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One thing Paris is famous for is opulence and luxury, and the best place to see this at its finest is on a day trip to a grand, 17th-century palace on a day trip from Paris to Versailles.
Within a metro journey, you can be out of the chaos of the bustling capital, and transported into a calm, sophisticated atmosphere at Versailles, which showcases the extravagant lifestyle of French royalty.
Hall of Mirrors, Palace of Versaille
It only took us 20 minutes from our Montparnasse hotel location to get to Versailles. Let me tell you, it was worth it BUT it was also an intense day of exploring (especially on a hot day while jetlagged!).
You may think this is just one beautiful palace! But, no, it’s an estate of over 800 hectares that includes the Chateau of Versailles, the Gardens, Estates of Trianon, and parklands.
Visiting Versailles is no easy task, as we came to learn on our trip to Paris this summer. Which is why we prepared this guide on how to have the perfect Paris to Versailles day trip so you can explore this magnificent palace with ease.
We’ll be uncovering the palace’s history, highlight the unmissable sights and attractions, as well as detail some of the best ways to get there.
So, when you’re ready to unravel the secrets of this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site, keep reading to see the best way to spend a day there.
History of Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles, or Chateau de Versailles as the French call it, is the original hunting lodge and private retreat for Louis XIII, before it was transformed into a grand residence by his son, Louis XIV.
The palace encompasses around 2,300 rooms, including the iconic Hall of Mirrors and the lavish apartments of the king and queen.
The opulent interiors were adorned with exquisite artwork, intricate tapestries, and luxurious furnishings, showcasing the wealth and influence of the French monarchy.
The palace is a mixture of designs under the guidance of several renowned French architects and landscape designers for the royal family. The neoclassical style in which you see today is partly thanks to a multi-millionaire American philanthropist known as John D who donated $2,166,000 in 1925-1928 to restore and refurbish the palace.
Construction of the palace began in 1661, and over the next several decades, the palace evolved into a symbol of absolute monarchy and power. When it passed into the hands of Louis XIV and plans to turn it into a palace were made, he added many areas to the house.
The courtyard, the famous Hall of Mirrors, and a chapel were built. When the palace fell into the hands of his successor, Louis XV, work on the outside stopped and further upgrades to the interior were added.
Louis XIV expanded the North Wing and built an Opera Theatre, though work was delayed several times due to the Seven Years’ War and financial constraints.
When Louis XV died in 1774, all work on the palace stopped. In 1789, the government and royal family moved out of the palace for good following the end of the French Revolution, then in 1792, the National Convention removed all artwork inside the palace and took them to the Louvre.
A year later and the Convention abolished the monarchy and all of the royal property from the palace was to be sold at auction.
By 1794, everything was sold, and the building was empty, and the empty rooms were turned into storehouses for confiscated items from the nobility. They also started opening the palace for tours.
However, after the downfall of Napoleon in 1830, the royal family was restored and Louis XVIII, (younger brother of Louis XVI) took the throne and returned to the palace. He ordered the restoration of the palace.
Today, the Palace of Versailles is a museum, which showcases the grandeur and exuberance of the royal family, whilst also standing as a testament to the power and excesses of the French monarchy.
Tips for Visiting Versailles Palace
Before we share the things to do in Versailles in a day, let me share a few important tips.
Three Areas to the Estate of Versailles
Firstly, you’ll want to understand there are three main areas to the Versailles Estate.
Chateau de Versailles: which is the main extravagant palace. You’ll need a timed entry ticket for this.
Versailles Gardens: located at the back of the main palace.
Estate Park lands: Which are free to explore and include the Grand Canal and the Trianon Estates which are ticketed.
All of this is located at the edge of the now Versailles town.
Tours of Versailles Estate
The Coronation Room
There are numerous ways to tour Versailles, either on your own or via a group tour.
We visited on our own. It was more affordable than a tour given we were a family of four. Many of the tours don’t offer children’s rates and kids can get in for free.
There is an app for the Versailles Estate which has lots of information for a self-guided tour although I don’t think it would be as good as having a private tour guide share the highlights and stories.
