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Chateau de Versailles

versailles.jpgChateau de Versailles and Louis XIV are synonymous. He was France’s ‘Sun King’ – and in his day, all of Europe looked toward the court of Versailles as being the most happening place on the continent. The grandeur of Versailles is still considered a benchmark for elegance. The sheer length and breadth of this colossal architectural project is sure to leave you in jaw-dropped awe.

But, the most important thing to remember about the Chateau de Versailles is that it’s closed on Mondays. Trust me – I speak from the experience after having gone there on a Monday – of course, I didn’t bother reading a guide book or checking the Chateau de Versailles official website for their opening hours.

Getting to Versailles

>> Find all the detailed information you’ll need about getting from Paris to Versailles, including by train, by car, and by bus.

The Chateau de Versailles is located in the town of the same name. It’s located approximately 12 miles West of Paris. If you’re driving there by car, you’ll want to get on the Peripherique (the Paris beltway) and exit, direction, Rouen on the A13. Some guidebooks suggest it takes only 15 to 20 minutes to get to Versailles. This may be true at midnight, but if you’re caught in summer weekend traffic, plan on minimum 45 minutes. There is metered public parking in front of the chateau. You pay when you exit, using either a credit card or cash.

Public Transport to Versailles

The RER C line (Paris Rapid Transit) to Versailles Rive Gauche takes you closest to the Chateau.
RER C can be picked up at Metro stop: Denfert Rochereau, Paris.

The SNCF train from Montparnasse, Paris to Versailles-Chantier will take you Rue des Etats Genereaux (about 1/2 mile from the chateau).

The SNCF at Gare St. Lazare takes you to Versailles Rive Droite which brings you into Versailles gardens, closer to the Petit and Grand Trianon than the main chateau.

Guided Tours from Paris

Paris Vision and Cityrama both offer half day bus tours to Versailles. The benefit of taking this option is the lack of waiting in long lines once you get there – and not having to scramble for a parking spot (although parking is pretty easy) – the negative is that you can’t wander aimlessly through the gardens. You also don’t have as many options for visiting the private apartments. You’ll definitely see the Hall of Mirrors and Marie Antoinette’s bedroom though.

Paris Vision
24 Rue de Rivoli 1re

4, Place des Pyramides 1re

You can now buy tickets in advance at FNAC which is another great way to avoid waiting in long lines once you get to Versailles.

Advice on Choosing your Individual Tour

The majority of people opt for the tour of the State Apartments or Grand Appartements which includes the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors has just recently been refurbished.

My first choice would be opting for the AUDIO TOUR of the private apartments. There’s always fewer people at this entrance and you can still visit the Grand Appartements and the Hall of Mirrors. The audio guides are excellent because you can still hear the commentary – no matter how crowded it gets (and the audio guide blocks out the noise of some of the other tour guides).

Ticket Purchasing on Location
For those of you who haven’t visited Versailles in several years, you’ll note that the Information Center located directly to the Left of the Main Gates (after you pass through the main gates) is where you’ll buy individual tickets. If you opt for the Audio Tour, be sure you confirm the correct entrance which differs from the State Apartments entrance.

Ticket Price

Low season (December ’07 until March 30’08: 16 Euros
High Season (Starting April 1st ’08: 20 Euros Weekdays, 25 Euros Weekends.

Buy an all-Day Passport for17.60 Euros low season rate at FNAC (or at some SNCF Transilien stations) which allows you access to most of Versailles (except the areas that require a guide).

Please note that the Versaille gardens are free to the public except on Sunday afternoons during the musical fountains display. Also, Marie Antoinette’s cottage and farm complex requires an admission fee.

Children up to 18 years of age are allowed free access to the Versaille chateau. There is also a long list of ‘special situations’ that allow free admission including Friends of Versailles, professional artists, graphic artists, university students of art history, architecture, archaeology and history, the unemployed (no specific country is listed in the museum’s tariff guide). Some of these categories may only apply to French citizens. Be sure to check in advance about what identification is necessary to obtain a free entrance.
Guidelines for Free admission (in French – click ‘situations particulieres’)

Also, keep in mind that if you arrive at the ticket booth an hour before closing time (around 4:45 pm), you can receive a major reduction in price (it cost us 10 Euros per person rather than 20 Euros) including a FREE audioguide.

photo at the top by Lori Bertolini