After the initial shock and awe of being in Paris, Zach and I wasted no time diving in. We started by visiting the Palace of Versailles (Chateau de Versailles) which is where many French kings lived including King Louis XVI along with his wife, Marie Antoinette of Austria.
After a hop, skip and a jump to get there (walk-train-walk)
and after weaving through literally jumping-tourists (fixated on capturing the perfect “woohoo I am jumping at Versailles!” photo) we made our way THROUGH the initial security check line and then the looooooong entrance line and when we finally made it to the front we realized we never went through the separate TICKET line. WHOOPS!
To most this would be disturbing but for us we thought it was hilarious and laughed our whole way to a small building (maybe still a part of the palace itself?) to get our ticket. Upon exiting though, the line had literally vanished so we happily strolled right in.
We saw the “Mesdame’s Apartments” first which were a string of rooms from bedrooms to reading rooms. Next, we went to see the gardens WHICH happen to be another separate ticket WHICH once you walk over to they hyjinx you and force you to literally leave entirely and then come back in through the front entrance line again.
The apartments were fine but once we got booted, we honestly considered just calling it a day and heading back…. LUCKILY WE PERSEVERED!!
After making our way back through the golden outer gates, we chose to see a section of the palace that entered us into a looong path that weaves all throughout the rest of the palace and OMG IT WAS STUNNING!!!!
I now understand why Versailles is a “must not be missed” attraction.
EVERY ROOM WAS ENTIRELY UNIQUE AND EXQUISITE.
We would just stop and stare at the ceiling in one room and the fireplace in another.
The paintings in one and then the furniture in the next.
It was sooooo neat to see and sooooo well restored!
Then came the infamous hall of mirrors! I just can’t.
Another great thing (that we definitely didn’t initially know) is that unlike The Louvre, the audio guide is completely included in the ticket pricing. This means that anyone who enters can choose to just pick up a guide at the front of the path and then carry it through the rest of the tour.
The audio guide is also nice because it locates where you are in the building and as you move it keeps up and plays the associated audio track.
The audio track was also extremely interesting to carry around because you get to hear about why the painting on the ceiling is the way that it is and what it signifies and about the furniture, use for the rooms etc. Needless to say, we had a really great time.
THAT NIGHT at dinner with our cousins, (I know right? Cousins in Paris?? — but no they JUST HAPPENED to be there the same few days we were– what are the odds?!) anyways we found out that they had gone to Versailles that day too and had a VERY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE.
They got to Versailles BEFORE IT OPENED that morning (just like all guide books tell you to do) and waited in a HORRENDOUS line while the workers were all at home, on strike (strikes are very common in Paris). The strike eventually ended but by that time the crowds were swarming (since the guide books say to get there early, it actually seems to be the worst time of day to arrive, regardless of strikes). By the time they got in, the experience was almost un-enjoyable because of how wildly busy the place had become.
Zach and I showed up mid afternoon (3pm) and missed the entire fiasco. Score!
Recommendations for Versailles:
Get there after noon
Go to the gardens LAST and do not purchase tickets until that time because you may be too tired and want to push them to another day
Bring your own lunch (prices inside are WILDLY expensive) and you are completely allowed to have your own food
WHATEVER YOU DO don’t fall for the bus rides from the train station to Versailles!! It is literally about a 10 min walk and a beautiful one at that
Lastly, take your time in the palace to look out of the windows and find a quiet corner to have your own space to view the palace OUTSIDE of the crowd. It is easy to just get in the flow of the other tourists and just walk through but I found the most joy in slowing down to soak everything in, bit by bit. Also, if the audio guide lags on or becomes TMI then unplug and enjoy the atmosphere of just being there.
Versailles is DEFINITELY written in stone on my not-to-be-missed in Paris list. No matter if you have one month or one week, this stop will be WELL WORTH your time.