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Plan a day trip to Versailles during a trip to Paris for a day of opulence, grandeur, beauty, and fountains fit for a king or queen.
Every visit to Paris should include a day trip to Versailles to explore the beauty and history of the palaces and gardens. My daughter and I rode the train for a brief journey to the playground of the Kings Louis and thoroughly enjoyed the day imagining the life of royalty. The palace and gardens were begun in the 1600s and continue to be an icon of French luxury. Exploring Versailles ensures a day of wonder and amusement.
Palace of Versailles
From the first glimpse down the street, the Palace of Versailles impressed us with its immensity and grandeur. We entered the chateau after passing the tall golden gates that frame the courtyard. After perusing the galleries explaining the history, we peered into the domed chapel anchored by a marble floor, stone arches, and Corinthian columns. We strolled through the royal apartments, which called our attention to the rich hues covering the walls and furniture.
The Room of Abundance presents an excellent example of the palace’s opulence. Gold molding separates the many marble colors on the walls from an enormous mural that spans the ceiling. The room served as an evening gathering place and antechamber for King Louis XIV’s Room of Rare Objects. Overall, the Versailles collections include over 60,000 pieces of art.
The most famous room, the Hall of Mirrors, does not disappoint. Over 350 mirrors line the 240-foot-long hall on one side. Multiple French doors on the other side open onto the gardens. Under the painted, vaulted ceiling, elaborate crystal chandeliers reflect in the mirrors to create a luminous space. Golden statues on each side hold crystal candelabras to add to the light. This room hosted the Treaty of Versailles signing on June 28, 1919, ending the First World War.
Learn the History of the Many Kings Louis on a Day Trip to Versailles
In 1629, King Louis XIII built a hunting lodge in the open country west of Paris. In 1666, a brick chateau replaced the lodge, and Louis XIV, the Sun King, expanded it over the next 50 years. The additions included grand apartments for the king and queen. He moved the government and court to the property, which then housed almost 10,000 people. In 1684, he replaced a terrace with the Hall of Mirrors and added the Royal Chapel in 1710. King Louis XV redesigned the palace to include smaller apartments for the king and queen, giving them more comfort and privacy. The 1789 Revolution forced the royal family to abandon Versailles and return to Paris. Today, the 2300 rooms cover almost 700,000 square feet.
Explore the Gardens on a Day Trip to Versailles
The first time I visited Versailles and looked from the terrace, across the Great Lawn, and over the Grand Canal, I felt like I had stepped into a painting. I could have gazed at the interplay of the symmetry and variety of the groves and fountains for hours. The Royal Way extends from the Latona Fountain to the Apollo Fountain. On either side, winding paths lead through 13 groves and gardens containing all types of fountains. Fountains representing the four seasons sit at the crossroads of the four major paths in the Versailles gardens.
Across the front of the palace, the Water Walk, or Infants’ Walk, boasts 14 fountains. Neptune Fountain has 99 jets at one end, which launch a water display every 15 minutes. You can attend the last fountain show of the day at the Neptune Fountain and then exit at the nearby gate.
In the center of the Water Walk, the round Latona Fountain provided the perfect backdrop for our photos with the Grand Canal beyond the fountain. We wound through the groves and gardens, hunting for the various fountains.
Be sure to visit on the days featuring the fountain and music shows. On a rotating basis, certain fountains flow for a limited time. The map shows two routes and the times so you don’t miss any fountain shows. The classical music wafting around the fountains made us feel like we were attending a royal garden party.
During the garden’s creation, engineers designed a system to move pressurized water to feed the fountains. Over 45km of pipe was laid underneath the gardens at that time. Although, at one time, the fountains included over 2000 water jets, only a quarter of those remain.
A few fountains have received updates with modern technology. Timed multiple jets open and close to a 7-minute piece of music at the Mirror pool. It is the perfect place to rest and watch the dancing water.
Estate of Trianon
A visit to Versailles is not complete without exploring the Estate of Trianon. Although the size and elegance of the Trianon palaces make this difficult to believe, the purpose of building these residences was to provide a more intimate space for the royal family to escape the duties of the court.
The Petit Trianon, built in the 1760s, soon became the retreat of Marie-Antoniette. She transformed the gardens into more natural spaces quite different from the formal gardens of the larger palaces. Small bodies of water and winding paths offer a pleasant stroll through trees and flowers. A grotto overlooks the small lake next to the Belvedere, an octagonal building suited for summer parties. The Temple of Love, reminiscent of a round Greek temple, is down a winding path.
Heading inside the palace, we first toured the ground floor holding the kitchen and storage areas. The rooms in the Petit Trianon were just as opulent as the main palace, with detailed molding and plenty of gold and marble. The rooms, however, were more intimate with pastel and muted colors.
Built in 1687 for Louis XIV to conduct his affair with Madame de Montespan, The Grand Trianon resembles the main palace more closely. However, sunlight bathes the rooms through large French doors, and the rooms seem more spacious. Emperor Napoleon spent time in this palace in 1809 and refurbished the space. Most of the current furniture dates from his period. My favorite, the garden room, contained the only furniture I saw upholstered in royal purple.
The main bedroom includes a luxuriously canopied bed behind a low railing with plenty of gold highlights. Corinthian columns, enormous chandeliers, and multiple seating arrangements fill a room as large as many New York apartments, and the Peristyle connects the palace’s two wings. Black and white marble covers the breezeway floor, while pink marble columns provide a frame for the formal gardens.
Exploring The Estate
The immensity of Versailles may seem daunting, but it is conquerable in a day. You can rent bikes of various types by the hour outside the main gardens, lock included. My daughter and I rented bicycles to reach the Trianon palaces. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and leisurely explored the area on our schedule.
The gardens map provides a route to see the fountains based on when they are active. Restaurants and snack shops offer pleasant breaks. A crepe and ice cream stand next to the Grand Canal lends the perfect excuse to lounge on the grass and watch the rowboats trying to maneuver.
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Your Day Visit to Versailles
You can easily reach Versailles from Paris by train. Walking just half a mile brings you from the station to the front gates. Today, we peasants can enjoy the palaces and gardens on a day trip to Versailles. Visiting means a day of opulence, grandeur, beauty, and fountains. You can view how royalty lived and enjoy the spacious gardens the Kings Louis created for the royal court. Whether you are traveling to Versailles, France, Europe, or any other exciting place in the world, let Wander with Wonder help pave the way.