I’ve heard many positive reviews from friends and other travelers who joined a guided tour. They loved how everything was organized for them and they could just show up and enjoy it.
You can also do shorter tours just of the palace itself.
The Dauphin’s Apartments
With a tour guide, you will learn more interesting stories about the palace and the lives of those who lived there, such as the self-absorbed ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV, called ‘the vainest man ever’ by his courtiers and the young Austrian princess, Marie Antoinette.
If you like stories of scandalous love affairs, royal mistresses, and gambling then a guided tour will be for you! (There is none of this written on the information panels or in the app. It was just the boring stuff!)
These are the recommended tours. If we were not with the kids, I would have chosen a tour that incorporates a bike ride and picnic with food purchased at the markets.
Tickets & Entrances
The long line (this is those with tickets!)
Tickets can get complicated as prices change depending on events and time of year.
You need to buy a ticket to visit the Palace. It has a separate entrance and exit to the rest of the estate, but you can access the gardens from the Palace, which are located at the back of the palace.
Children under 18 are free. You still have to reserve timed entry tickets for them.
There is an entrance from the gardens into the park land and vice versa. There are also entrances from the Versailles town into the park.
If you want to visit the Palaces of Trianon (we recommend it) within the parklands, you will need the passport ticket for entry.
The Versailles Palace Gardens (different to the park lands) are free, except for Musical Fountain and Musical Garden Days. You can purchase a separate ticket for this if you want to visit just the gardens.
Or purchase a passport ticket with timed entry to the palace which grants admission to the whole Estate of Versailles. This is what Craig and I purchased.
We thought Kalyra (15) and Savannah (11) were free for the whole estate, but when we entered the gardens, they made us purchase a concession Passport ticket for €10 euro (children under 6 are free) as it was Musical Garden Day.
Side note: We were very confused by the gardens as none of the fountains were on. I’ve only just learned that they are turned on only on the weekends. I did not see this anywhere on the official site. We only saw one fountain going off in the garden and it was timed to music. Not a fancy musical fountain experience I paid for! (In the summer you have no other option but to pay for the gardens)
It was confusing and very underwhelming.
You can rent bikes and boats at the Grand Canal. There was plenty of availability when we visited in June, and we did not have to book in advance (I’m not even sure you can unless you’re on a guided tour). I suggest you wait until you get there to rent in case you change your mind.
Plan everything around Chateau Versailles Tour
The actual Versailles Chateau is the only timed entry attraction at Versailles. So, you will have to organize everything else around your palace tour time. Unless you choose a guided tour, this will be self-guided.
Tickets for the Palace itself are one and done entry. So, you can’t re-enter once you’ve gone through. You can for the rest of the Estate grounds.
First tour of the Day: Have a Hall of Mirrors to yourself
My friend, Anna Everywhere gave me this tip.
Book the first palace tour of the day. Arrive at least 20 minutes early as there will be a line waiting for the doors of the palace to open (9am). We intended to do this but got there about 5 minutes before opening. The line moved pretty quickly, and it didn’t impact us.
Once through the gates, head straight to the Hall of Mirrors. Most people will linger around the courtyard and take their time getting to the Hall of Mirrors as there are many rooms before it. If you skip ahead, you’ll have very few people in the room. Friends were shocked by our photos (especially during summer) and said hundreds of people were in the room with them.
Be ready to take your photos quickly. It won’t be long before the crowds come. We had it almost to ourselves for about 20 minutes. It is an exquisite room and worth having for yourself.
Once you’re done, you can go backwards to the rooms you missed to see them. We only went back a little bit. There are plenty of other great rooms to see as you move forward. It’s easy to get Palace tired, so focus just on the highlights.
Where to picnic in Versailles
Picnicking is only allowed in designated areas in the park, but there are still plenty of spaces to spread out and enjoy the serenity on the Estate. Ask the attendants if you’re not sure.
Many people will picnic in the groves that line the Grand Canal. You can also picnic by the Lake of the Swiss Guards and the Saint Antoine Plain.
