I traveled to the Palace of Versailles before embarking on a Viking River Cruise during a short trip to Paris, France. The drive from Paris was around three hours by bus, and being with the cruise line, we were given priority access to the incredibly long lines that were nearly a two-hour wait for those arriving without tickets.
The Palace of Versailles is a former château of French Kings and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the most recognized and revered palaces in the world. I couldn’t wait to peek inside and see if it lived up to its hype.
The Magnificent Palace
This incredible French wonder started as a modest hunting lodge, but over the years, was improved and increased in size by each of its resident Kings. The most famous resident of the Palace of Versailles was Louis XIV, who loved everything in excess, and took the residence to its greatest grandeur.
Among the best rooms are the Hercules Drawing Room, with painted ceiling frescoes that are marvelous, and of course, the famed Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors, duplicated at several places I’ve traveled in the past, is a long corridor of glitzy chandeliers and glass—357 mirrors to be exact. It is really beautiful, but very dusty, and not from being old and mirrored, but from what appears to be little upkeep and many, many daily guests. The Hall of Mirrors was here where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, ending World War I.
I expected the extravagant home of French Royalty to be grand, but not quite as flashy and gaudy as the Palace of Versailles truly was. Everywhere you look inside the Chateau de Versailles is gilded gold and crystal shining and dancing in the sunlight that beams through the interesting collection of windows. It is a sight to be hold, but to be honest, I was not blown away.
If you’ve toured the palaces in St. Petersburg or Istanbul, the Palace of Versailles can’t hold a candle to how amazing they are, but it is still a special place that I am glad I made the effort to go see.
The Sprawling Gardens
Outside of the Palace of Versailles are carefully manicured Grande Perspective and well planned gardens. They were picturesque and made a nice place to stroll around, admiring the scenery and fresh air. If you get a chance to see them from the windows of the Palace, do take pictures as that is a great spot for them.
My favorite part was the long lines of gorgeous marble statues against the perfectly coiffed green hedges. There are 221 to be exact, which give the Palace gardens the claim to the biggest open-air sculpture-museum worldwide.
From April to October, you will be treated to a fantastic musical gardens and musical fountain shows, for a nominal fee.
Fun Fact: Our National Mall was designed with the grounds in mind.
Other Things to Do at the Palace
The Chamber of Marie Antoinette ended up being my favorite part of the Palace of Versailles.
After you have toured the house, the King’s Medal Cabinet, Angelina Shops, and The Gardens Shop are all on the grounds to further your visit. I found the Gardens Shop to be well-appointed and had some great souvenirs. And there is no way you can pass up the drool-worthy chocolates and sweet treats from Angelina at the Petit Trianon food stand. This tea room is one you can’t pass up. I tried the hot chocolate and two pieces of chocolates, which set me back much more than I had anticipated, but was worth every bite and sip.
If chocolate is not tempting you, perhaps a bag of chips and a cold soda would do, available at a shop outside. Here, you can do some people watching as you sit for a spell on the pristine property. Another option would be to enjoy a find-dining splurge at the high-end Restaurant Angelina.
If you are touring of the evening, the night fountain show in gardens of Louis XIV is a must, as is The Orangery, a genius architectural creation of fruit and exotic trees from neighboring countries.
Things to Keep in Mind
Every visitor, even though who get in free (kids and students under 18 or 26 if you reside in the EU) must have a valid time slot entry. Downtown the app for a free audioguide to help you understand what you are seeing.
“From July 21, in order to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, and in application of governmental instructions, the presentation of a health pass or a negative PCR or antigen test from less than 48 hours will be mandatory to access the palaces and museums of the Estate of Versailles for all persons from 18 years old.”
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