Tips for the visit of the Palace of Versailles

I’m in the Marble cour of the palace !

The Palace of Versailles , located 18 km west of Paris, does not need any introduction. With the main castle, the gardens and park, and the Trianon estate (with its two castles) it forms a great French classical ensemble. Only problem: the whole world is aware of that and this is probably the most famous visited castle in the world !

Visited by more than six million tourists each year, including 70% foreigners, according to the period in which you will be traveling,, the visit can be wonderful or absolutely awful … because of the large crowd. Transport, schedules, fares, free … and toilet, discover all the advice and tips from a littl mouse that knows the place !

How long to visit?

Many are wondering how long does the visit of Versailles requires : if you want to discover the most essentiel places, plan to spend at least the entire day! 😉

If you only have one day, take about two hours to explore the castle (excluding any exhibition) PLUS the queue in front of the entrance, up to several hours if you have the misfortune to choose a day of great affluence. Then add two hours to wander around the gardens (about 100 hectares), and two to three hours to go around the Trianon estate with its two castles and the famous  Queen’s hamlet

In short, if you have this possibility, take a ticket for two days, it will give you time to visit the area without hurry or excessive fatigue.

When to go

The gardens of Versailles in winter

winter gardens

Ideally, twice: once in winter to enjoy the castle in good conditions with the minimum of tourists, especially during the week, and once at the good season to explore the gardens and visit Trianon.

If you choose a single visit in winter, you will see all the statues of the gardens under tarpaulins, protected from the weather. There won’t be any water in the foutains, and of course this will not be the ideal time to see the gardens without flowers and leafless trees.

If you come in summer, the park will be more enjoyable, but the tour of the castle won’t be, with a long queue at the entrance, (sometimes several hours) and endless jostling once inside …

The low season is from November to March, excluding school holidays (All Saints, Christmas and winter), it is ideal to visit the castle uncrowded if you avoid Sundays and Tuesdays, day where most other national museums are closed, therefore the castle attracts a large crowd ! The other days, you will enter without queuing or so, especially after 15 h 00 (in this case, visit the park and the Trianon before).

It will then remain 2 hours 30 minutes before closing time to go through the rooms, which is enough for a traditional visit, especially taking into account the various rooms (too) often closed. Even on Tuesdays and Sundays, the queue is very reasonable. You can then wander the halls and rooms of the castle and enjoy its magnificent scenery.

In high season from April to October, it will be crowded every day: if you can only come once, come during this time BUT absolutely avoid weekends, Tuesdays, weekends, May holidays and school holidays : queuing for hours is then garanteed !

Inside, you will hardly see the ceiling, certainly beautiful, but the rest will be hidden by the large crowd of visitors. Some days it is not even possible to move as there are too many people ! … In short, more than enough to ruin your visit. In that case it is better to come another day. In all cases, guided groups generally visit in the morning, therefore I’d suggest you enter the castle after 15 h 00, it will be much less crowded …

How to get there

By train

Station Versailles Rive Gauche

The Versailles Château Rive Gauche station

Versailles has no less than five stations, but the closest to the castle and therefore the most practical from Paris is rightly called the Versailles Château Rive Gauche, located less than 500 meters from the entrance.

The impasse in the station is one of the (many) terminus of the RER C line: just take the line that crosses Paris along the Seine to the left bank offering numerous correspondences, you will arrive 30 and 40 minutes later  … if you did not get it wrong !

Be careful, TAKE ONLY a train going to this paricular station, there is one every 15 minutes during the day. If you do not have a Navigo pass, buy a return ticket (actually two single tickets) to this destination, with a single metro ticket, it does not work! The price of the single ticket is 3.65€ in 2018 € (7.30 € for a return ticket then). It is half-price for children from 4 to 10, free below that age.

Depending on where you come from, there are various other possibilities to reach the castle: the train from Paris Saint-Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite, then 20 min walk (or take a bus), the train from Paris-Montparnasse to Versailles-Chantiers then 15 min walk (or again a bus) or the metro line 9 to the terminus Pont de Sèvres and the RATP bus 171, which leaves in front of the castle It’s not the shortest way, but it’s the cheapest (cost: 2 subway tickets, one for the metro and one for the bus).

The official website Vianavigo will indicate a specific route according to your needs with schedules.

