What is Versailles
Versailles started out as a humble hunting lodge and was then transformed into an ostentatious showing of wealth and power as the Palace of the sun king, Louis XIV. It is a huge palace with wings for servants, aristocracy, but also public rooms for the masses to view the opulence of the royal family. These rooms were even where they went to give birth and die! Today you can still walk in these public areas.
Tip #1: Skip the Line.
Paris is beautiful. There is a reason that it is one of the most visited cities on earth. But, it is evident in the crowds. Throughout my whole visit I felt that I was at a Disneyland. There are long queues for every attraction, and I mean hours and hours long! And I was told it wasn’t especially crowded when I visited.
No where was this more true than at Versailles. I spoke to some people who waited in line and they said they arrived an hour and a half early and they still had to wait for another hour and a half. When we left at 4 pm, the line was even longer.
Elsewhere in Paris we used the Paris Pass to bypass queues, but here you don’t get to skip the line even with it.
But there is a way around this and, I think, it will be the best money you can spend in Paris! We took the Skip the Line Versailles Tour through Unique Tours Factory.
Not only did we save hours and walk right in, Eugénie, our professional guide, escorted us to Versailles from our hotel. She picked us up at a very reasonable 8:30, then helped us navigate the Metro. We could have saved more time by taking an Uber, but I wanted to take the train.
Tip #2: Skip the toilet and snack lines in Versailles.
Yep, the lines for the bathroom in the Chateau are also insane, so stop into the McDonald’s just across the street from the Metro to get a snack or bottle of water and use the facilities. You can then get through the house in about 1 1/2 hours without needing to stop.
Tip #3: Don’t expect to get great pictures in the Chateau.
The house itself was a mass of people and picture-taking was very difficult if you don’t want people in your pictures. Be sure to look up because some of the most beautiful art in the room is on the ceilings! Most of the art that wasn’t attached to the building was removed in the French Revolution. Many of the pieces of art in the house are copies of pieces now in the Louvre.
In spite of the crowds, Eugénie was great about getting us to a comfortable space to stand together while she regaled us with information about the rooms we were in or the history behind them. She was also able to tell us the myths that went along with the frescoes on the ceiling.
Tip #4 Angelina’s
Stop for an éclair and a hot chocolate at Angelina’s. They are scattered around the property.
Tip #5 Oh, the gardens!
Give yourself a lot of time and energy for the gardens. The formal gardens cover 800 hectares and there are more gardens to see off the property.
The gardens are only open on weekends and Tuesdays from April through September. Our tour didn’t include the complete gardens, but Eugenie was kind enough to show us her favorites and direct us on how to see the rest.
Tip #6 See the Water Show.
Time your visit to see the Water Show. The fountains only run for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, but seeing the waters dance among the garden with accompanying classical music is quite magical. If you visit with Unique Tours Factory, Eugénie will make sure to time it so you can catch them.
Tip #7 How to plan your garden visit-
If you desire to see the whole garden visit it clockwise, pausing for lunch at the pond with the boats at the end. Be sure to hold onto your ticket because you leave the garden to access the restaurants. Reentering is very easy, no queue. When you reach 12 o’clock again back at the Chateau you can jump onto the Petit Train for a few Euros. You can take that to the houses at the bottom of the hill.
Tip #8 Be sure to visit the Queen’s Hamlet.
Get off the train at Marie Antoinette’s estate Petite Trianon. Here she would relax with her girlfriend’s while at Versailles. Take a quick house tour then head out into her gardens.
I am a nature girl and always need some to feel peace. The most at ease I felt in Paris was here. These gardens are unstructured, with winding dirt paths, flowers and birds chirping. You will still find sculptures, including Cupid who will perhaps bring you love if you rub his foot…
Set near the back of the gardens is the Queen’s Hamlet a group of cottages set among vegetable gardens and ponds. It is magical and my favorite part of Versailles! They also sell some delicious blood orange juice by the pond where hordes of fish congregate.
My tour was generously sponsored by Unique Tours Factory, but I always provide my honest opinions. I really can’t imagine visiting this spectacle without using this tour. I loathe lines and waiting and am not a fan of big tour groups. The small size of this tour was perfect for me and my family, with a maximum of 4 guests allowed. When you are travelling with kids it is ideal to get to move at your own pace and not wait in too many lines.
Have you been to Versailles? Do you have any other tips?