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Travel info for visiting Palace of Versailles in France (in 2022)

the jewel of Louis XIV

Address

Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France

GPS: 48.805551983641, 2.121611779708

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Visiting Palace of Versailles in France is an opportunity to visit the past. Until the French Revolution (1789), the Palace of Versailles was the permanent residence of the French kingdom. Located about 15 kilometres southwest of Paris and sublimated by Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, the château forms the central part of a huge royal estate with a park and flamboyant gardens.

Designed not only to showcase the grandeur of the French monarchy to the world but also to better control central power within its court, the Palace of Versailles is an architectural gem of luxury and magnificence. The existence of this château dates back to the time when King Louis XIII, father of Louis XIV, enjoyed hunting game in the surrounding woods. Having become his favourite hunting land, he decided to acquire a small pavilion and then the residence of Versailles in 1623. Louis XIII first had a hunting lodge built to satisfy his overflowing passion. In 1631, he called on the architect Philibert Le Roy to replace it with a small castle and use it as a peaceful retreat away from Paris.

When the king died, his descendant Louis XIV was only four years and a few months old. The original Palace of Versailles ceased to be a royal residence before the young Sun King returned there to enjoy hunting. Fallen under the spell of the place that he rediscovered, he undertook gigantic works in 1661 like a visionary architect. In 1682, Louis XIV moved his entire court and administration to the Palace of Versailles, from where he ruled the Kingdom of France, the largest nation in Europe. A place of splendour and prestigious ceremonies under the Ancien Régime, the royal estate embodies the absolute power exercised by Louis XIV. This symbol of national power was embellished by the successors of the Sun King, who died in 1715 after a 72-year reign (the longest in French history): Louis XV and Louis XVI, until the French Revolution put an end to the monarchy. Having narrowly escaped destruction, the Palace of Versailles was neglected and eventually restored. In the 19th century, Louis-Philippe I (the last monarch to reign in France from 1830 to 1848) transformed it into a museum in the hope of reconciling French people with their heritage. More than 300 years after the death of the Sun King, the palace and its outbuildings contain an exceptional heritage. As for the park, it is still fascinating because of its geometrical layout with bushes, flowerbeds, sculptures and fountains. Its surface area is a today tenth of its original size, but the park of the Palace of Versailles is still one of the largest royal parks in Europe.