By car

Easy access to Versailles by the A13 (north) or the A86 (south). Once in town, two options are available to you: doing like most people and choose the car park at Place d’Armes in front of the castle … but at 30 € for the day (!) I consider it’s a rip-off ! Or you can simply park further away and walk a little! I really recommend this second solution …

If you move away from the castle by the Avenue de Paris (in the axis of the castle), parking becomes free after about a kilometer. If walking is a problem for you, the bus 171 (quite frequent) follows the avenue and drops you right in front of the castle, its terminus (the same bus ticket for 3 or 4 you still will cost less than the castle car park!).😉

Another option, you’ll have to pay but still a lot less : to leaving you car in the park at the entrance of the castles of Trianon. You have to pay the park entrance (6 € per car in 2018) but you will then ben able to leave your car all day to authorized locations. You just have to reach the castle through the gardens, or possibly to take the train (expensive) that will prevent you from getting tired. During the visit of Trianon (highly recommended), you will get your car directly!

Schedules

The Palace of Versailles is open every day except Monday from 9 am to 5:30 pm, and up to 6:30 pm in the high season (April 1 to October 31). The castle gardens are open from 8 am to 6 pm, and to 8:30 pm during the high season. The park (beyond the gardens) is about to open it from 8 am to 6 pm in winter and from 7 am to 8:30 pm in the high season (in all cases, last admission 30 minutes before).

As for the Trianon estate, wich comprises two castles and parks, it only opens from noon to 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm in high season. Very smart to hours while in the morning the main castle is overcrowded, as it is the only open place… Great organisation indeed !

There are only three days of annual closure outside Mondays: January 1, May 1, December 25. Paid sites are then closed, but the castle gardens and park remain open. In all cases, in case of very bad weather, access to the park is prohibited for obvious security reasons (some will remember his sad state after the storm of December 1999 …)

The rates

The Versailles Information Panel

The Versailles Information Panel

Versailles being the most visited palace in Europe, with an increase of visitors, prices increased exponentially as well..

And following the 20% drop in visitors known in 2016, rates have accordingly … increased 20% in 2017, a way considered effective to fill the wallets … visitors of modest means (except exempt categories) will appreciate that.

In addition, certain business practices are more than questionable, as having made the decision to charge for the entrance of Trianon parks in 2006 under the very marketing name « estate of of Marie Antoinette, » while they were free to access from the Revolution, and limit a little more each year the days to visit freely the castle garden, also free to access from the reign of Louis XIV!

In other words, the visit will cost you some money ! However when compared to rates similar places in Europe, it remains within the average equivalent palace and it is probably worth the price. Regarding the conditions of the visit, that’s another story … Remember that certain categories of visitors, starting with young people or job seekers in France, come free.

There are three main possibilities: the only castle ticket (possible expo included), the estate of Trianon ticket only, and overall ticket includes the entire domain.

Note that the park is free all year for pedestrians and cyclists (beyond the castle gardens around the Grand Canal), the gardens of the castle also EXCEPT the days of « great waters » (les grandes eaux) or « musical gardens » (Tuesdays and Fridays and the weekends of end March to late October and some other days in the year especially on holidays, well check on the official website).

The gardens become free from 7 pm , leaving one hour and half to discover them during summer if you do not want to pay for « great waters »

The access ticket for the day in the gardens is then 9.50 € (great waters) in 2017-2018 (€ 9 in 2016) or € 8.50 (musical gardens), with very few reduced rates (though the water plays last only part time and not all day!). You can read more HERE . But Parks Grand and Petit Trianon became paid throughout the year.

As mentionned above it is possible to access the car park by paying except for the disabled. The rate in 2018 is 6 € for a car and € 3 for a motorcycle parking included . It is much cheaper than the Place d’Armes in front of the town castle side …😉

Individual tickets

Gardens of VersaillesYou can buy a ticket for the whole area, said « passport ticket » , which costs 20 € a day (18 € in 2016), or 25 € for two consecutive days (with no increase in 2017 and 2018). It provides access to all areas and audio guides are included.

The days of great waters or musical gardens (usually on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays), the same ticket increases to 27 € a day (25 € in 2016) and 30 € two days, and obviously includes the gardens.

You can also choose an Internet passport ticket with reservation schedule , allowing you to choose a specific time for your entrance to the castle (up to 14h), your access will be guaranteed until 30 minutes after the time stated on the ticket. You will not have to endure the queuw … in theory.

If you do not want to go to Trianon you can buy a ticket for the castle alone for 18 € (15 € in 2016). It always includes audio guides and possible exhibition. You will be able to access before the castle gardens before or after your visit  (excluding days of great waters where you have to pay) and the park.

