Any French Revolution History class can be summed up in one visit to Versailles. To get an answer to the question, “Why was there ever a French Revolution?” and see what it means to live somewhere with endless luxury, go to The Palace of Versailles. If you have no idea what Versailles is other than “that place that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West considered getting married at,” then keep reading.
On a personal note, I didn’t know much about French History at all before my travels to Paris. Actually, I’ve always hated history. Perhaps it’s because I need to see something to truly believe and understand it. I soaked Versailles in (or a small part of it) like a sponge. I just can’t get over it!
Versailles is not just a Palace to visit. There are the legendary hedge mazes, seemingly endless beautiful gardens, fountains of every size shape and statue (each one having a story and reason behind it), the Royal Apartments, the Trianon palaces and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet. “What did you just say?” – IT IS VAST. You can rent golf carts to drive yourself around here for a reason!
Thirty minutes southwest of Paris, France. Keep reading for directions.
Louis XIV (14) was the idea maker behind all of this. “Louis the Great” ruled as the King of France for 72 years, until his death in 1715. During his reign, he transformed this once modest hunting lodge into the symbol of Absolute Monarchy. Both Louis XV and Louis XVI spent most of their time in Versailles during their time as King. That was, of course, until the French people decided that enough was enough and executed both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the beginning of the French Revolution.
To make a very long story short, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI’s reign ended the French Monarchy, as they essentially weren’t listening to the French peoples’ demands, and eventually were over thrown and then beheaded. Recall my blog on Paris – The Egyptian Obelisk marks the spot where the guillotine once was!
All the time living in these luxurious establishment, the people lived among the best of the BEST.
How Can I get to Versailles?
Just a day trip from Paris that you can do all by yourself, grab a Train Ticket to Versailles from the Notre Dame Station via the RER C. Please note that the RER is different than the Metro system. The Metro is used for travelling within the city of Paris, the RER lines run along the perimeter of the city and are used to get In/Out of Paris It takes about 40 minutes or so to get to Versailles Palace from Paris, and if you have a day to do it, you definitely should.
Versailles is very large and very crowded. We used our Paris Museum Pass for entry, which we had already purchased at the beginning of our Paris trip. This pass gets you into tons of the main attractions, and the Chateau (Palace) and Trianons at Versailles are some of them. If you don’t have the Museum Pass, as always, buy tickets in advance, which you can do here.
Fact: This still will not get you out of waiting in the security line, which is extremely long. Arrive early or late to best avoid crowds. We paid an extra 8 euro (probably higher by now) to enter the Gardens (sometimes it is free, sometimes not), either way this is a no-brainer – the Gardens are a must see. I’m estimating we walked WELL over five miles on this journey. Dress appropriately!
The inside of the Palace boasts all the lavishness you could possibly imagine..and then some. Each and every kind of room in multiples, complete with a chapel inside where Louis XIV attended church. Also inside, is the famous Hall of Mirrors. The Hall of Mirrors was the gathering room for Louis XIV where many grand balls and celebrations were held. Many, many years later, the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I was signed here in the Hall of Mirrors.
Outside of the Palace, there is a vast assortment of gardens, fountains, and other buildings to explore.
Get lost (literally) in the hedge mazes. Classical music plays all throughout the gardens, really setting the mood for your day and making you feel more queen or king like than you already were.
Louis XIV loved mythology. This love is represented all throughout the grounds, including many of the fountains.
The Fountain above is depicting Zeus emerging from the rock, which I’m sure is much more striking if the fountain was running. Sadly, the fountains were not running during our visit.
Louis XIV wanted a canal built like the ones in Venice, where he would bring ships in for battles. – for fun. This ‘Grand Canal’, stretches 1 mile from end to end. Whatever Louis XIV desired, he had. Known as the Sun King, he even had and entire Orangerie (Orange Grove) on the property. In the winter time, the servants would bring all of the trees inside, and move them back out in the warmer months.
If you are doing the day trip to Versailles, hit the Palace and the Gardens for your main focus, then if there’s time sprinkle in the other sites, such as The Petit Trianon.
This particular building served as a place where Marie Antoinette could “escape” the hustle and bustle of the palace and live a more simple life.. We went inside and I can tell you that she wasn’t exactly “Roughing It”. It’s still pretty luxurious, just on a much smaller scale from the main palace. After this stop, we were beat, and the thought of walking back to the exit sounded insane. We took the little tram back to the front towards the exit. It was somewhere around ~6 euro (probably higher by now).
Have you been to Versailles? Were you in as much awe as I was to see all of French History basically summed up in over 2,000 acres of land? If history isn’t your thing, you can always go for the gardens in spring time, the royal luxury aspect of gold covered everything, or – you could even go for the exercise. Either way, there is something for everyone to be astounded by here.
“NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
..Unless you’re in the Gardens at Versailles. 🙂