Versailles Palace (Chateau de Versailles)#14 in Best Things To Do in Paris
The Château de Versailles, the sprawling palace and former seat of power, is located 14 miles southwest of Paris in Versailles. Every year, millions of travelers make the trek from Paris to bear witness to the chateau's world-famous grandeur in person. But between all of the gold figurines, dramatic frescoes and cascading crystal chandeliers you'll no doubt find in bulk throughout the chateau, you might be surprised to learn that King Louis XIV's extravagant former residence had pretty humble-ish beginnings.
His father, King Louis XIII favored the site for its hunting potential and built a brick and stone lodge there so modest, one of his advisors remarked that "a mere gentleman would not have been overly proud of the construction" about the place. XIII eventually decided to expand, building two small palaces, but it wasn't until Louis XIV came along that the chateau we see today started to come to fruition. Louis XIV moved the French government and court here and is credited with implementing numerous additions, including the palace's most popular attraction, the Hall of Mirrors. The Royal Opera House was added under Louis XV, who rarely resided in the chateau, and became the venue where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette got married. After Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were forced out of the chateau during the French Revolution, the government left, and Versailles was practically abandoned. It was eventually brought back to life, turned into a museum and in the 20th century served as the site where the World War I peace treaty, or the Treaty of Versailles, was signed.
For 18 euros ($20.29), visitors can explore parts of the 2,300-room palace, including the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Opera House, the Royal Chapel and the King's Private Apartments. Ticket holders can also explore the gardens, a major favorite among travelers, as well as any temporary exhibitions held at the time. For 20 euros ($22.36), visitors can access the palace, the Estate of Trianon, a village-like complex built for royals (and favored by Marie-Antoinette) wanting their own respite away from the palace. And if you find yourself in Paris on the first Sunday of the month from March to November, admission to Versailles is free.
Recent travelers loved Versailles, but stressed to plan when you arrive wisely. Some tourists recommended coming really early in the morning, while others said arriving later in the afternoon was the trick to avoid heavy crowds. Even those arrived early or late and purchased tickets in advance online said they waited an hour, some even two, to get in the door. Even with the wait, travelers were in complete awe of Versailles' over-the-top magnificence, with many saying they could easily spend all day exploring the ins and outs of the palace, its perfectly manicured grounds and learning all of the fascinating history behind it. And you might want some help in exploring that history. Some said paying the extra 7 euros ($7.82) for a guided tour enhanced their experience while others were fine with the audio tour (complimentary with your ticket). Whatever ticket you decide to get, make sure to bring comfortable shoes, as travelers say you'll be on your feet for hours. Guided bike tours of the estate are another popular option.
Versailles palace is open every day except for Mondays from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. The Estate of Trianon has its own hours (12 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and is closed on Mondays too. The gardens have extended hours, 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and as such, travelers suggest making sure to see all the buildings first on your tour, then the gardens. The best way to get to Versailles is to take the RER C train to Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche from Saint-Michel or Champs de Mars stations. For more information on Versailles, visit their website.
More Best Things To Do in Paris
#1 Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)
Note that the cathedral sustained significant damage as a result of a fire on April 15, 2019. Its wooden roof and spire collapsed during the fire. It remains closed until further notice.
Like the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located right along the picturesque River Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 10th century and final touches weren't made until nearly 200 years later. And once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you'll start to understand why it took so long.
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