Is Versailles Worth Visiting? Absolutely!

The French flag flies over the palace of Versailles as seen through the golden gate.

I see this question over and over on various travel pages. “Is Versailles worth visiting?” And I get it. There is so much to see and do in the City of Lights! Do you really want to figure out how to get on public transportation and take the slog out to the suburbs? Here are the pros and cons of a trip to Versailles and you can decide for yourself!

I should start off by saying that we went to Versailles on literally the busiest day possible in the entire year – the Saturday of Bastille Day weekend in mid-July. If you need a quick brush-up on the French Revolution, now would be the time.

SPOILER: The incredible excesses, and oblivious and frivolous lifestyles of the French court angered the masses. Regular French folk finally had enough of their sh*t, stormed and destroyed a big prison (The Bastille), and went to Versailles with torches and pitchforks. The last French King, Louis XVI, his wife Marie Antoinette, and their children tried to escape the palace and flee the country, but were caught. Guillotines ensued and after a long while and a bunch of upheaval the French ended up with a stable Republic. Vive la France! 

And don’t call it “Bastille Day” in France. It is the French National Holiday “La Fête Nationale” or simply “Le Quatorze Juillet” (the fourteenth of July). It would be like if some crazy French tourists came to the U.S. on July 4th and were all, “Happy Revolution Day!” or “Happy Surrender at Yorktown Festival!”

But to me, July 14th seemed like a natural day to visit, and see just how crazy-lavish, over-the-top, and out of touch this haven – miles away from Paris – really was.

[Heads up! This post may contain ‘affiliate links’, meaning if you decide to book through those links, you will have a fabulous time, and I will receive a small commission. This costs you nothing, and you can rest assured I’m not linking anything I don’t fully endorse! Also, it will help me to keep giving you great content, so thank you!]

5 tips to enjoy Versailles for La Fête Nationale (or any summer day):

Here is a link to the official Palace of Versailles website. Be sure to review it and get tickets in advance so you don’t waste time waiting in line – there’s so much to see!

Tip #1: Double check whether the Metro/train station you want to use is open or not. For security purposes, some were closed when we were there. There should be updates on the official site at the top.

Tip #2: Do not listen to the tour companies that want you to be the last tour of the day for some reason. If you take a tour, be the first so you avoid the worst of the crowds, and have time to visit the gardens afterward.

Tip #3: You can probably get away with the audioguide instead of a human guide on this one. All guides are different, and there’s nothing like getting a great one. But we felt rushed the whole time because he showed up late, and we also missed out on a lot of the gardens. I wish I’d gotten the skip-the-line tickets and an audio guide that we could have done at our own pace.

Tip #4: Stay hydrated and wear comfortable shoes. July can be hot! There are several spots within Versailles to take a break for a bite to eat and a cool drink, ranging from quick snack bar style to full-on restaurant.

Tip #5: Take a deep breath and just go with it.

The Sun King and Beyond

Versailles isn’t just about the ill-fated Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, though. Versailles was the pet project of King Louis the Fourteenth – the self-proclaimed “Sun King” who had this royal residence built.

One of the advantages of having a palace where the majority of the amazing sights are over your head is that you can still see it all, even if there are crowds. They have elegantly roped off the lower areas so you still get a view. And yes, there were a lot of people, but there’s good reason a lot of people want to see this place!

And then there’s the spectacular Hall of Mirrors! Mirrors were a big deal back in the 1700s and how to make them was a giant Italian secret apparently, but Louis’ people figured it out. They are certainly not as clear and bright as mirrors today, but they were dazzling and high-tech in their day. And the Hall of Mirrors is where the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War 1, was signed. It is still used today to host big diplomatic meetings.

The Hall of Mirrors packed with people on Bastille Day. Is Versailles worth visiting on the busiest day of the year? Still yes!
You can either focus on the fact that it’s crowded…
Or focus on the fact that everything you want to look at is up there – and it’s spectacular!

Marie Antoinette is arguably the most famous, or infamous resident of the palace in popular culture. She was born into Austrian royalty and married off to Louis XVI at the age of FOURTEEN. He was only 15. Kind of like Romeo and Juliet without the romance, and a very different mutual-death ending. Together they fumbled their way through puberty and their teen years and ended up alienating the country so badly that the French people rose up against them, put them on trial for treason, and beheaded them. Monarchy destroyed.

