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Palace and Park of Versailles

By Sharon Odegaard

What is Versailles?

At the Palace and Park of Versailles, you can immerse yourself in the elegance of the monarchy from centuries past. Versailles offers beauty, art, gardens, a life-size play village, groves of trees, and a grand canal.

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Work on the Palace began in 1661, and when it was finished, the seat of the government moved here from Paris. This is where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were arrested in 1789 and carried off to be executed. And Versailles is where heads of state met after World War I to formulate the treaty that bears its name.  

Text: Palace and Park of Versailles, France. Images: above, a view of the formal gardens. Below, looking at the palace from across the gardens.
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Why is Versailles Palace and Park a UNESCO World Heritage site?

As the seat of the French monarchy from Louis XIV to Louis XVI, Versailles held strong influence throughout Europe during that era. Not only was Versailles a seat of power, but it was a place of culture. The UNESCO site notes that “The Palace and Park of Versailles, built and embellished by several generations of architects, sculptors, painters, ornamentalists, and landscape artists, represented for Europe for more than a century, the perfect model of a royal residence.”

In the foreground, an ornate round fountain like a multi-tiered wedding cake, each ring with gold statues and a marble statue on the top. The fountain sits in a round pool. Beyond that, a long view down a long "road" with forests on either side. The road is grass with statues lining the sides. In the distance, continuing the road is a long rectangular pond, with a tall statue of some sort in it.
View from Versailles Palace.

What can you expect on a visit to Versailles?

The Palace is the centerpiece of a visit. The most famous of the 2,300 rooms is the Hall of Mirrors. It’s a room more than 200 feet long that’s a tribute to French military and political victories, depicted in paintings. The light and reflections from the many mirrors make an unforgettable impression.

The lovely gardens of Versailles are a masterpiece. The view as you come out of the back of the Palace is breathtaking. Fountains and a canal, along with sculptures, decorate the gardens. Take in the sight from just outside the Palace, or take time to stroll around the grounds to enjoy the different sights.

A part of the Park not to be missed is the estate of the Trianon. This encompasses two small palaces and a delightful hamlet of cottages that line a tranquil pond. Royals retreated to the Trianon area to escape the courtly strictures of palace life. Marie-Antoinette dressed in peasant clothes and ventured to her hamlet to pretend she was common folk. Today, the hamlet is a working farm full of charm.

Lake in the foreground, two houses surrounded by gardens and trees in the background. The house that is most clearly visible is small and simple with a thatched roof.
Trianon houses.

Is Versailles worth visiting?

Versailles is definitely worth a visit when you are in the Paris area. Keep in mind, though, that it takes most of a day to get there, tour the Palace, see some of the grounds, and return to Paris. Once you have seen the main sights of Paris (such as those along the Banks of the Seine), then devoting a day to Versailles is a great addition to your itinerary.

If you have young children, you may want to move quickly through the Palace and spend more time in the gardens and the estate of the Trianon. During my last visit, the Queen’s Hamlet featured baby goats and a pumpkin patch: fun for all ages.

In the foreground, water (the canal). Straight ahead, far in the distance, Versailles Palace is visible: a massive structure, only perhaps 6 stories tall, but very wide - it's width is not visible in this photo because the trees on the sides of the water obscure it.
Versailles Palace in the distance.

Tips for visiting the palace and park

A bike tour is an ideal way to see more of the grounds during your visit. Some tour companies will guide you around the Park, then collect the bikes as you enter the Palace. This maximizes your time on this day trip. And it’s thrilling to bike along the tree-lined paths and the long canal.

A section of Versailles gardens, with neatly-rimmed evergreens in a conical shape, low hedges in curved lines and very colorful flowers between the hedges.

Where is Versailles?

The Palace and Park are in the town of Versailles, southwest of Paris. If you have time, plan to walk through the town before or after you visit the Palace. It’s a place of lovely old architecture and delicious foods in bakeries and markets.

Use the map below to book your accommodations in Versailles, or zoom out to look for a room in Paris!

To get to Versailles from Paris, take the RER C train, which runs every 15 minutes. It will take about one and a half hours to arrive in Versailles. The travel time will vary depending on where in Paris you catch the train.

Book your tickets and/or tours ahead of time:

For more information about Versailles Palace and Park, its opening hours, and admission fees, see its official website.

Text and photos are provided by Sharon Odegaard of Exploring Our World. Her articles often focus on the history of a place. Then, by sharing her photos, she inspires others to explore for themselves. 

Have you been to Versailles? If so, do you have any additional information or advice about this UNESCO World Heritage site? Please add your comments below!

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