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Palace of Versailles

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Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

Translated by Lottie Davies — 2 years ago

Original text by Maika Cano Martínez

The Palace of Versailles (le Château de Versailles) is another one of these incredible tourist visits to do if you go to Paris. I know that it is further out from the very centre of the city and I know that you have to dedicate your morning to it, but it is honestly worth the sacrifices. If you only have 48 hours in Paris, I would still recommend visiting, but instead limiting your visit to the exterior of the palace and not actually going inside. This is actually what I did the first time that I went, but I did end up going inside the palace the second time.

The palace is located in the city of Versailles, close to Paris. It was the royal residence of several kings and important individuals in the history of France. Both the Palace and the Gardens of Versailles were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1979.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

Although King Louis XIII ordered the construction of a shooting pavilion with a garden, it was Louis XIV who took the merit, as he was the one who decided to expand the land and he gave it the reputation that it has today. Louis XIV lived in Paris, specifically in the Louvre Palace, and spent time in other palaces in the area, but he didn't feel comfortable until he found Versailles. After, Louis XV and Louis XVI also resided there at one point or another of their reign until the French Revolution in 1789, when the palace was overthrown by the people and looted, before they forced the Royal Family to be transported to Paris. Since then, the palace has only been used episodically.

I was impressed just as much by the interior as the exterior. If I had to choose, I think I liked the exterior more because it's huge, full of open green spaces and lakes, and seeing the palace from the outside is also very impressive.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

Upon arriving here, you will first come across the palace's facade, which is immense; consisting of a door and some very pretty golden railings. It is there where you will also find several different information stands and some arrows that indicate the many directions that you can head in.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

I started with the palace gardens. Without a shadow of a doubt, it's one of my favourite views of all the places that I have visited. I love green places with water areas, and it appears that this is the best place for it.

There are lots of different parts of the gardens to see, but they are difficult to describe. Take care not to go into one of them if you don't have a lot of time because they are endless, in fact, it looks like a giant maze.

Within the water areas, there are several parts that I am going to talk to you about. Amongst these, I want to highlight the Grand Canal: it measure more than 1. 5 kilometres and it seems like it never ends, merging together with the rest of the Gardens of Versailles.

There are several fountains distributed throughout the gardens, but the most spectacular one of all is the Fountain of the Chariot of Apollo. In the centre, it has a sculpture of Apollo in his chariot drawn by several horses that look like they are coming out of the water. In my eyes, it looks like a really realistic work of art, and one that's definitely appropriate and worthy of being at Versailles; it emotes lots of strength and power. It is located between the walkway down from the palace - the one has several sculptures lining either side of it - and the Grand Canal.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

Another beautiful fountain is the Pyramid Fountain. It has four superimposed basins that go from smallest to largest and that are held in place by newts and dolphins.

Just below the palace's facade, there are two large water pools that are known as the Parterre d'Eau, and the facade is reflected in their waters. They have some sculptures on their borders that give them a more classic and elegant touch.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

It's worth going and seeing the interior of the palace, as it is full of beautiful and luxurious spaces, as well as the history of the French Royal Family. The different rooms that you can visit, and the most noteworthy ones, are the following:

The King's Chamber and his State Apartments

In the chamber, what stands out is the crimson brocade with gold and silver detailing. It houses several paintings from important artists, as well as some other objects that look like they have been taken from a fairytale palace. Although, in this particular case, reality beats fiction.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

The Queen's Chamber and her State Apartments

The Queen's rooms are of the same style of those of the King, but with much more feminine decor, particularly in terms of the colours used. The space was occupied by three different queens, but the most famous (and the last one to reside here) was Marie Antoinette.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

The Hall of Mirrors [Galerie des Glaces, in French]

This is perhaps the most famous room in the palace because it was there where the Treaty of Versailles was signed (the peace treaty that put an end to World War I in 1919), and is my favourite in the entire complex. The room is very wide, rectangular-shaped, and with lots of chandeliers and paintings that decorate the ceiling. My friends and I had a bit of a joke around and started dancing a waltz around the room.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

The Royal Chapel

The chapel is beautiful, not massively large, and designed for royalty, with two floors: on the ground floor, the arches that sit around the central part of the church and the altar are what stand out the most; whereas, on the upper floor, there are lots of columns rather than arches. The altar is also quite small in size, but it's noteworthy for how golden it is. Just above the altar, on the top floor, there is an organ and, at the far end, a painting on the semi-dome that is lengthened by the central part of the roof.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

The apartment for the King's daughters

For those of you that don't know, the name, "mesdames", is given to Louis XV's six daughters. These rooms are also of the same style of those of the Queen, just simpler, with less luxuries and more toned-down decor.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

Besides the main rooms of the palace, I also love the balconies that are distributed throughout the building, and the views that you can have are the best thing about them.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

One thing that I have never ended up seeing is the Trianon, so I really hope to change that the next time that I visit. There is also a show in the Gardens of Versailles every weekend from April to October entitled "Les Grandes Eaux", which I have been told is magnificent, but I have not been able to go to this either.

Within the palace grounds, there are lots of places where you can get something to eat and buy souvenirs. Of course, this is somewhat expensive to do, but when it's a necessity, it is absolutely justifiable. Although for the students (and young people in general) who have less spending power, there is a McDonalds just in front of the train station.

Visiting the interior of the Palace of Versailles is free for under 18s and students under the age of 26, so don't hesitate in visiting, even if it is just a flying visit. However, standard admission to the palace costs 15€, and reduced rates, 13€! Personally, the prices seem too expensive, so I was very grateful to have been able to visit as a student, although the standard admission does include an audio guide that is available in 11 different languages (this wasn't included for us students). Visits to the Gardens of Versailles and the park are free during the vast majority of the year, which seems like an absolute privilege from what I have seen. However, make sure you double check this before going because I don't think admission is free whilst the "Les Grandes Eaux" show is running. Like the rest of the museums in Paris (it was the same case in Strasbourg too), entry is free on the first Sunday of every month from November to March.

Going back to the luxury of Louis XIV's age

The palace's opening hours vary depending on the time of year that it is and also on what you are going to visit (i. e. the Gardens or the Palace of Versailles itself). To quickly summarise, from November to March, the palace is open from 9am to 5:30pm (whilst the gardens stay open a little later). From April to October, these times are extended to 9am until 6:30pm, and the gardens until 8:30pm. In peak season, it has to be much more beautiful (I have always visited in the off-peak season), but there are obviously going to be more people, so it's always best to get there as early as possible to avoid the mad rush.

To get to the Palace of Versailles from Paris, you can travel either by car or by intercity train, which takes less than half an hour and costs around 7€ for a return ticket. The train drops you off very close to the palace itself, as the station is right by it. You have to turn right out of the entrance, walk straight on, and you will see the palace shortly after.

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