It hurt a bit, getting up at 7 on a Saturday morning. But we got over it and left Leuven around 8. We decided to go by car, as I had calculated that this would be quicker, less hassle and cheaper than going by train.
Where were we heading? The palace and park of Versailles!
Visiting the Palace and Park of Versailles
When I told people I’d be going to the palace and gardens of Versailles in France for a day, they thought I was underestimating the trip. “That far, in only a day?”, they would say. But Versailles is only 350 kilometers from Leuven. That’s about 3,5 hours in the car, unless there’s a lot of traffic, of course…
Our drive went smoothly until we reached the “périférique”’. This highway around Paris is famous for its traffic jams and it did its reputation justice this Saturday as well. We lost more than half an hour there and arrived at Versailles at 11.50 a.m.
We’d entered the Palace’s address in the GPS and found it without a problem. There weren’t any parking spots available on the road to the palace and parking in Versailles on the street wasn’t free, so we decided to just park our car at the paid Versailles parking lot right in front of the palace.
Starting with the Versailles park
When we got to the main square there was a huge line waiting to get into the palace. Although we had “skip the line” tickets, we decided to go to the Versailles palace gardens first.
We walked from the Latona Foutain through the Royal Walk until we reached the Fountain of Apollo’s Chariot. We noticed you could also enter the domain there, because when we walked a bit further, to the Grand Canal, we saw locals relaxing on the grass, going for their run or having a pick nick, just like they would in any other public park.
The Grand and Petit Trianon
We turned right and headed to the Grand Trianon. I was surprised that we could take pictures inside:
When we came out again we were a bit hungry, but we didn’t go to one of the takeaway food stands or the restaurant (although the prices there looked reasonable – we had a look). Instead, we came prepared with a pick-nick. Well, we’d prepared some sandwiches anyway. We had lunch overlooking a side arm of the Grand Canal before walking towards the Petit Trianon.
After that came our favorite part of our visit: walking through Marie-Antoinette’s Estate towards the Queen’s Hamlet. Marie-Antoinette’s Estate is completely different from the rest of the Versailles domain. It has a much wilder look and feel. There are small paths to explore and plants seem to be growing much more freely.
While in the Hamlet we came upon a guided tour and just heard how the guide told his group that Marie Antoinette used to come to the Hamlet to drink coffee, play with the cards and smoke opium. That last activity might even have caused her her life, or so he said.
The Palace of Versailles
After we’d visited the parks and gardens it was finally time to go to the main palace. We skipped the line that was still pretty long (but seemed to move forward nonetheless) and started the tour.
I have to say the palace was my least favorite part of the visit. After all the stories I’d heard and read I thought the Palace of Versailles would be amazing, overwhelming, shiny and decadent, but I have to admit, it left me a bit in the cold. I’d been to Windsor Castle not long before and I must say I found Windsor to be more luxurious and ‘filled’ with art, furniture, and other interesting objects.
Of course, the fact that you could barely see anything at Versailles because of the hordes of groups pushing you around didn’t help.
The day’s conclusion
We had a great day at the Versailles palace and gardens and think it’s definitely worth a visit. Just don’t go for the Palace alone. Visit everything. The parks and gardens are great to walk around in and so much less crowded than the actual palace.
When we left again around 5.30 pm we had to pay €12,4 for the parking at Versailles (this was in 2013). We’d feared that we’d get stuck in traffic again on our way home and although it was busy on the périférique, the traffic jam was still on the other side. It took us a little more than three hours to get back home to Leuven.
We had done Versailles in a day.
Of course, there are also other ways of doing this. You could spend a weekend there or combine Versailles with another smaller city like Amiens.
And yes, you can also combine Versailles with Paris. You could easily spend a few days in the City of Light and drive on to Versailles (30 minutes by car from the center of the city) or vice versa.
How to get to the palace of Versailles?
The easiest way (unless you’re coming from Paris) is to drive and use the Versailles palace parking which is right in front of the entrance.
The exact address is: Palace of Versailles, Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
There are also three train stations in Versailles, which are a good option to travel to when you’re coming from Paris:
- Versailles Château Rive-Gauche: 12-minute walk from the palace. RER line C arrives here.
- Versailles Chantiers: 20-minute walk. SNCF trains from Gare Montparnasse arrive here.
- Versailles Rive Droite: 20-minute walk. SNCF trains from Gare Saint Lazare arrive here.
If you come from Paris, make sure to purchase a ticket to the Versailles train station or use a pass (Navigo, Mobilis or Paris Visite) covering zones 1 to 4. T+ tickets cannot be used to get to Versailles.
By shuttle or bus
There’s a Versailles Express that runs between the Eiffel Tower in Paris and VersaileVersailles as a bus line that goes to the palace. Check here for more information.
How much does Versailles cost?
There are a lot of different tickets, depending on which part of the grounds you want to visit. To find out which ticket you need, check out the ticket section on the Palace of Versailles website.
Versailles opening days and times
Opening days and hours for Versailles are a bit complicated, because they’re different for the palace, the gardens of the palace of Versailles, the wider park and the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate.
For up-to-date opening times, it’s best to check the website.
Getting around at Versailles
While you can easily do everything by foot like we did, you can also rent a bike like Audrey from That Backpacker did, a segway or a golf car or take the little train that rides through the domain.
Versailles tours and deals
There are many different ways to visit Versailles: on a tour from Paris, with a guide or an audioguide, on bike or segway, or simply by purchasing skip-the-line tickets so you don’t have to wait in the oftentimes enormously long queue.
These are the most recommended options:
Pin for later
It was 2013 when Boyfriend and I visited the palace of Versailles. I had a crappy point-and-shoot camera back then so I decided to replace some of my own ugly images with stock photography to give you a better idea of what the place looks like. I’ve also updated the information since I first wrote the article.
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