beauty of the gardens.
I advise you to check the weather forecast before booking your ticket because tickets cost approximately 30€ and are not exchangeable or refundable (even if it is pouring rain that night). However, it is free for children under 5 years and there is a reduced rate for children under 17 years or students.
-Hours: Saturday nights from early June to late September, between 20:30 and 23:05.
- Price: The price varies according to the show, but there are tickets from approximately 25€.
- Is it suitable for children? Yes, in fact it is an activity especially recommended for children.
10. Choose the perfect time for your visit
Visit Versailles in summer to fully enjoy the gardens and the Canal environment. The high season in the Paris area is from May to September. Temperatures are pleasant (between 18 and 21 degrees) and mild, so it is perfect for strolling and enjoying the scenery here.
Also, this is the only time of the year when you can enjoy the open-air shows in the gardens, like the ones I told you about in the previous tip.
If you go in winter, the average temperature is 6 degrees. Northern France is a cold area, and many of the places to buy something to eat on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles are closed.
This does not mean that the visit is not worthwhile, not at all! The interior of the Palace of Versailles has an enormous cultural richness, so you can exhaust the day touring these rooms. Only the visit to the gardens will probably be shorter, but it is a different perspective on this unique place.
I hope you enjoy your visit to such an amazing place as the Palace of Versailles with these tips. Have a nice trip!