Last week, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel overseas AND kid-less, I might add. (Thanks to grandma!) I couldn’t just travel and not tell you about our adventures, so today I’m letting you in on one of my favorite day trips we took while we were in France. Now don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a history buff, but every time I get the chance to travel I make a point to learn about the area and its history, and so here is a little background on this grand palace.
After sightseeing for a few days in Paris, we took a day trip to Versailles. Versailles is a small city in north-central France, located about 45 minutes Southwest of Paris. The most prominent attraction for any visitor to Versailles is certainly the tour of the grand Chateau de Versailles and the vast garden grounds which surround it. The chateau was built by Louis XIII in 1623 as a hunting lodge and the location was probably chosen because it was both remote yet reasonable to get to from Paris via horse and carriage. After his death, in the year 1661, King Louis XIV took a liking to the area and decided to transform the lodge into a royal palace for himself. The palace saw many changes over the centuries and in the eighteenth century was in desperate need of repair. King Louis-Philippe inherited the chateau during his reign and began restorations to it during the 1820’s and 30’s. Today, the chateau is seen as Louis-Philippe had expanded and repaired it almost 200 years ago. The chateau is still being used today by the French government for ceremonies and some political functions.
We quickly learned that the chateau holds tours for roughly between 8,000 and 14,000 tourists a day. A DAY! It is also estimated that between 8 and 10 million people visit the gardens and walk the grounds each year; needless to say, it was a busy place. Although we arrived early that morning, we were greeted with an entrance line similar to one you would expect when trying to get on the most popular ride at Disneyland. The line of people snaked around the courtyard so many times, my hubby was convinced we had entered into some sort of “infinite loop” with no end in site! Buses and trains full of people continued to flock to the chateau and join us in the dreadful line. Once inside the chateau, we were given an audio guide and cramped into a room full of people like a can of sardines. I know that sounds miserable, and to be honest, the first few rooms on the tour were quite miserable, but thankfully the large crowds didn’t last long.
Once we got past the initial corridor the crowd began to thin out, which allowed us to tour the rest of the chateau at our leisure and we were able to see the beauty of the chateau, as well as it’s ornate designs and intricate architecture. The Hall of Mirrors is the most famous room in the chateau, and my personal favorite. As is fitting for its name, the walls of the room are covered with seventeen huge arched mirrors (each arched mirror made up of twenty-one mirrors) that reflect the seventeen windows which overlook the gardens below. The 357 mirrors in this hall are quite impressive, but for me, it was the chandeliers that really caught my eye.
Once our tour of the chateau was complete we headed outside into the lush gardens. The chateau garden area covers some 2000 acres, features 50 fountains, over 200,000 trees, and over 200,000 flowers which are planted in the garden each year. Walking through the garden was a true delight, the grounds were so vast you practically feel alone as you walk around. The gardens also offer Musical Fountain Shows on certain days throughout the summer months and we were fortunate enough to be there on one of those days, which was an added bonus. Needless to say, the garden experience at Versailles was the highlight of the day. A little tip I wish I would have known, is that you don’t have to wait in the crazy line I described to enter the gardens, meaning you can see the gardens and then enter the house from the rear and avoid the line all together. Note to self: do a little investigating before showing up to one of the main attractions in the country.
If you plan to visit Paris and would like to take a train for a day tour of the Chateau de Versailles, you have several options available to you, but here are a few of my quick tips:
– PLAN to go on a designated Musical Fountain Show day. Fountain show schedules are on posted on the chateau’s website. Currently, there are two showings during the day and one Fountain Night Show. If the night show is more of your preference, then you will need to plan on an early afternoon tour of the chateau first.
– SKIP the morning line. As I mentioned, you can tour the garden first as you do not need a ticket to walk through. You can view the Musical Fountain Show prior to touring the chateau in the cool of the morning, have a nice little lunch (or pack a lunch) in one of the garden cafes, and wait for the line to die down in the afternoon.
Hope you find this post informative and helpful for those of you planning on visiting this grand chateau. If I you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment.