The Palace of Versailles
Versailles is renowned as one of the most luxurious palaces of all time, however is even more famous for its turbulent political history. This was one of the places that was on the top of my Paris visit list. I had studied the French Revolution in school and was really keen to visit the place that was so pivotal in the history of the country. I also wanted to visit the Bastille prison for the same reason – alas I soon realised that it had been razed to the ground ages ago (should have done my homework before dragging B to the Place de la Bastille.).
Getting to Versailles:
Versailles was deliberately constructed away from the city of Paris by Louis XIV. It is located about 20 km to the south-west of Paris, and for this reason, getting to Versailles takes some planning. Unfortunately for us, the day we wished to visit coincided with a train strike. We ended up catching an Uber from our inner city location to the train station that would allow us to catch the regional train to Versailles. Once we were on this train, it was all smooth sailing.
The train arrived at the Versailles train station and honestly it was just a case of following the throng of people to get to the palace gates. The streets of Versailles are wide and well manicured. It’s like being at a country retreat. There are a few souvenir shops along the way near the train station as well as a McDonald’s and local restaurants.
Once you arrive at the golden gates you can see the whole of the stunning palace laid out in front of you. It’s a lot more grander than you can imagine with a very large courtyard taking up the palace foreground. We of course chose to commemorate our visit by taking the requisite photo in front of the gates!
To get into the palace and the gardens there is an entrance fee. You can buy tickets to see the palace on its own or purchase a ticket to see both the palace and garden. We decided to just purchase a palace ticket. The line to purchase these tickets was actually really long. So if you can purchase them on line ahead of time that would be the ideal thing to do.
The palace is actually set up as a museum which goes through the bloody history of the French Revolution and explains how the ownership of the palace was handed over to the state during all the years of conflict.
Once you pass through the museum section of the palace you get to the good bits like the royal bedchamber – who would have thought one needed so much opulence to sleep in?
The palace contains a host of sitting rooms and state rooms, in fact Louis XIV designed separate coffee and tea parlours to allow him and his courtiers to partake in refreshments!
The piece de la resistance though is the Hall of Mirrors. This is room is opulence personified. It doesn’t make sense why one would need such a hall or for what purpose it was used however it definitely does astonish the lowly visitor.
Once we we were up on higher levels of the palace it was possible to see the manicured gardens surrounding the building. The gardens looked absolutely spectacular. It made me wish that we had booked the garden tickets as well, however from memory they were actually quite expensive.
There actually isn’t much to eat at the Palace, there is one museum cafe which serves mediocre food. So you are better off bringing snacks and eating before or after your trip. However, there are quite a few restaurants around the town of Versailles but we chose to head back to Paris to eat dinner instead.
A visit to Versailles is definitely worth the trip out of Paris. The palace is incredibly extravagant and well maintained whilst the town itself is quite beautiful in its countryside tranquility. To do the palace justice, allow yourselves at least 3/4 of a day and longer if you want to explore the palace gardens. Despite all of the history that pervades in Europe, Versailles provides a unique experience; it manages to educate and astonish the visitor at the same time.