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  • A castle-museum whose magnificence has never been equalled in the history of France ; a unique architectural style comprising a mixture of genres and a showcase of national know-how ; the historical facts and significant events that have marked this majestic château ; the decorations and gardens designed to dazzle every visitor
  • The luxuriant heritage of the Palace of Versailles and its numerous collections of furniture, works of art, tapestries, paintings, antiques, galleries, woodwork… ; the goldsmith’s, cabinetmaker’s, joiner’s and clockmaker’s pieces designed by the best craftsmen in the kingdom ; the impressive number of interior rooms (over 2,000)
  • The sparkling Hall of Mirrors with its 357 mirrors artificially enlarging the room (73 metres long, this gallery forms the main communication axis of the castle between its northern and southern parts) ; the royal stables and the Gallery of Coaches; the Marble Court paved with black and white marble
  • The guided tour of the Royal Apartments (the woodwork is a masterpiece of French art) ; the discovery of the two Trianons and the outbuildings (the Petit Trianon was a favourite place of Marie Antoinette and Madame de Pompadour)
  • The Royal Chapel (recently restored) and the Royal Opera of the Palace of Versailles (wooden auditorium with remarkable acoustics)
  • A free walk in the park and the sumptuous classical French-style gardens (they were laid out by André Le Nôtre, the appointed gardener of King Louis XIV, who dug up trees from the gardens of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte that he himself had planted and transferred to Versailles) ; sculptures and contemporary works by international artists ; the Versailles Orangery dating from the second half of the 17th century (it protects more than 1,500 shrubs, including many citrus trees)
  • The possibility of renting a boat on the 6-kilometre-long Grand Canal (except in winter)
  • The festivities and shows produced in high season in a dazzling setting ; the musical and nocturnal waters organised in the gardens from early April to late October
  • A historic monument easily accessible by train and RER (line C) from Paris
  • As an instrument of central power during the reign of Louis XIV, the Palace of Versailles was used to organise many historical events: the holding of royal weddings, the setting for the abolition of feudal privileges and the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789, the solemn setting for the reception of Heads of State, and the official site for the organisation of the G7 summit in 1982 (under the presidency of François Mitterrand). It was also in the Congress Hall of the Palace of Versailles that the Presidents of the Third Republic and the Fourth Republic were elected in France by the Parliamentarians.
  • Eclipsing all other palaces or castles in the world at the time in terms of its size, modernity, wealth and gardens, this extravagantly decorated place embodies the continuity of French history. In the 21st century, the Palace of Versailles remains a symbol of state power, an emblem of the nation, a diplomatic lever and an instrument of political representation.
  • The political event of the Day of the Dupes took place in the hunting lodge of the château of Versailles on 10th and 11th November 1630. This historical episode marked the forced exile of the mother of the King of France Louis XIII (Marie de’ Medici) who was in open conflict with Cardinal Richelieu, the monarch’s main minister. Opposed by many enemies within the court, Richelieu was nevertheless confirmed by Louis XIII, to the great displeasure of Marie de’ Medici, who tried to depose him by all means. Annoyed by her son’s decision, she was forced to take refuge abroad and never set foot in France again until her death in 1642. Richelieu was succeeded after his death by Cardinal Mazarin as the principal minister of state in the service of the kings of France (his death occurred in the same year as Marie de’ Medici’s death in 1642).
  • From an early age, Louis XIV (son of Louis XIII and grandson of Henry IV) was associated with the Greek mythological god of the sun, Apollo. The young monarch began the major construction of the Palace of Versailles in 1661, one year after his marriage to Maria Theresa of Spain (who was his cousin). The work lasted about fifty years and cost a fortune. During this permanent construction, Louis XIV and his successors called on several renowned architects, including Louis Le Vau, François II d’Orbay, Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Robert de Cotte, the Gabriel fathers and sons (Jacques Gabriel and Ange-Jacques Gabriel) and Frédéric Nepveu. It was the king’s advisor Colbert who was in charge of the stewardship of buildings under Louis XIV. He had to control the progress of the work and the expenses. According to the historian Mathieu Da Vinha (scientific director at the research centre of the Palace of Versailles), up to 36,000 workers were mobilised simultaneously on the site of the Palace of Versailles.
  • Historically, the French king’s court was based in Paris, in the Louvre Palace. According to Mathieu Da Vinha, they were very reluctant to move to Versailles because it was an isolated place in the countryside, far from all the conveniences of the capital, and their accommodation was much smaller than that of the Parisian mansions. At the end of Louis XIV’s reign, 6,700 people were housed at Versailles (4,000 in the castle grounds and 2,700 in outbuildings in the town). They lived there at the expense of the king, who created a system of permanent representation which all courtiers were required to attend. The death of the Sun King led to the rapid return of the court to Paris between 1715 and 1722. The heir to the French throne, Louis XV, came to power at the age of 5 (he was the grandson of Louis XIV). Although he was not yet old enough to rule, he managed to get the court to move back into the Palace of Versailles, which remained the main residence of the French monarchy until 1789. After the French Revolution, the court left Versailles for good and the furniture was sold. The absolute monarchy was subsequently abolished in 1793 and the royal palace in Versailles was stripped of all emblems suggesting royalty.