The Queen’s Hamlet is a quieter picnic retreat – we were the only people doing it. It had a serene country estate feel.
On the website, it doesn’t say you can picnic at the Queen’s Hamlet, but we asked the guard at the security checkpoint for Petit Trianon, and he said we could as long as we had no knives or alcohol and he told us which parts of the ground we could picnic on.
Where to get food for a picnic
You’re in France, picnics are a necessity. There is no grander place to have a picnic than Versailles. (I’ll share more below in our itinerary outline for the day in Versailles.)
The best place to get food for your Versailles picnic is from the fresh produce market in Versailles. The Notre-Dame market has always been located in the same place since the 17th century. It’s laid out in squares, with each covered section devoted to specific foodstuffs.
From cheeses, to charcuterie, macarons and bottles of wine, the market will have everything you need. We loved selecting our goodies for our picnic which included all of the above and a delicious gluten free brownie for me. The food is fresh and delicious and very affordable. Have some cash with you as some small vendors may not take cards.
You can also bring your own food from Paris, BUT you need to read the next two important tips if you plan on having a picnic in Versailles.
Note. If you want wine, you’ll have to be discreet when drinking it. I’m not sure about the parklands, but where we ate in front of the Queen’s Hamlet, there was no alcohol allowed.
You cannot take food into Versailles Palace
You cannot take food or large bags into the palace. I have read mixed messages about storage. Some say they will hold a bag of food for you, others say they won’t!
There are lockers once you get inside the palace where you can store small bags. But they are on the other side of security, so I don’t know if they’ll let you pass with food. Nothing is ever really clear in France!
Note: This is only for the palace itself. You can bring whatever you want into the rest of the estate.
Ideally, you would want to bring your picnic food into the Estate with you. Versailles is massive, so it’s not a matter of quickly ducking back into town to get your picnic food after your tour.
We did once we picked up our rental bikes after the palace and gardens, but it took an extra hour of our time. It was not the smartest choice, considering we were severely jetlagged, and it was a sweltering day.
But we did really enjoy our picnic.
So, what do you do?
Plan the order of your day carefully
I could not find any clear-cut information to help me figure out the best way to do Versailles in a day, if you wanted to rent bikes, have a picnic, and tour the Palace (one time entry).
Be clear on what is most important to you: Picnic or first tour of the day with Hall of Mirrors to yourself.
Scenario 1: Hall of Mirrors to yourself / Morning Palace tour
All by Myself!
Do the Palace tour and Gardens
Then pick up your bike rental from the Grand Canal
Cycle to the markets (about 15 – 20 minutes)
Cycle back to Queen’s Hamlet or Grand Canal for a picnic (via Queen’s Gate) (15 minutes)
Rest of day at leisure (you can use your bike to tour the Trianon Palaces)
If you don’t have a bike, you could walk back to the markets after the palace, get your food and come back into the gardens and grounds via the Queen’s Gate and Neptune’s Gate (into the gardens).
It’s quite a long walk past the palace and gardens to get to the picnic spot near the Grand Canal. It’s even longer to Queen’s Hamlet. (But you could get the Little Train. See below.)
You may need to map this all out so you know walking/ bike riding times as it can add on a lot of extra time. (See map above to help you get situated)
On weekends, you can rent bikes near the Queen’s Gate which will reduce your walking time. But, on our day of visit, they were only renting them from the Grand Canal. Bike rental is $20 for half a day. You will need at least that if having a picnic.
Scenario 2: Bring Picnic In | Afternoon Palace Tour
Choosing to do a tour after your picnic, will save you a lot of time and fuss as you can walk into the parks and gardens with your food.
If getting those photos with a near empty Hall of Mirrors is not too important to you, choose this option.
Visit Versailles Markets to get your picnic food (or bring it with you from Paris)
Enter the Versailles Estate
Rent bikes and explore the park and gardens
Do the Versailles Palace tour in the afternoon. (After 3pm)
I know people who did it in this way on the guided tour and loved it. They said the palace wasn’t too bad later in the afternoon. Maybe you’ll get lucky!
