My recent trip to Versailles (I have already visited three times in my lifetime) was a revelation. I had always pictured Versailles in my mind after reading the history of the many illustrious former residents, so it made me cry when I finally saw it over 20 years ago for the first time. I saw the hall of mirrors and the empty ghostly rooms and corridors and what was once the wonder of the world, the Hall of Mirrors. Quite simply, France had forgotten this palace in their rush to obliterate its the long history and connection with its royal past. Later, as a post-grad student, I visited it again, and then again in 2007, and each time it was a a bit better. I always wondered, why was France abandoning her history and the authenticity of the world’s most luxurious palace? I also noticed as early as 2010 there was finally a renaissance, because of the huge interest in the palace by tourists and also the Americans who also admire it, and have raised money to restore it. Yes, Americans have played a huge part in bringing back its former glory through fundraising campaigns, most notably, the gardens around the property.
Finally, the French government (with the help of many worldwide fans and donors) has renovated the gorgeous palace to its former glory in recent years and while the project is a vast one, they are now realizing what the King’s of France always knew: it is a temple of elegance and luxury that is second to none. Many may not realize that Versailles was (and still is) a “showplace”) for many of the France’s greatest culture and industries: the furniture, perfume, beauty, interiors, tapestries, and the tradition of the high decorative arts as well as music and theater. As a tourist you can marvel at the landscapes of the garden, the concerts (seasonal) and beauty of the fountains that light up at night ( (also seasonal) You can visit the King’s private chambers that are fully renovated. Remarkably, some pieces of the original furniture finally have returned to their rightful place as well as a few unique clocks that are literally still ticking since the time of Louis 16th. Can you imagine, that one of the clocks was designed to measure time far into infinity and has been ticking since, well, right before the French Revolution?
The Queen’s apartments, too are worth a look. As a garden walking tour Versailles is a grand afternoon and the perfect place for a picnic! One should take a friend, jump on the train with a bag of goodies from Paris. After you pay the garden entrance fees, you can sit on a stone bench and enjoy the views, a glass of wine and a nibble of cheese. I also suggest you take an umbrella in your picnic tote, as the rains can also start there without warning. But it is not so terrible being huddled underneath your umbrella with a cute French guy ( Yes, I do speak from experience) while he does the pouring. If your taste is more of a ‘white tablecloth’ experience you can book into one of the new restaurants (open seasonally) for lunch. Check the Versailles website to be sure the restaurant hours are suitable for your visit. You can pre-plan your bookings to see specific areas of the main palace, as well as the PETITE TRIANON, and GRAND TRIANON and gardens as well. I had a special invitation to the antiques dealer who currently holds onto a set of chairs (waiting for donors) to replace them to their rightful place at the Petite Trianon. It seems that right before she was thrown out of the palace, Marie Antoinette had many furniture, fashion and other orders that were never paid for by her and some of them still remain in private hands. These are waiting out there, to come home to the palace.
The town of Versailles has many options for you as well, whether you want a rented apartment for the weekend, or simply want to stay across the street from the Palace itself, as I did so you can walk across to the gates. There is a delightful Coach Museum, where you can see how the Kings and Queens traveled and worth a side trip after you see the main chateaux. I should also mention there there is a concert series there as well (check the website) for schedule and tickets.
The town of Versailles has a delightful market area, you can walk around or stop into cafes in the area nearby. Trains take you from Paris to Versailles in about 30 minutes so you can also do this trip in one day. I decided to stay a period of 24 hours because I literally did not know much about the town; I felt it was time to experience it longer than a day but once I did that, I wanted to return for the weekend. There is plenty to do there, and the entertainments alone that are hosted by the palace are worth an entire weekend of festivities. After all, if it was good enough for the Kings of France….
If you want to know where to stay in Versailles send us a note and we can provide you with a link to a few great hotels and an authentic VERSAILLES map for you to use to plan your next trip to France. (This would come to you by mail) We do want more people to see this gorgeous spot in French history!
Paris Adventuress – See France with the Eyes of A Romantic
Website: en.chateauversailles.fr (this is in English)