The Trianon estate is meanwhile available in its entirety for 12 € (10 € in 2016), including the castle of the Grand Trianon with the possible temporary exhibition, Petit Trianon Castle and both parks including the famous hamlet of Queen.

Finally for those who wish to deepen their visit, various tours propose visiting areas usually not opened to the public, it is however best to book online or by phone and they cost a 10 € for an hour and a half … in addition to the ticket entrance to the castle. It was € 7 2017 … Be careful, the ticket is not refunded if you do not show.

This bears the advantage, especially in high season, to offer an access by a dedicated entrance where you will almost not have to wait, and you will have the possibility to enter  the castle at the end of your tour without going through the long queue outside … The inconvenient is that if you book and pay in advance, which is preferable to be sure of a place, you will not be refunded in case you are late !

Details official website HERE

If you do not have tickets and do not benefit of a free rate, head to the ticket hall at the left upon entering the forecourt (or court of Ministers) before coming to the access control to the Entrance A at the Dufour pavilion : given the lack of information on the spot and poor organization, many people start queuing, before realizing they must buy a ticket before entering ! They then have to lose their place in the queue, go buy a ticket and get-back at the end of the queue again for control … a bad joke that can waste hours in season!

Another possibility: the Tourist Office of Versailles, located between Versailles Chateau Station and the entrance of the castle, has vending machines … with much less waiting!

The Palace of Versailles for … free!

Various categories of visitors come to Versailles for free! The exemptions concern: under 18, under 26 years resident in the European Union, school, teachers in France, the disabled and their attendants, job seekers in France (with an attestation from the local JobCenter) and those living on the dole (resident en France only). Remember to bring an ID as well if you are concerned !

You will find all the exemptions and vouchers to present HERE . (PDF)

It is also possible to visit the whole area free the first Sunday of the month from November to March , but so that it is better to come well before the opening to hope to enter without tail hours …

Finally last important point: if you can enter for free, or if you have purchased advance tickets , which are highly recommended in high season, you do not need to go through the ticket office,  go directly to security check (Dufour flag, entrance A).

Other useful tips

Now well informed, I give you some final advice to enjoy a beautiful day.

La maison du jardinier au Petit Trianon de Versailles

Gardener’s house in Petit Trianon : toilets are here !

Toilet

They are almost as few in the time of Louis XIV, but I am here to guide « pissing mice » !

You will find some upon arriving in the wing of southern ministers (the building of the ticket office), then at the entrance just after controls and other at the end of the castle « hisory rooms » (before getting on the 1st floor) but not at all on the first floor, where are the great apartments locate, be careful ! You will then find again those of the entry way down at the end of your visit.

In the gardens, in addition to temporary toilets at the right of the work of the Queen’s apartment (access to the gardens on the south side of the castle), there are others in the gardens on the side of the north wing of the castle, both close to the Royal alley (in the axis of the castle), in front of the brewery grove of Girandole, and in front of the « buvette du Dauphin »

In the park, you will find the little Venice, right at the start of the Grand Canal (those located 100 meters just behind the brewery are paying 50 cents!). Others are at the entrance of the Grand and Petit Trianon (without having to pay for access to the domain). It also exists in this area, in the hamlet of the Queen, in the gardener’s house (when these toilets are not closed!). All are free.

You will find an interactive map of the area showing location HERE .

Otherwise you will find plans in PDF domain, Trianon and large apartments HERE . They allow you to locate the scene before your visit, but the paper version is free provision after the controls, consider recovering or asking.

 

Some other details …

You will find in the area several food points, all as expensive as they are of poor quality. rather buy your sandwich and your water bottle in town or bring them! (Careful, bottles of more than 50cl are prohibited in the castle) you can picnic in the park (but not in the garden!), rr around the « pièce d’eau des Suisses », just south of the castle by crossing the road to Saint-Cyr.

If you visit the gardens, put on good shoes: this is big! Moreover in summer, remember that the gardens are sometimes slightly raised and the sun can hit hard despite the clouds: remember to protect yourself.

Finally, if you come by public transport (train station Versailles Château Rive Gauche RER C to Paris is within 500 m of the castle), buy your potential return ticket from your departure or arrival at the station: the evening at area closed, you will not really alone at the counter or distributor!

Okay, ready for the visit? Share your experience return comment below!🙂

Check out my article on the night tour of the State Apartments of the Palace of Versailles (in English) , the Grand Trianon and its garden , and the Petit Trianon and the Hamlet of the Queen (in French but you can use the translation button)

Before or after visiting the castle, do not miss the visit (free!) Gallery of Carriages in Great Stable opposite the entrance of the castle! 😉

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