I think in hindsight, we would have chosen this option! I definitely would have chosen this option if we were not professional travel bloggers, as photography is more important to us.
And if you want to do this option, without the bike riding, either hire a golf cart or take the little train to the Queen’s Hamlet OR just picnic by the Grand Canal.
Scenario 3: Buy Food at the Park’s Restaurant / Kiosk.
What if you don’t want to picnic in Versailles? Then your day in Versailles just got easy! You have the flexibility to let your day unfold.
Plan your day in any order you like – possibly still sticking with the Hall of Mirrors first thing.
There are a couple of restaurants and cafes inside the park where you can purchase food. They vary in price and style from sandwiches and pastries to more formal sit-down meals. You can find all the food options here.
Get Around on a Golf Cart
If you don’t want to rent bikes, there are electric golf carts you can rent. You can take them into the park area and gardens. You cannot take the bikes into the gardens, which are quite large, so the golf cart is a good way to reduce time and steps taken.
€38 per vehicle per hour and come with an audio guide.
There’s also the Little Train
If you don’t want to rent a bike or a golf cart, there is a small open-air train that can take you around the estate. If you want to visit the Trianon Palaces this would be your best option (it’s a really long walk but doable)
We were so exhausted by the end of the day, we nearly paid for the Little Train to take us to the entrance gate, just to reduce our walking time back to the train station.
It’s €4.60 for a single journey or €8.50 for a full circuit.
Things to Do in Versaile in 24 Hours
Now you know a little bit about the palace’s history, let’s look at what to do on a Paris day trip to Versailles!
Enjoy the Exterior Views
Le Chateau Versailles is the biggest palace I have ever seen and is truly a sight to behold. Make sure to leave room in your itinerary to enjoy the views from the outside.
Back Palace view from the gardens
After visiting the Hall of Mirrors and everything else inside the Palace, we went back to the main entry courtyard to take photos and then took time to wander around the outside from the garden side for more views and photos!
Tour the Palace
A tour of the Palace of Versailles is an absolute must. Stepping through the palace doors and wandering its halls allows you to immerse themselves in the opulence and magnificence of the French monarchy.
While you won’t be visiting all 2,300 rooms of the Palace, you’ll get to see a fair bit over the two floors from bedrooms to social gathering rooms, libraries, and wings converted into galleries that tell the story of Versailles over the years.
You can choose to tour it yourselves – like we did – or on a 90-minute tour where a knowledgeable guide will then take you to see the exquisite Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Apartments and some other lesser-known locations otherwise closed to the visitors.
Dauphin apartment bedroom
There is a lot to see in the palace and we missed quite a few places. We were most focused on seeing the Grand Apartment area on the first floor. You could spend hours inside the palace, and once inside, there is no time limit. You just can’t come back in once you leave.
A tour of the Palace of Versailles is an unforgettable experience in Paris and a great way to learn about the history and lifestyle of the French royal family.
Here are some of the things we loved inside the Palace:
The Hall of Mirrors
The Hall of Mirrors is the most famous room in the palace, and you can see by our photos why!
This iconic gallery, adorned with 17 mirrored arches and a total of 357 individual mirrors, reflect dazzling light across the room.
Stretching over 8072 square feet., the Hall of Mirrors was originally designed to showcase the power and prestige of Louis XIV, since at the time of his reign, mirrors were a symbol of luxury.
A sign of wealth
The hall once served as a ceremonial space for grand receptions, diplomatic meetings, and lavish parties.
Aside from its historical significance, the Hall of Mirrors is a visual spectacle. The floor-to-ceiling mirrors create an illusion of endless space, while the stunning chandeliers and intricately painted ceilings add to its grandeur.
The hall is also adorned with beautiful statues and gilded decorations, showcasing the exquisite craftsmanship of the time.
Now can you see why you might want to get here first thing in the morning?
We spent at least twenty minutes here taking photos and just soaking up its grandeur.
