By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—
Few experiences in Paris will leave you as spellbound and awestruck as the massive monarchical monolith that is the Palace of Versailles. Louis XIV’s palatial compound and spectacular gardens still wow visitors today just as they did during a period when nobles and mistresses filled the halls, hoping for a glimpse of the king himself.
Tourists today are still struggling to catch a glimpse of, well, anything in the palace. This is especially true during the summer when busloads of people from all over the world dump into the former royal residence, snapping photos of Marie Antoinette’s bed and the historic Hall of Mirrors.
There is no surefire way to streamline your visit, and the biggest tip is to wear comfortable shoes, have a bottle of water, and be prepared to just go for it. You won’t regret it. While the crowds are unavoidable, there are a few tips that can help you maximize your time at Versailles.
1. Get the passport
Buy the Versailles passport ahead of time. It costs €18, or €25 on the days when the fountain shows are on (Tuesday, Saturday, Sunday) but the ticket will get you into every part of Versailles: the chateau, the smaller buildings in the gardens and the gardens themselves.
Each of these sights has its own ticket line, but with the passport, you’ll only have to wait in the security lines. Unless you are eligible for free entry, the passport pays for itself in time and money, especially in the summer when there are lines for the gardens (which aren’t free between April and October).
2. Line up early
If you were wise and got to Versailles early, hop in the seemingly massive line to enter the chateau immediately. If you are armed with tickets already, the security check line won’t take that long, but it only grows longer with each passing hour. The other option is to wait until later in the afternoon, right before closing, but you run the risk of a long line at 6 p.m., the last entry into the palace.
3. Do not neglect the other parts of Versailles.
After taking in the grandeur of the palace, tourists who push on towards the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet fall more and more in love with Versailles. Strolling through the fairytale garden created for Marie Antoinette, complete with farm animals and grain mill, adds another layer of allure to the already bewildering estate.
Many visitors are reluctant to walk all the way out there, which means there are fewer crowds than the tour-bus-laden chateau. It’s impossible to imagine ignoring such a fascinating part of Versailles.
4. Discover the king’s other garden
For a mere €3 you can visit the Potager du Roi, the king’s personal vegetable garden. It sounds goofy, but it’s another experience that compliments the grandiosity of Versailles. Most of the garden’s layout is similar to how it looked during Louis XIV’s time and it still produces tons of fruits and vegetables sold at the markets in Versailles. Talk about a meal literally fit for a king…
5. Picnic by the Canal
While you can’t technically picnic inside the gated part of the gardens, you can sit along the Grand Canal just outside the gates of the domain – you’ll need your ticket to re-enter the grounds, however. It’s easiest if you pack a sandwich and a bottle of water in your bag as it will save some time and money.
When you head back into town after your visit you can sit down to a nice glass of wine or pint of beer before boarding the train back to Paris.
Your Versailles tips?
Aside from claiming divine right and declaring yourself the Sun King, what other ways have Cheapos found to take advantage of Versailles? Share with us in the comments section.