A half hour outside of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is one of the world's grandest historical museums. With over 63,000 square meters of beautifully-maintained decor in the 2,000 rooms of the Palace—and surrounded by perhaps the most famous garden in the world—this attraction is a must-see for tourists visiting Paris.
Versailles is several miles southwest of France's capital city, but trains can reach the Palace in 30 to 40 minutes from the Gare Saint Lazare and the Paris Lyon's stations, and since Versailles is on the RER local rail service, access is free if you have the Paris Visite transit pass, or you can take the number 171 bus from Pont de Sèvres for another cheap option.
The Chateau is open from Tuesday to Sunday, except on certain French public holidays, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but the ticket office closes an hour early. Current information for arranging tours of and buying tickets for this famous monument and museum are available on the official Versailles Chateau website.
Most people don't stay in Versailles, they visit as a day trip from Paris. However, as lodging tends to be cheaper outside the city than in it, you might want to consider staying in one of the hotels near the Palace of Versailles. A word of warning, though: they're not nearly as decadent as the palace itself!
History of the Palace of Versailles
In 1624, Louis XIII, the king of France, began building a hunting lodge in the small village of Versailles, adding on to it throughout the years. By 1682 he had moved the entire court and government of France to Versailles, and his successor Louis XIV then enlarged and enrobed the old lodge, turning it into the great Chateau we know today.
It continued to operate as the seat of power in France until 1789 when the French Revolution forced Louis XVI to return to Paris, abandoning the royal residence for good. In 1837, King Louis-Philipe converted the whole palace into a museum of French history in what may have been the historic starting point for the development of mass tourism.
When World War I ended in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed by Allied and Associated Powers and Germany in the Hall of Mirrors within the Palace of Versailles, though one of the original copies of the document itself was stolen by Germany during the Second World War.
Today, the Palace of Versailles offers visitors a chance to explore the decadence and history of the 17th through 19th-century monarchies of France, which makes for a great day-trip if you're visiting Paris.
Getting to Versailles on a Day Trip
Easily accessible by car, train, or even on a bike tour from Paris, the Palace of Versailles is an easy addition to your vacation to the country's capital.
By public transit, you can visit any number of Paris train stations, which offer different connections to Versailles, or you could go to Paris Lyon's train station, where trains run by SNCF will take you directly to Rive de Gier Station, which is a six-minute walk from the Palace of Versailles. It's recommended that you purchase a Paris Passlib transit pass before you go, which provides free service on local trains and entry to some museums.
If you're in Paris and you'd like to do a no-hassle trip to Versailles and wish to skip the lines of tourists waiting to buy tickets, a tour may be in order; you can take a coach transfer from Paris to Versailles or catch a skip-the-line audio-guided tour of Versailles for a special treat.
Giverny, home to the gardens that inspired Monet's most famous impressionist works, is about an hour north-west of Paris and is easily reachable from Versailles by car. However, as there are no trains connecting to the two, if you're relying on public transport to do your day trips, you'll need to do a guided tour to visit both Versailles and Giverny on the same day.