The Mercury Salon
The Going to Bed ceremony room
Sadly, the luxurious King’s apartments were closed to the public on our visit. But we did get to see the Mercury Salon, which is where King’s getting-up and going-to-bed ceremonies were hosted and observed by the public. Kalyra and I found this fascinating!
The Queen’s Apartments
Marie Antoinette’s Bed
But we did get to see the Queens apartments, including the Queen’s chamber. Kalyra was most excited about the Marie Antoinette connections when visiting Versailles, so she was happy to see her intricately decorated bedroom.
It is where the queen slept, hosted her private audiences and went through the public going-to-bed ceremony.
The Peace Salon & War Room
In the War Room
The Peace Salon is separated from the Hall of Mirrors by a partition. During the reigns of the various queens, the room was a place where music and then games were played. On the opposite end of the Hall of Mirrors is the War Room which depicts Louis XIV as a victorious king.
The Versailles Gardens
Beyond the palace, the extensive gardens are a sight to behold. The gardens are not part of the tour, but the tour ticket allows you to visit the gardens and explore them independently.
Note that you do need to pay an additional fee for the gardens on the days when the fountain show or musical show takes place. As mentioned above, I don’t even know what this was or why we paid for it. We saw one fountain going in the whole gardens.
Louis XIV, or the Sun King was closely involved in the creation of the gardens. His gardener André Le Notre transformed the wild woods into a French style immense garden reflecting symmetry and order with its meticulously manicured lawns, marvel at the ornate fountains, and discover secluded groves and hidden corners.
Looking towards Neptune Fountain
Groves such as the Queen’s Grove, The Ballroom Grove, and The Girandole Grove lie on the other side of hedges which were used for parties and social activities.
There is a lot to see and do so choose wisely! This is when the golf cart would come in handy! The gardens were impressive, but I wasn’t enthralled by them. They felt a little boring, especially with all the fountains turned off and very little blooming flowers. Cold and structured, rather than warm and vibrant.
My favorite view was above the Orangery, the garden built below the palace and filled with orange, lemon, and palm trees. You cannot go inside this garden.
The Colonnade Grove
The Colonnade Grove is interesting with its 32 marble columns surrounding the group of sculpted figures of the Abduction of Proserpina by François Girardo.
The only fountains we saw flowing
Five paths lead to the Mirror Pool, which is where we saw the only fountains timed to the music.
The Grand Perspective and Latona Fountain
Take some time to view the Grand Perspective from the Water Parterre at the top of the Latona Fountain steps.
Take a Boat on The Grand Canal
Savannah loved rowing this boat
Even though we were exhausted, and it was hot, we decided we didn’t want to leave Versailles without rowing a boat on the Grand Canal. It offers yet another extraordinary view of the Palace of Versailles.
The Grand Canal, stretching over 1,670 meters in length, was designed by André Le Nôtre in the 17th century as an integral part of the palace’s magnificent gardens.
Great views of the Palace
The boat ride also provides an opportunity to appreciate the historical significance of the Grand Canal.
It was originally intended for royal entertainment. In the summer, you could witness the King’s fleet of vessels on the water, while during a freezing winter, it was used for ice skating.
We hired the boat for half an hour (14). Savannah and Craig took turns rowing while I relaxed at the front enjoying the views of the pretty forest, manicured lawns and statues lining the canal and demanding that they bring me cake!
Go for a Bike Ride
As mentioned, a great way to explore the 800 hectares of grounds is to rent a bike.
Even though it was tiring and proved to be a headache, just because of our desire to have a picnic, I loved the tranquility of meandering through the tree-lined paths, stumbling upon elegant statues and fountains, and finding peaceful corners to relax in.
We used our bikes to ride past the canal and out to the Trianon area for our picnic in front of the Queen’s Hamlet.
Bike rental is €7.50 per half-hour, €9.50 per hour, €20 per half-day.
Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon
The Trianon area, which includes the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon. These smaller palaces offer a glimpse into the private lives of the French monarchy and provide a contrast to the grandeur of the main palace.
