Top tips for first time visitors to the Palace of Versailles
Noodlies, Sydney food blog’s tips to help you make the most of this must-see Paris destination.
Tourists (including us) flock to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Pompidou Centre. The Palace of Versailles is another must-see destination you should add to the itinerary.
Louis XIV moved the French seat of government from Paris to Versailles in 1682. Previously it was Louis XIII’s old hunting pavilion. The Palace of Versailles got grander and grander as a succession of kings added to it until the French Revolution.
The Palace and its garden is as grand as you can get, with 2,300 rooms, the property spans over 63,154 square metres. By order of King Louis-Phillipe, in 1837, it was home to the Museum of the History of France. The Palace housed new collections of paintings and sculptures representing great figures and events that shaped the history of France. Each room is opulent and fascinating. See the noodlies, Sydney food blog video above and you’ll see what I mean.
Just because it doesn’t have the stratospheric awareness of the Eiffel Tower doesn’t mean the Palace of Versailles isn’t popular. The queue stretched to 500 metres when we visited recently, we queued for 90 minutes – and that was early in the morning on a weekday.
Top Tips for First Time Visitors
There are a few things we’d do differently now that we’ve experienced the Palace of Versailles. I’ve listed them below – they might be of interest to first time visitors:
Hop on a train rather than a tourist bus.
The Palace is a short stroll from Versailles train station on the RER C line. It’s only 30 mins from Paris. Getting there by train and buying your own ticket is faster and around £20 cheaper than a bus trip with a tour group. There are a couple of cons with the train, it could get pretty crowded mid to late afternoon and there is only one toilet at the station, so make sure you take your comfort break beforehand.
The queue is to get in, not for buying tickets.
We heard lots of stories about the long queue and assumed it was to buy a ticket. So we paid an extra 10% for our tickets at the Versailles Visitor Centre on the way from the station to the Palace. As it turns out, most have also bought their tickets in advance so the queue for tickets at the Palace was non-existent. The LONG queue was to get into the venue. If you’re going with a group, get one person to buy your ticket and the rest of the group should join the queue as soon as you arrive. We waited for over 90 minutes.
The Gallery of Mirrors is where it’s at.
You’ve seen it on TV, this hall is exquisitely over-the-top. It’s at the end of the Palace route (you can only go one direction) so make sure you save enough juice on the phone for taking pics and recording videos. While all the rooms are stunning, you’ll want to savour this highlight – the route takes you in both directions so you’ll get a chance to see everything.
The photo above gives you a feel of the scale and opulence of this room. Check our the noodlies video at the top of this post for more.
Check out the Garden
At certain times, there is an additional charge to get into the Garden – it’s when they have music in the Garden. It might sound like a rip-off, but the expansive garden is worth it – and besides, you’re there already.
Cheat with a buggy or bike.
The Palace covers an area over 63,000 square metres so there will be a lot of walking in addition to time in the queue. We were exhausted by half way. If you want to save energy, hire a bike or self drive buggy to get yourself around the garden. We regretted not hiring a buggy.
Allow a day.
You’ll want at least 3-4 hours to take in the Palace and surrounds so with travel that probably takes up most of the day, plus you’ll be exhausted by the end of it, best not to make plans to go dancing in the evening!