Versailles has seen its fair share of history. Originally built in 1623 as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII, in its 400-year history it’s seen opulent expansion, mobs of angry crowds during the French Revolution, and the signing of the treaty that bears its name and brought an end to World War I. Today the palace is a popular tourist attraction and the city of Versailles is an affluent suburb of Paris. Transport between the two cities is a piece of gâteau, with regular trains running on the RER C metro line.
Unfortunately even with pre-booked tickets and arrival just at opening time, we had to wait for roughly an hour in a series of lines. The crowds continue once inside and can really hamper the enjoyment of your visit. It’s all worth it though. The palace’s interior is beautiful, especially in the longer hallways, which on this particular day were letting in bucket loads of sunshine. The renowned Hall of Mirrors lives up to the hype and there are a couple of other striking rooms worth appreciation (most notably the Battle Gallery).
The best part of our visit to Versailles was spent outside away from the palace. The garden grounds are immense and you can find peace and solitude no matter how big the crowds, especially once you get away from the gardens closest to the back of the palace. We stumbled on some of the fountain music shows which added some flair to our strolls. There are cafes and restaurants strewn about the grounds which makes it easier to make a day of it. We grabbed lunch at La Petite Venise which was nothing special but filled our bellies and provided cover during an unexpected downpour!
We wandered further from the palace to the Grand Trianon which has a lovely marble terrace at its center. The manicured gardens around the Petit Trianon are an absolute pleasure. Moving further northeast you come to a series of lakes making up the Marie Antoinette Estate. In addition to the lakes there are some quaint and cozy cottages and—best yet!—a farm home to bunnies, sheep, goats, and donkeys. We spent way more time here than we’d like to admit.
We had to get back to Paris so didn’t have any time to spend in the city itself, but our walk back to the train station gave us some nice glimpses. It was nice to visit the palace but on one of our future trips back to Paris we’ll have to make time to come back to the city and see what else it has to offer!