These more intimate spaces (still unbelievable luxury) were built for the Kings of Versailles to have a place to escape their courtly duties from the main palace.
Petit Trianon is closely connected to Queen Marie Antoinette, who loved this quieter escape. She commissioned the beautiful landscape garden and rustic hamlet village.
Petit Trianon was definitely “humbler”. I enjoyed the Grand Trianon – the King’s quieter palace – more.
It has a beautiful black and white tiled central colonnaded gallery, or ‘Peristyle’, opening onto the central courtyard on one side and the gardens on the other.
It was originally known as the ‘Marble Trianon’ because of the pink marble panels which adorned the palace’s elegant façades.
Have a Picnic at Queen’s Hamlet
Picnic in Versaille
After all this exploring, you’re going to want to refuel. One of our favorite activities at Versailles was having a picnic at the Queen’s Hamlet.
This is what Marie Antoinette considered “peasant living.” It was rumored that it was built for her to escape the formality of court life and play at being farmers, but she insisted it was only to serve as an educational space for the royal children.
It was also used as a relaxing space for leisurely strolls and to host small gatherings.
The Queen’s Hamlet
The Queen’s Hamlet, also known as Hameau de la Reine, is a picturesque village created for Marie Antoinette inspired by the traditional rustic architecture of Normandy.
Nestled amidst lush greenery, this idyllic hamlet features rustic cottages, a tranquil lake, and a working farm. It offers a peaceful and serene atmosphere, perfect for a relaxing picnic with friends or family. I did really love the peasantry serenity vibe here!
Surrounded by nature, you can spread out a blanket on the grassy meadows and savor a leisurely picnic with French cheese, baguettes and cured meats, while enjoying the scenic views.
The gentle sounds of birds chirping, and the rustling of leaves add to the ambiance, creating a serene oasis away from the bustling palace.
The Queen’s Hamlet is on the grounds of Petit Trianon. Speak to the attendant as you pass through security, and they will tell you where you can picnic as there are areas which are forbidden.
How to Get to From Paris to Versaille
To get from Paris to Versailles, there are several convenient transportation options. One of the easiest and stress-free ways is to join a group tour that includes transportation from Paris on a luxury coach or train.
This option provides a guided experience and eliminates the need for navigating public transportation.
Another popular choice is to take the RER C train from Paris. The RER line C takes you to Versailles Château – Rive Gauche train station. From there it’s just a short 10-minute walk to the palace.
A little further out (20 mins walk to Versailles) is the Versailles Chantiers train station, which is where we came in from Montparnasse Garre.
The train is the easiest way by public transport, but it does take an hour to 1.5 hours depending on where you are in the city, so plan accordingly. Thankfully, our location in Montparnasse was much closer!
It’s best to buy a return ticket.
FAQs About a Versailles from Paris Day Trip
Is it possible to do a day trip to Versailles from Paris?
Yes, it’s possible to visit Versailles from Paris on a day trip, but you will need to allow for a full day to ensure you can see all of its highlights.
Do you need a whole day for Versailles?
Yes, you do need a full day to explore Versailles as there is so much to see and do. It also takes anywhere from 2 hours to 1 hour to get the metro to Versailles each way, which eats into your exploring time.
When is the best time to visit Versailles?
The best time to visit Versailles is on a weekday from 9.00am – 11.00am. This is the best time to tour the palace as it will be quiet then. During the middle of the day, explore the grounds and the nearby canal. You can also visit the palace after 3.00pm when the midday crowds disperse. You just want to avoid the palace in the middle of the day.
Is there a dress code for Versailles?
There is no official dress code for Versailles, but you should make sure to wear modest clothing and nothing too revealing to show respect.
So, there you have it, this is how to take a day trip to Versailles from Paris and everything you can see and do in one day there.
Versailles is an iconic symbol of French history and opulence, as well as a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, and should not be skipped off any Paris itinerary.
We hope this guide helped you plan your visit and gave you some inspiration for what to do there in one day.
Let me know if you have any questions or further tips you can share! Do so in the comments below.
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