Decadence on a truly royal scale – Palace of Versailles, France

After the roadtrip to the Netherlands, we planned to pay a visit back to our friends in Paris. We visited Versailles on Friday, a couple of castles on the Loire Valley on Saturday and came back to Versailles on Sunday to check the town as the palace was simply too big and took all our time.

We’ve made it to Versailles rather late than we had planned because of long queues both at the Belgium – France border and on the way while driving through France. So if you are coming by car in full summer, check ahead, leave very early in the morning, use Waze for alternative routes if available. Driving through or around Paris is really slow!

We arrived at 4:00 pm and I was hoping for less people. What seemed a long queue on Friday was nothing compared to what we saw on our return Sunday midday.

The palace is open until 6:30 pm in high season and before our tour we queued for the audio guides. In retrospective, I would advise to not waste your time and go without them as in the first part of the visit they didn’t work. To understand better what’s so special about this palace, maybe you should familiarize yourself a bit with its history.

Palace of Versailles – from a hunting lodge to world’s largest royal domain

It all started in a small country town called Versailles where Louis XIII constructed his hunting lodge. After a few attempts of reconstruction it wasn’t until Louis XIV became king and transformed it into the palace of his dreams, a building so spectacular it would outshine any other palace.

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The so called Sun King thought magnificence in all things and spared no expense in building a sensational building. He hired the best architects, engineers and landscapers of those times and through his obsession, he undoubtedly created one of the greatest palaces.

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He liked to display his power and because he was spending more and more time at Versailles, he moved his entire government there. This is when he decides to build even more around his father’s chateau to accommodate everyone. The largest number of workers was 40,000 people at the same time.

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He then decides to make the palace his permanent home and invites leading French nobles to come live there too. Having the nobility close allowed him to keep an eye on them, impeding their ability to build up regional power. He involved them in any aspect of his life from the morning rituals to dinner time.

Versailles was not only king’s home but was also used to promote France. It was all about splendor of interiors but also a plan of Louis XIV to lead Europe in terms of taste and the arts.

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He reigned longer than any known European sovereign for 72 years and 110 days until his death on September 1, 1715. Through everything he did he sought to have the whole country of France entirely focused on his person and his power. His obsession of creating fabulous things is the reason he became part of the very essence of France.

Palace of Versailles tour – what to expect

The tour begins with the two-story Royal Chapel designed after the Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel) in Paris.

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It continues with the King’s State Apartments – a collection of rooms used for the social gatherings organized by Louis XIV for the members of the Court. The association with powerful deities from the past was part of the strategy of being the most important king of the time.

The Venus Room During apartment evenings in this room were served light meals and the centerpiece is the statue in full length of Louis XIV.
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The Diana Room – Used as Billiard Room and Ballroom where Louis XIV often played and those present would watch from two tiers of seating.
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The Mars Room
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The Mercury Room Originally the royal bedroom, it was also where the coffin containing the body of Louis XIV was displayed during 2 – 10 September 1715.
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The automaton clock was a gift for Louis XIV from clock-maker Antoine Morand.

The Apollo Room – With its ceiling dedicated to the Sun King and over the fireplace the most famous portrait of Louis XIV by Hyacinthe Rigaud.
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The Grand Gallery is composed of the War Drawing Room, the Hall of Mirrors and the Peace Drawing Room.

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The result of 6 years of intense work – Hall of Mirrors, the most famous room in Versailles.
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We also saw the King’s Bedroom, the Antechamber of the Grand Couvert where the king and the queen would eat their dinner in public and a few more rooms I don’t really remember their names.

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Continue exploring Versailles with the second part of this article: Trianon Palaces at Versailles.

Practical information

  • The palace can be extremely crowded so try to get there early.
  • We had the Passport ticket which will give you access to visit everything: the palace, the gardens, Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon with Queen’s Hamlet.
  • Best to buy your ticket online to skip another possible queue.
  • There are some cafes/restaurants on the ground.
  • From the palace there is a train which for €7.5 will take you on a tour to the other attractions and then back to the main palace. You can hop in and out at each point of interest.
  • Allocate at least 4-5 hours to be able to see everything, if not even more. Bring comfortable walking shoes, the area is huge.
  • The entrance is free every first Sunday from November till March.
  • A free audio guide is included in the ticket price.
  • For more information and tickets, check here.
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