We reserved the first half of our last day in France for a short trip to Château de Versailles. Seems fitting doesn’t it? Also, considering the itinerary my husband drew up for our Paris trip, it seemed better to venture out of the city on our last day.
I’ve always been fascinated by this place – even before the public’s whole Marie Antoinette obsession that followed the release of Sofia Coppola’s movie. Side note: Didn’t like the movie. It lacked character development. Great shots and soundtrack though. Also, Kirsten Dunst was perfect for the role.
There’s just something so intriguing about this palace. From its grandeur, the lavish lifestyle of its former inhabitants, and for it being the setting of their downfall as well. It actually makes you want to wish that the walls can talk.
To this day, the château remains to be a symbol of France’s absolute monarchy or what they call the ‘old regime’.
The easiest way is by taking the RER train (not the Metro) to the Versailles Rive Gauche station. From there, the palace is only a short walk. There will be maps all over the station.
It’s best to book your tickets online as lines outside the palace are horrendous. Especially if you’re visiting in the summer. We were lucky that it was starting to get cold during our visit so we didn’t end up sweating and burning under the sun while we waited to get inside, tickets in hand. We stood in line for about 15 minutes which isn’t so bad though. But of course, on warmer days, the wait will definitely be longer. A ticket that will take you through the palace and the gardens is at 15 Euros. This price also includes the audio guide. If you want to enter the Trianon estates, there will be extra fees.
Located about 20 kilometres from Paris, Versailles used to be a sleepy village but nowadays, its a bit of a posh suburb. Louis XIII had a hunting lodge built in this area but it was later on expanded and renovated by the Kings that followed him: Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI.
The château has indeed come a long way from its stone and brick hunting lodge days. It’s the epitome of grandeur – with art and gold leafing in almost every corner, painted ceilings, intricate sculptures, and lavish furniture. It can be overwhelming.
However, when it comes to grandeur, nothing comes close to the Hall of Mirrors. It’s just leaves you in awe. To be honest, the whole experience would have been better if there weren’t way too many tourists. We visited during the summer so it was no surprise that the château was packed.
Don’t forget to look up. 😉 A lot of people often forget that mirrors were actually one of the most expensive objects of the time and to have big ones in your home (or in this case, your palace), is a sign of extreme wealth. Thus, when Louis XIV expanded the palace and added this grand hallway, he got Venetian mirror makers to come to Paris and make it for him at a French establishment. (There was an order during that time that everything used in decorating the château should be a product of France)
A copy of Jacques-Louis David’s Coronation of Napoleon can be seen in the Versailles. The original is in the Louvre.
One of my favourite paintings depicting Marie Antoinette. This was made by her favoured portraitist – Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. This painting was commissioned at a time when the Queen was being criticised for her lavish lifestyle and the artist was specifically asked to paint a portrait that can counter her bad reputation.
Thus, she painted the Queen in a simple yet stately attire, surrounded by her children. This was supposed to counter her ‘spendy’ reputation and make her look more motherly. Sadly, it didn’t have much effect on the public.
Marie Antoinette’s bed. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Looks uncomfy, though.
“Let them eat cake!”
It was never proven that Marie Antoinette did say it. But if it’s true that she wasn’t really the source of this quote, do you think the revolutionaries wouldn’t have been as angry? Do you think she would have been spared? One of her ladies in waiting even attested after her death that she actually had “simple taste” when she was decorating the Petit Trianon. Still makes me wonder.
The Versailles’ souvenir shop actually has a great selection of souvenirs that you can bring home. How cute are these dresses for little girls?! However, I must admit that my personal favourite is the tea set. Even if it gives me morbid thoughts.
The grounds and gardens
The gardens are huge. I would pity any one who visits the Versailles in heels. Make sure you wear comfortable clothes during your visit as it is quite an estate.
Way too many people. I would normally advise people to visit Paris in the winter but if you plan to go to Versailles, it would be such a pity to go during the cold months as the perfectly manicured trees are a sight to see. If they’re all bare, it would look pretty sad.
Endure the crowds, you must.
It is definitely easy to get lost among the rows of perfectly manicured trees.
The Château de Versailles remains to be a must visit during a Paris trip. However, the château is in dire need of restoration – especially for some pieces of furniture and artwork inside. Renovation is being done bit by bit in some areas of the Palace, though. So after a while, it might get better.
Wear comfy shoes and clothes as I am not kidding when I tell you that the places is HUGE. The Petit Trianon and the other minor buildings in the estate are FAR from each other.
Transport within the estate:
There’s an electric vehicle (that’s made to resemble a train) that goes around the estate and acts as public transport. You have to pay 2 euros (if I remember correctly) per ride. It’s not the most comfortable ride and is painfully slow. I suggest you ride this train when you’re on your way out as you will have to go back through the palace’s main gates which is nearest to the train station.
There’s a Ladurée in the château and some cafés and restaurants near the minor estates. Prices are jacked up, of course. It’s a tourist area. I suggest you bring a picnic instead, especially if you’re with a date. The grounds are really romantic. Renting a boat on the man-made lake doesn’t seem like a bad idea if you have more time in your hands.
*Trip is not sponsored by any country’s tourism department, company, or brand. Although almost all of our expenses were shouldered by my side of the family who want to see me more often. Thanks, fam!????