Visiting the Palace of Versailles is a fantastic way to whisk yourself back to the time of Louis XIV, to a time where Kings and Queens controlled France and the Aristocracy ruled. Marvel at the intricacy of design and the absolute beauty of the grounds.
The town of Versailles is 12 miles south west of the city of Paris, so, how do you get there? It’s quite simple really, you need to take the RER train which you can find through the city centre metro lines, it’s a mostly overground regional train that will take you out of the city. Take the yellow line C towards Versailles Rive Gauche (or RG), this train leaves from St Michel Notre-Dame, Musee D’Orsay, Invalides, Pont de L’Alma and Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel. There are other stations but there are the most central. It takes around 40 minutes to get to the Versailles RG stop, this should be the end of the line. Once out of the station cross the road and head towards Starbucks, you should find a tree lined path with the Palace at the very end. Your return train ticket will cost in the region of €7, and just in case you leave at the same time everyone else does, buying one return ticket will save you a lot of queueing.
Speaking of queueing it would be best to arrive early, but things don’t always go to plan. We arrived after lunch at around half 12 and joined a huge queue which looped back on itself twice. This was the queue for ticket holders, as it tuns out there really wasn’t that much need to buy tickets ahead of time. However, we moved along fairly fast and were through the doors in 40 minutes. We went on a Tuesday which, along with weekends, is a day of the musical fountain shows, so it was apparently busier than normal.
On entry you’re guided first towards the museum, showing you the history behind the 17th Century Palace. This allows you to add the context needed to truly appreciate the whole area. For me, the paintings of the gardens showing people enjoying them in typical 17th Century royal dress were great to see, it really showed how old it is. You’re then guided through to see the ballrooms and bedrooms as they once were, admire marble sculptures, chandeliers and original fabric wallpaper. You’ll walk the famous hall of mirrors, 73 meters long and consisting of 357 mirrors, with an intricately decorated ceiling and fantastic view to the gardens.
When you finally find yourself in the outside world again you’ve got a lot of garden to cover, specifically 800 hectares! If you really want to try and cover it all you can hire bicycles or even a little golf cart to help you get around. As I mentioned, we attended on a Tuesday to see the musical fountain show, the one we managed to see at the Mirror Fountain was magnificent. The water jumps and dances in time to the orchestral music creating a really unique and magical experience. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find much specific information about when the fountains would be in use but I suspect we were a little late to the party again; sadly we saw a lot of switched off fountains.
Although there is so much to see in Paris, especially if it’s your first time, a trip to Versailles is definitely worthwhile. Treat yourself to the fresh air away from the city and explore some history