Every traveler has a “must-see” list, and every traveler’s list is different. The list all depends on what you like, maybe you’re a museum lover, a park wanderer or a bar hopper, maybe all three. No matter which way your list leans, when traveling to France, you will find Versailles somewhere in the mix. Locals will suggest it in a heartbeat (my host family continuously reminded me that I had to see it before I left) and it will come up as one of the first suggestions from past travelers.
This incredibly gorgeous chateau (French mansion) is found on every list and suggested by all for good reason. What was first founded by French King Louis XIII as a hunting lodge, grew until it gained its famous reputation when Louis XIV moved the royal family and French Court to the Chateau. There was a bit of time where it was neglected until Louis XVI and the royal family came into the picture and stayed there until the French Revolution. *
To keep this from turning into a history lesson, the most important thing to note is that it is a symbol of French Absolute Monarchy. Which basically means it is a mansion decked to the nines. I mean what’s a Royal mansion without its golden molding along the walls, am I right? Whether you enjoy history and horribly outdated interior design or not, the entire estate is impressive and overall mind-blowing.
I ended up going on a day that started out cold then got way to hot for what I was wearing. The fountains weren’t running but there was music playing in the gardens. I also realized my new found hatred for tourists even though I am one sometimes (that’s a story for a different time). The real mistake I made though, was underestimating the size of the estate.
I was constantly thinking “Okay this is all there is to see here…. Nope, there’s more…. Okay, now we’re done. NOPE, there’s more!… This has got to be all of it. Nope. THERE’S STILL MORE”
And this is why:
- You have three different sections of the estate: The Chateau, The Gardens, and The Domaine de Marie-Antoinette… (you read that right. The queen had her very own section)
The Chateau (a.k.a The Starting Point)
When it comes to the actual chateau, I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe that’s because I was overwhelmed by the tourists, I’m not sure. There’s just something about French chateaus that all look the same to me, and after seeing so many already it was hard to find anything new here. Versailles was by far the most beautiful. Everything in the home shows the level of luxury the royal family lived in which is hard to imagine unless you see it for yourself.
(Fun Fact: It was considered an honor to watch the king dress in the morning, so the picture featuring the golden fence was used to separate the spectators and king)
The Gardens (A Breath of Fresh Air)
After being in the Chateau for an hour you’re ready for a change of scenery. Walking through The Gardens is like stepping into another world completely. They are the perfect example of a traditional French style garden. A whole lot of symmetry… in a weirdly beautiful way. A few things about the gardens:
- Check the calendar for events!!! I accidentally showed up on a day where the fountains weren’t running. They were still beautiful but the running water would have made them 10x better.
- THEY ARE HUGE! It will take you a decent amount of time to get through them. The map says two hours…. Just mentally prepare for a lot of walking.
- This is the most important tip: When you reach the Grand Canal…. DO NOT head back to the castle…. The path by the Grand Canal leads to the 3rd section so take that then finish the gardens after!
The Domaine de Marie-Antoinette (Speechless)
Honestly, I forgot this section existed. I did the gardens and the chateau only to realize at the end that I missed the famous Estate of Marie-Antoinette and had to walk all the way back to the Grand Canal to get to the path that leads to the estate. It was worth it though. It’s the coolest part of the whole estate. Marie-Antoinette had this private estate with a small chateau that leads to an English style garden gifted to her by her husband Louis XVI. This was when the size of Versailles hit me. Walking through the garden you can easily get lost and suddenly when you think it’s over you realize you’ve stumbled onto a mini farm. This makes Marie-Antoinette interesting… She liked to play “peasant” on her private estate, does this sound crazy to anyone else? It was decked out with cottages and working farms for her to enjoy. No matter how crazy it all seems, it’s beautiful and fascinating.
Crazy royal family aside, Versailles deserves its place on every travelers list. My love for France and the French Revolution makes me a little biased but everything is very well kept and overall it is a great experience.
*Quick Disclaimer: I am no historian. All facts came partly from history classes and the Versailles website linked here. This is the Estates home page and contains any info you could possibly need if you plan to visit! Which is hopefully, what this post inspires you to do. *