  • At the time of the Sun King, the furniture of the Palace of Versailles consisted of a large quantity of silverware and silver collections (candlesticks, chandeliers, thrones, mirrors, tables, vases, girandoles, cassolettes…). This decorative ensemble in solid silver represented 20 tons of metal. It was melted down in 1689 to finance the Nine Years’ War. King Louis XIV thought he would get 6 million pounds from his silver treasure, but he only received 2 million, even though this extravagant furniture had cost him about ten million pounds.
  • The Royal Opera of Versailles, with a capacity of 1,300 seats, was built at the end of the reign of Louis XV. It was designed to be a performance hall, ballroom and banqueting hall, thanks to a clever system of moving floors. It was inaugurated in 1770 for the wedding of the dauphin Louis-Auguste (crowned King of France as Louis XVI) and Marie Antoinette of Austria. They were the last royal couple of the Ancien Régime (the period before the Revolution).
  • During the Age of Enlightenment, the Montgolfier brothers flew their first balloon from the Palace of Versailles. This event took place in 1783 in the presence of the royal family under the reign of Louis XVI. The balloon, with a sheep, a rooster and a duck as passengers, reached an altitude of 500 metres. This flight lasted several minutes and covered a distance of more than 3 kilometres. A month later, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier succeeded in making the first human flight.
  • At the time of the French Revolution in 1789, the city of Versailles had more than 60,000 inhabitants (compared to 86,000 today, even though it is located at the gateway to Paris). It was one of the most popular cities in France at the time. Several ghosts are said to haunt the park, gardens and Palace of Versailles, including those of Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry, both guillotined by revolutionaries in 1793.
  • To design the hundreds of mirrors adorning the Hall of Mirrors, Colbert secretly brought in craftsmen from Venice (this city was renowned in the 16th century for the quality of its glasswork). It was here that the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, officially proclaiming peace between Germany and the Allied Powers at the end of the First World War. The location and setting of this treaty were not chosen by chance. It was certainly a response to the humiliation suffered by the French nation at the Proclamation of the German Empire held in 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles. This event ended the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and led to the coronation of King William I of Prussia as the first German Emperor.
  • The great storm of December 1999, described as the storm of the century in France, destroyed half of the mature trees on the Versailles estate. Among the losses were two tulip trees planted by Marie Antoinette in 1783 and Napoleon’s Corsican pine from 1810, which were uprooted by the power of the wind. More than 20 years later, the château has completely restored its park and gardens and planted 50,000 new trees to regenerate its plant heritage.
  • The Palace of Versailles recently acquired fake furniture, including six seats supposedly belonging to Marie Antoinette – cost of the operation: 2.7 million euros.
  • More than 200 films, series and documentaries were shot in the park and gardens or inside the Palace of Versailles in the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • Plan to spend at least one full day at the Palace of Versailles and arrive as early as possible to fully enjoy your visit.
  • Given the number of visitors to the Palace of Versailles (10 million visitors per year including the park), it is strongly recommended that you buy your ticket online by choosing the date and time of your visit.
  • Do not hesitate to discover the lesser known but equally interesting parts of the estate (such as the outbuildings, the Petit and Grand Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet) in order to appreciate this extravagant place away from the crowd.
  • Since May 2018, the Queen’s House (former residence of Marie Antoinette and Empress Marie-Louise) and the adjoining Réchauffoir can once again be visited in the Park of Petit Trianon. Major works initiated in 2015 have enabled the restoration of these forgotten places of the Queen’s Hamlet. They had been closed to the public for two centuries due to their dilapidated nature.
  • Recently, the Palace of Versailles reinvented itself on the Internet. It offers two virtual reality experiences to immerse its visitors in the time of Louis XIV and explore the interior of the château from every angle. He created 3-dimensional models showing the architectural evolution of the royal estate over the centuries. Other immersive digital tools have been developed to discover antique exhibitions in partnership with the Louvre Museum, appreciate its thousands of works of art, tackle new thematic resources or browse video reports (restoration work, history of the castle, famous people who have frequented the premises, testimonies, music…).

Where to eat

  • L’Équilibre
    (wine and tapas bar)
  • Le Sept
    (original concept)
  • La Table du 11
    (subtle and delicate flavours)

Where to go

  • Parc du Domaine de Madame...
    (wooded place)
  • Church of Notre-Dame
    (royal church)
  • Helixaero
    (helicopter flight)

Where to stay

  • Hotel Versailles Chantiers
    (brand new hotel)
  • Villa Versailles
    (well-kept guest house)
  • Les Versaillaises
    (cosy accommodation)

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