Our tour guide made it a point to say that if France hadn’t been throwing masses of cash across the Atlantic to fund the American Revolution, the monarchy might have remained. So that’s two democracies for the price of one, I guess!

The teen queen did get a bit of a bad rap in some respects. Her most well-known quote, a supposed out-of-touch response to learning that the people had no bread to eat was, “Let them eat cake!” The thing is, though – she never said it. The fake news media of the time (gossip) didn’t care and the erroneous attribution has stuck.

A giant gallery full of military paintings and sculptures wasn’t my favorite honestly, but if you’re into military history and paintings of terrified horses, commanders in various headwear pointing into the distance, and people being impaled, you could spend a long time in here. If not, you can look at two or three of these and move on to the very spectacular gift shop. You can also buy macarons across the hallway. I got an oversized pistachio one. Heaven!

Now, on to the gardens 🌳

The Gardens

If you are a garden nerd check out this article on the Gardens of Versailles with all the specifics of the design of the gardens including the fountains, the Grand Canal, the Orangerie, the labyrinth and so much more. Scroll down to the bottom to see special events coming up.

The key to fully enjoying the gardens and the palace is to arrive early and make a day of it! Be sure to check the time schedule because on Saturdays and some other special nights in the summer they clear the garden at 5:30pm to set up for musical fireworks. The company we booked our tour with didn’t make this clear, and so we only had a short time in the gardens and hardly got to see anything.

We plan to go back again just to see what we missed, and to see the Petite Trianon village, Marie Antoinette’s mock country village where she went to escape the courtly life in the palace. We’re lucky this is a road trip for us, but if there’s an airplane involved for you, be sure to plan this trip well or risk heartbreak.

How long should you stay?

If you have time, two days in Versailles would be ideal. It saves you from rushing around, being at the mercy of the train schedule, and getting overtaken by travel fatigue. If you only have one day, don’t try to cram it into a day that you have other plans in Paris or you may get stressed, rushed or frustrated. It deserves a full day at the very minimum.

The town of Versailles itself is charming and filled with fantastic cafés, gardens, restaurants, and the Osmothèque, the world’s largest scent archive. Yes, you can make a reservation and get a personalized scent tour of the perfumes of history! Haven’t you always wondered what Napoleon smelled like?

Where should you stay?

Another bonus of staying overnight in Versailles (other than the Saturday night fireworks in the gardens) is that you could stay at the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace (squeal!) When we pulled up David asked, “Is this the hotel or part of the palace?”

We loved this place for many reasons, and here are 6 big ones:

⛲️It is literally right next door to the palace and gardens. You can walk easily, and there is a convenient parking garage on site if you have a car. If not, it’s a charming 10-minute walk to the C train that takes you to and from Paris.

🌹The staff is lovely and accommodating. Did I mention that, weirdly, Bastille Day is our anniversary? I got surprised by the royal treatment when my husband called ahead and arranged roses, chocolates, and champagne in the room!

☕️The restaurants in the hotel are fabulous, including the Michelin star Gordon Ramsay au Trianon and La Veranda (which was fabulous) . There’s also lovely outdoor terrace to enjoy a cappuccino, a swanky bar, and a breakfast buffet that will knock your socks off.

🔎The grounds are gorgeous, and the building itself is a piece of history. The treaty of Versailles was drafted in one of the dining rooms! There’s even a plaque on the wall if you want to go on a historical scavenger hunt!

📸The lobby and entrance hall are the stuff of Instagram dreams – marble floors, high ceilings, Murano glass chandeliers…

🐶And the best part for us – they take dogs! Helga got the royal treatment as well, with a bed and dog bowls provided. She approved!

There are two buildings, the Trianon Palace (5 star) and the Trianon Pavilion (4 star). We stayed in the Pavilion, but the advantage there is that the view from your french doors is of the Palace, and you still enjoy the same amenities and restaurants.

And this is a Hilton property so you can use those points! And no, I have no deals with Hilton or the Waldorf. I just really loved this place.

So, is Versailles worth visiting?

The Waldorf right next door to the palace was a little splurgy, but there are many other fantastic places to stay in Versailles for a whole range of budgets. And the palace, the gardens, the art, the macaron? Magnifique!

So there you have it. Is Versailles worth visiting? Yes.

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