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My days with Marie. Two days in Versailles.

I’m not going to lie, I’m a fan of Marie Antoinette. I love her story and I sympathise with her struggles and feel so bad for what happened to her. She was naïve and possibly a little ignorant but in a tinderbox world, she was the spark. My admiration of her home, the Palace of Versailles, and the Trianon Estate, stems from that fascination and I was so excited to spend some time there. Stop two on our European trip was Versailles.


My mum had been to Versailles before, but was only able to visit the gardens, as the Château was closed the day she visited from Paris. With this in mind, for this trip, we decided to stay in Versailles for a couple of nights to make sure we had ample time for the grounds and the buildings.


Getting there

Versailles is only a short trip south from Paris – just over an hour by car, or around 45 minutes by train – and can be done in a day trip from Paris if you’re not wanting to stay in the area. With so much to see though, it’s recommended to have at least two days – one for the buildings and one for the gardens.


Because we were exhausted from our packed few days in Paris and couldn’t fathom how we were going to get our suitcases down the stairs to the metro station, we decided to get a taxi from our Paris hotel to our hotel in Versailles. It cost us about 65 euro (approximately AU$100) for the trip, but that can fluctuate depending on traffic – the Boulevard Périphérique, the road that surrounds the perimeter of the Paris city limits, can be like a car park at certain times of the day, so if you drive or take a taxi, keep that in mind.


If you are taking a day trip and choose to catch the train, make sure to check the transport website for correct timings and routes. Easiest, depending on where you are in the city, is to catch the RER A or C – these will get you to Versailles-Chantiers, and then a 20-minute walk to the Château, or the RER C will get you to Versailles Château Rive Gauche, with only a 5-minute walk, this is the closest train station to the Château.


Accommodation

We stayed 2 nights at the Royal Hôtel, located in the Saint Louis quarter and only a short 10-minute walk to the Château. The check in process was quick and easy, and we were personally shown to our room by the front desk clerk. We did not get breakfast at the hotel as we chose to have breakfast elsewhere, but they did have an à la carte breakfast available. Pricing depended on what you ordered.


Our room was very well sized, and while it wasn’t overly cheap (because of its location) it was beautiful and comfortable. We had two double beds, a great sized bathroom, and free Wi-Fi. The wallpaper on the walls had little fleur-de-lis on it and it all felt very regal.

Attractions

Apart from the obvious, there’s other beautiful places to see in Versailles too! We didn’t see too much, as most of our time was taken up by the Gardens and Château, but we managed to get in a couple of beautiful buildings.

Église Notre-Dame de Versailles

Built by Louis XIV, this church is located only about 2 minutes from the Versailles Estate and was once the main cathedral in Versailles, and the parish it represented included the Palace of Versailles. While we were there, the church was undergoing serious exterior renovations, so it was unfortunately completely covered in scaffolding. Despite that, we were able to go inside, and it was beautiful! The stained glass around the building, the statues, and moulding are just incredible. The organ is something else – I’d love to hear it played. Entry to the church is free.

Cathédrale Saint-Louis de Versailles

Beautiful both inside and out, this cathedral is the current seat of the Bishop of Versailles, after being chosen by the post-Revolutionary bishop as the main seat of the diocese. The exterior of the cathedral is so majestic, its beauty mirrored on the inside. It is very similar in style and layout to Église Notre-Dame de Versailles, on a larger, even more impressive scale.


Château de Versailles

The Château de Versailles is celebrating its 400th anniversary in 2023 – 400 years! The entire estate spreads over 800 hectares, including vast, sprawling gardens, the Château itself, and the Trianon Estate. Over it’s four centuries, it has been a hunting lodge for royals, a seat of power for one of the most influential monarchies in history and is now an extensive museum. There’s so much to see and experience! It still blows my mind that it’s still standing at all, let alone in the incredible state it is in now.

The Gardens

This isn’t just your ordinary palace gardens – these are the gardens all other gardens aspire to be. With its artistically landscaped flower beds, wooded areas, expansive lakes, exquisite sculptures, and the incredible fountains, there’s always something to look at – to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at. The Grand Canal that starts at the bottom of the main gardens is a lovely place to enjoy a gondola ride and links the main garden with the Trianon estate and the Menagerie. The Gardens are open every day, and are free to access from November to March, 8am-6pm. From April to October, the Gardens are open 8am-8.30pm and are host to the Fountains shows and Musical Gardens, so access to the Gardens is charged from Tuesday to Sunday.


Walking around the gardens, it’s easy to get lost in the vastness and beauty of the landscaping, with its criss-crossed paths lined with hedges, flowers and statues, and beautiful and artistic fountains. As we visited in June, we were present during the Musical Gardens shows – throughout the day, various fountains ‘perform’ with dramatic, beautiful orchestral music. It’s an extra little plus, and really adds to the atmosphere. It’s honestly a magnificent place to wander through, and to take in nature. And if you like freshly squeezed orange juice, there are many little carts around the gardens – a great way to stay hydrated. We took a full afternoon to walk around the gardens and didn’t see it all, so I would recommend a full day.

