The Palace of Versailles is one of France’s most iconic and historically significant sites, with ties to the Bourbon family, Marie Antoinette, and the radical French Revolution. I had the remarkable opportunity to visit this beautiful and overwhelming chateau several summers ago with my mom. I’m a huge European history buff and I am especially intrigued by the French Revolution so I knew I wanted to spend as much time as possible on location in Paris. We ended up blocking a full day out of our Paris schedule to visit the Palace of Versailles and we relished in its beauty all day.
There are some realities, however, to visiting such a staple in French history and culture. Understanding these truths can help you to be better equipped for dealing with frenzy that is touring the Palace of Versailles.
1. It. Is. Crowded. And these crowds have no inhibitions.
Be prepared to wait in line and even take a couple elbows to the kidney. That may sound bizarre but seriously, people are intense about seeing – and taking pictures of – the Bourbon family’s palace and they aren’t afraid to display their intensity. They’ll take you down in an effort to get the perfect shot. Be prepared to dodge iPads on selfie sticks and field the more-than-occasional bump from a bystander.
Since the crowds are so large, pictures don’t turn out precisely as you might have planned. In my head, I imagined taking a picture in the Hall of Mirrors with me and the rows and rows of mirrors down the hall looking aRtSy and what have you. In reality, I got a picture with about a million people in the background all trying to take the same artsy photograph. If you go in with the expectation of crowds, you’ll be less likely to be let down when you might not get every picture that you planned to take. Enjoy the fact that you are in one of the most exquisite palaces in Europe and don’t stress about the crowds and pictures.
2. The palace and grounds are just as beautiful as everyone says.
Don’t let the previous point freak you out! The Palace of Versailles most definitely lives up to the hype. Why else would I have wanted to fight those crowds? I would take another visit if I had the chance. The details on every doorknob, light fixture, even window frame, is delicately ornate. The gardens are meticulously groomed and look like they’re from a movie. There are even mazes made of shrubbery to venture through. So brave the crowds and see this epitaph of history and beauty!
3. The gardens and Queen's Hamlet are just as cool as (if not cooler than) the palace itself
Like I said earlier, the Chateau itself is extremely crowded. I spent the majority of my time venturing through hordes of bodies in an attempt to get a good view, but when you exit the palace it’s much more peaceful. Firstly, people want to see the palace more than they want to see the gardens, thus the palace is more crowded. Secondly, there is more room for people to disburse in the gardens. There are acres of land to explore, have a snack, and just relax.
The Queen’s Hamlet is something that I especially enjoyed, even more so than the gardens or the palace. If you’re not familiar with the Queen’s Hamlet, I’ll give you a quick run-down. :) The Queen’s Hamlet, or Hameau de la Reine, is a quaint village constructed in the early 1780s near Chateau Versailles for Marie Antoinette to escape the stresses of her life in French Court.
She would oftentimes dress as a peasant and (for lack of better word) “play” being an average person. Being the Marie Antoinette fanatic that I am, it was intriguing to see the lengths that the queen went to, simply to be ordinary. The connections with the Hamlet and the French Revolution are uncanny; the local French citizens saw it as mockery of their lifestyle and it added fuel to the fire in regards to Marie Antoinette’s sordid reputation with the French. If you have the chance to visit Hameau de la Reine, I highly recommend further researching its past.
4. Visiting the palace and its gardens takes a full day to explore, and you still won't see everything
From the Grand Trianon to the Queens Hamlet to the gardens to the palace itself, there’s no way you can see it all even if you spend a full day exploring. Don’t let this dampen your spirits! As disappointing as it is to know that you'll miss something, knowing that you simply get too see the chateau is reassuring. :) And although you may not be able to see everything, if you take your time and enjoy the magnificence of the estate you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
So you’ve decided to visit the Palace of Versailles, right? Now you need to know what else to do while in the Paris area… Check out my previous post on Mad’s Muses detailing my experience in Paris and all of my favorite Parisian activities here!
Hi, I'm Madeline
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