- Address: Place d'Armes, Versailles
- Visited: 04/09/2016, Event, 4 people
- Cuisine: Dessert
- Rating: 5.0 5.0 Excellent, worth every $
4.5 Good, food & value
4.0 Good, but $$, would re-visit
3.5 Meh, good $, would re-visit
3.0 Meh, would not re-visit
2.0 Did not like $$ [$] <20; [$$] <40; [$$$] <80; [$$$$] >80
- Website: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/
During my second trip to Paris, my friend and I spent half a day in Versailles touring the palace. We had hoped to spend more time wandering the gardens and Marie Antoinette’s estate but had to get to Paris to meet friends in the afternoon. So when Stephen and I visited last year, I planned for us to spend a full day in Versailles.
We headed out bright and early after breakfast at the W Paris, which had amazing croissants. Getting to Versailles from downtown Paris was easy and direct via the subway and commuter train (RER) system. The train ride takes an hour and then it’s another 10 minutes to walk from the station to the actual golden gates. Keep in mind that the train also only arrives every 10 minutes, so if you just missed one, the hour commute can end up being closer to 90 minutes. Once we arrived at the station, Gare du Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche, we followed the crowd that being being directed down the street. Turned out they were being directed to line up outside a third party travel agency that sold admission tickets. After realizing this, we left walked around the queue towards the official office, closer to the palace. Stephen and I decided on the passport ticket, which gave us entry to all of the attractions.
With our early start and visiting during off-peak season, the line to enter the grounds was fairly short. We even got to snap a few photos in front of the gate all by ourselves. Looking at the map, we decided to head first through the gardens to The Estate of Trianon, wander back in time for the afternoon fountain shows and end the day with touring the palace. For the most part the plan worked, there was a lot of walking involved and we only got slightly drenched in rain.
The Estate of Trianon
To get to The Estate of Trianon, Stephen and I walked straight down the certain of The Gardens. The landscaping was immaculate, but it did feel a bit sparse. I loved exploring the estate, which was a far more intimate and close-up experience than The Palace. We wandered around the grounds, exploring the Queen’s Hamlet, Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon. There were only a few other tourists around and for the most part, we felt like we were on our own.
I found Marie Antoinette’s estate super charming and loved being able to take my time walking through it. The walk back however was really far. Even though it was really only 30 minutes (one way), it was 30 minutes after being on our feet for over 2 hours already. We contemplated renting bikes, or buying a ticket on the little train that runs between the two attractions, but decided to just power through. We spent about 2 hours at The Estate of Trianon.
At first glance the gardens while expansive, were a bit sparse. However, I think the perfectly manicured lawns and trees look that way all year round. Based on the fountain show schedule, there was a recommended 1 hour or 3 hour tour. We opted for the 1 hour with some optional stops. My favourite fountain and music shows were the ones inside groves. Hidden away, behind tall trees and around bends, were beautiful intricate fountains, each different from the other and pretty spectacular. I would highly recommend stopping by as many groves as possible. I enjoyed the shows there more than at the large water fountains. While we were outside, it began to rain, first a light drizzle that became a steady shower. We took refuge in one of these groves, but eventually called it a day and went inside.
By this point, my feet were also very tired. Golf carts were available for rental and Stephen and I eyed them longingly as they drove by. We spent about 2 hours in the gardens.
I have to admit, The Palace of Versailles was overwhelming. Partly due to the number of people and the tight hallways, but there’s just so much to see. From the wall size paintings, to the rich brocade walls to the ridiculously over the top ceilings, I wished I could sit in a corner in each room to take it all in. I’d highly recommend getting the complimentary audio guide that was entertaining and informative. One of my favourite paintings is The Coronation of Napoleon that takes up an entire wall of the coronation room. Listening to the audio guide, you learn about how the painting depicts Napoleon’s perspective of history, not necessarily the truth.
Each bedroom was more extravagant than than the previous with deep reds and lots of gold, so much gold. The rooms were a bit dark with the drapes closed to preserve the fabrics and paintings. I did feel like a sardine shuffling through the bedrooms, where much of the room was corded off, and tourists paused and crowded to listen to their guides.
The famous Hall of Mirrors was the definition of extravagant. Only photos can do the room justice. We spent about an hour touring the palace itself.
Last but not least, my favourite souvenir from Versailles is the limited edition box of macarons from Laduree Versailles. The brocade mint box is available only at this location of Laduree and prepacked with their more popular flavours. I also picked up a Laduree keychain, my one souvenir from Paris to take home. I staged this photo on a guest bench inside the palace, I wouldn’t recommend it as there’s a strict no food or drink policy inside. The security guard watched me like a hawk but didn’t say anything until I tried to eat one, at which point he quickly came over to remind us of the rules. Oops. My bad. The temptation was too much.
My favourite Parisian macarons are actually Pierre Hermes, which are light and airy versus Laduree’s more cookie like shell. Whenever I see either though, I need to pick up a box.