The Château

There isn’t much to say about the Château other than… WOW. The opulence in every single millimetre is incredible and you can see why the people revolted if that was how their leaders were living. From a simple royal hunting lodge in a small rural village, to a magnificent royal residence, to the expansive museum it is today, there’s so much to see that it’s difficult to know where to start and how to take it all in. Once you’re through the entrance and security, you come out into the Royal Courtyard, with a wonderful view of the front of the building and the famous Marble Courtyard. From here you have two options to start your tour – to your left is the official ‘start’ where you’ll visit the Apartments of the Dauphin and the daughters of Louis XV before discovering the Grand Apartments; and to your right is the access to the Grand Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. We went through the left entrance first and made our way around. Whichever way you go, it’s going to be magnificent.


Moving through the Château, it’s truly a feast for the eyes – the rich and vibrant coloured fabrics, the gilding (so much gilding) and the portraits, sculptures, and paintings all around means you have to have your head on a swivel to see it all… and make sure your phone or camera is charged for all those incredible photos. Especially when you reach the famous Hall of Mirrors – you don’t want to miss documenting that!


The Château is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9am to 6.30pm and is closed on Mondays. It is highly recommended you pre-purchase your entry tickets as entry is timed and early slots fill up quickly. You can purchase a guided tour, and audio tours, however it’s just as easy to do it on your own and the Versailles app has audio tours included.

The Estate of Trianon and the Domain of Marie Antoinette

After our time in the Château, we hopped on the little train and headed out to the Trianon Estate. You can walk, it’s about a 25-minute walk from the Château, but to maximise your time, I recommend catching the little train, which is approximately 9 euro for a return trip, or it can be added to your passport ticket. As you wander the grounds of the estate, make sure to check out the ‘Admirable Trees’ that tell the history of Versailles. The Trianon Estate is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 6.30pm and closed on Mondays.

The Grand Trianon

The first stop on our little train trip was the Grand Trianon. It was designed by King Louis XIV as a private retreat for himself and his nearest and dearest… and his secret wife. It is a magnificent building where you can view the beautiful Mirror Room, where council was held while the King was in residence, and the incredible Malachite Room, so named for the green malachite pieces that adorn the room. The gardens of the Grand Trianon are equally as beautiful, where you can find an abundance of flowers and trees, all overlooking the Grand Canal, along with some incredible fountains and sculptures.

The Petite Trianon

If I’m going to be entirely honest, I was looking forward to the Petite Trianon the most. This residence was built as an even more private space for the royals to escape to and soon became the temporary home of Madame du Barry, mistress to King Louis XV. In 1774, the Petite Trianon was gifted to Marie-Antionette by her husband Louis XVI, who completely transformed the gardens and created a private oasis for herself away from court. As I said, I love the story of Marie-Antoinette, so seeing this place that she made her own and where she spent most of her time was a great experience. It is only a small palace (hence the petite in the name) but it is still beautiful and opulent – though nowhere near the level of the Château or even the Grand Trianon.

The Queen’s Hamlet

Located at the edge of the Trianon Estate, and consisting of 10 small buildings, 2500sqm of kitchen gardens, around 120 plant varieties, 700 vine plants, and 2 orchards, the Queen’s Hamlet is truly a fairytale location. As you walk along the paths, admiring the various plants and flowers, and the beautiful rustic buildings, you can easily see the appeal of the ‘simple’ country life that Marie-Antoinette craved when she commissioned the village built.


Top Tips


Stay at least overnight

While you can do a day trip out to Versailles, my top tip is to stay in Versailles at least overnight. We stayed two nights, so we had at least one full day without having to consider travel time. Accommodation isn’t overly cheap around the Château but having that time to fully take in the area and the attractions can really make your holiday.

Get a passport ticket with the little train

When choosing a ticket, my recommendation is to purchase a Passport ticket with the little train add on. The Passport includes access to the whole of the Estate of Versailles (Palace, Trianon Estate and the gardens), temporary exhibitions, and a return trip by little train. If you’re visiting on the weekend, you also have access to the Gallery of Coaches and the Sculptures and Mouldings Gallery. It’s the easiest way to ensure you have access to the full estate. With the little train add on, you have a return trip on the Little Train included in your ticket. It's a very convenient way to see the expansive estate.

Check out other attractions

Especially if you’re staying in Versailles for a few days, make sure to check out the many other attractions in the city. Mostly royalty or religion themed, there’s so much to see, including the Equestrian Academy, Royal Tennis Court, Versailles Cathedral, Musée Lambinet, and so much more.





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