Palace of Versailles -

Visiting Versailles getting there, and getting around while you are there

Located about 12 miles to the south-west of Paris, Versailles is easily reached by road or rail. Parking can be a problem in the summer if you arrive after 10 am, and the RER really is the easiest option with frequent trains from central Paris.

If you have the option of buying a ticket that covers your return rail journey as well as entrance to the palace buy it. This will save you queuing up outside the chateau on arrival. And believe me, there are always queues.

We went on a dull March day and arrived around 11 am, the queues to get into the chateau were already taking around an hour. As we wanted a wander around the grounds this was no problem.

Latone basin

As well as the huge palace Versailles has marvellous gardens and the best way to see everything is by bicycle. That way you can also pack a picnic, so save time queuing up for sandwiches and drinks.

There are wonderful places to sit and picnic. Some of the trains even allow you to take bicycles on, so you can cycle through the town as well.

Life at Versailles during its heyday was no picnic though, unless you were of the immediate royal family, for more see below.

The photograph above shows just how busy thing can get. It was taken from one of the lower parterres just after lunch time.

Quite often piped classical music is played in the parterres nearest the chateau, and this, as well as the sheltered setting is a place to sit and eat lunch, but beware of sitting too close to the speakers or toilets!

The photograph on the left is of Latone basin. It shows Diana protecting her children from the insults of the peasants, and imploring Jupiter to avenge her. Jupiter obliges and turns the peasants into toads and lizards. Just goes to show what a bit of judicious imploring will do! The basin is the work of the Marsy brothers.

The photograph on the right was taken from the Latona garden looking down the length of the Grand Canal.

There is a little train which takes you half-way down this canal, where you can get off, or continue to Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon (see below), and the Hameau (little village) de la Reine, the little village built to keep Queen Marie Antoinette amused.

History of Versailles

Versailles was built in 1623 by Louis XIII as a small hunting lodge. Originally it had just five small rooms!

Louis XIII added to his original building and also constructed a terraced wall garden, but it was his son, Louis XIV, who really transformed Versailles from a hunting lodge to a palace.

Latona basin
The Chapel of Versailles by Jacques Rigaud

In 1661 Le Notre designed the grounds. Le Vau and Le Brun were the architects employed by Louis XIV to enlarge and create almost what we see today.

It is said that 30 000 workmen and 6000 horses were employed in the construction which took 30 years. The wall around the garden is 25 miles long. Louis XIV moved in with his court in 1690.

On the left is The Chapel of Versailles painted in oil by Jacques Rigaus (1681 - 1754), and below, as it looks today.


Versailles Hall of Mirrors

Inside the palace the Hall of Mirrors (above) is one of the most impressive rooms. It is a 250 foot long gallery of gold, mirror and glass with a painted ceiling showing Louis XIV's triumphs, and was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart.

Life at Versailles was not as comfortable as you might think. The royal family lived in luxury, but the other guests - around 1000 at any one time - lived in discomfort.

They were put in small, cramped overcrowded rooms on the third floor. In summer these rooms were unbearably hot, and in winter they were so cold that water froze in the jugs. However as Versailles was the place to be the nobles put up with the discomfort, and some of them even built houses where they could have more comfort and space in the village of Versailles.

Versailles Chapel Royal
Verailles Petit Trianon

Above is the Chapel Royal, and left is my favourite building, Petit Trianon.

Louis XV had it built for his mistress Madame Pompadour, and it was where he used to go to have some privacy. copyright2003-2012