Updated: 8/12/18 | August 12th, 2018
The Palace of Versailles. A decadent symbol of royal power and influence that, to this day, still wows visitors. It’s one of the most-visited attractions in Paris. The Palace offers an incredible insight into French history, illuminating the lavish and ostentatious lives the former monarchs used to live.
The Palace, which was once just a hunting lodge, was the primary residence of the Kings of France for over 100 years, until the French Revolution.
The tiny hunting lodge was initially transformed into a proper chateau by Louis XIII, who bought up the surrounding land to extend his park and gardens. However, it was Louis XIV, aka the Sun King who turned this into lavish country estate as a way to escape Paris and diminish the influential grip of the French nobility. He moved the court to Versailles, which forced the nobility to spend more time away from their homes, thereby lessening their ability to establish regional power that could challenge him. (Plus, partying nobles are less likely to revolt against you!)
The first major construction was started in 1661 and took almost twenty years to complete. The expansive construction and intricate interior designs were expanded upon over subsequent decades (the gardens alone took over 40 years to complete!).
Located just 20km from Paris, a visit to the Palace of Versailles takes a full day to really explore (I hate hearing how people rush it in a few hours). Spend the day exploring the château, get lost in the surrounding gardens, and make sure you see Marie Antoinette’s estate, which includes a fake peasant village. During the summer, there’s music in the gardens and a spectacular fountain show.
To help you get the most out of your visit to the Palace of Versailles here are my top tips (and a fun video) to help you plan your visit:
Travel Tips for the Palace of Versailles
- Get there early – Over 3 million people visit the palace every year (an average of 8,000 per day). Expect lots of tour buses and queues. These buses come early so you need to get there before them right when the palace opens.
- Get there late – If you can’t get there early, get there at the end of the day when the crowds have died down and the tour groups have left. Just never go mid-day!
- Avoid the weekends when the palace is too crowded to even enjoy.
- Admission to The Gardens is free during the low season (November-March) and on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the high season.
- There are some restaurants in the palace — and they are very expensive. Eat elsewhere to save your money. If you plan to sit down and eat at the Palace, expect to pay at least 20 EUR.
- Most people see the Palace first then the gardens then Marie-Antoinette’s Estate. Go in reverse order to avoid the biggest crowds.
- If you really want to take a deep dive into the palace, take a guided tour. Guided tours will cover specific areas of the palace, many of which are off-limits otherwise. The Private Apartments of the King’s was a 90-minute tour is an additional 10 EUR. It covers a lot of rooms not seen by the public. I highly recommend it.
- Get a Paris Museum Pass – While it won’t let you skip the security line, it will give you priority access once you’re inside.
- Download an audio guide – You can get a free audio guides at the palace, or download their free app. I’d suggest you get Rick Steve’s audio guide instea, as it is free and has a lot more detail (and more corny jokes!).
- Free admission is available to anyone under 18 as well as EU residents under 26. Additionally, persons with disabilities (and one person accompanying them) will also qualify for free admission — just be sure to bring proper ID if you qualify.
The Palace of Versailles is one of my favorite things to visit in Paris. I’ve been about five times now. Though thanks to an increasing number of tour groups, it’s a lot more crowded than it used to be, there are still ways to enjoy it and take in the opulence, history, and beauty of the palace and surrounding gardens. This place is truly gigantic and should not be rushed. Be sure to visit the secondary palaces too as they are just as beautiful and have a lot fewer crowds! Don’t miss this place!
How to visit the Palace of Versailles
The palace is located at Place d’Armes, Versailles. It is open Tu–Su (9am–6:30pm) with the last entry at 5:45 pm. It’s closed Monday. “The Passport” ticket gives you admission to all the palace tours (grounds, Trianon Palaces, and Marie Antoinette’s estate), the Musical Fountain Show, the Musical Gardens, and the exhibitions and costs €27 (one day) or €30 (two days). Lines are incredibly long, so pre-purchase tickets in advance online. Keep in mind a museum pass will NOT let you skip the security line (everyone must wait in the security, though pass holders may have access to a shorter security line).
How to get to the Palace from Paris:
There are three ways to get to the palace but the RER option is by far the easiest:
- RER Line C to Versailles Château – Rive Gauche, followed by a 10 minute walk to the Palace.
- SNCF train from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers, followed by a 15-20 minute walk to the Palace.
- SNCF train from Gare Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite, followed by a 15-20 minute walk to the Palace.
Get My COMPLETE Guide for Budget Travelers!
For more in-depth information, check out my guidebook to Paris written for budget travelers like yourself! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money in one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on and off the beaten path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more!! Click here to learn more and purchase the book!
Book Your Trip to Versailles: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I never ever go on a trip without it. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. You should too.
Need Some Gear?
Check out our resource page for the best companies to use!
Want More Information on France?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on France for even more planning tips!