Planning a trip to Paris? The Palace of Versailles is a must for many visitors.
My daughter celebrated her 14th birthday while we were in Paris, and we wanted to do something special on that day. Where better than visiting a royal palace with our princess?
Our family of four enjoyed visiting the Palace of Versailles. My favorite and most memorable parts of the day were not the ones I expected. We also learned a lot about getting to and from Versailles, tours and services.
Here's how my family toured the Palace of Versailles, and all our tips for making the most of your day.
Before our trip, I wondered if we should book a tour of Versailles. I knew it was huge and I knew it was outside of Paris, so the excursion was intimidating. I spent some time on the official website and looked at a few tours and decided that the DIY approach was the best option for my family's interests and budget. The official website and app are filled with helpful information to help you plan your day.
It's easy to buy tickets directly from the official website at http://en.chateauversailles.fr/. There are many ticket options, and the good news is that all kids under age 18 get in FREE. If you visit on a day when the Musical Fountain Show is on, you will need to purchase a reduced-price Passport for children over age 5 to visit the gardens and see the shows.
We chose the Passport with Timed Entry because it includes everything for an affordable price. It was an off-day for the Fountain show, so our kids got in free. In hindsight, timed entry wasn't necessary on the mid-June weekday we visited, but I've read that lines can be 1-2 hours long. It would have been worth every Euro if we needed it.
We had a lovely day at Versailles without a tour guide, but there are advantages to booking a tour. These may include:
- Skip-the-line access
- You won't miss any of the highlights
- Expert knowledge and stories about the palace and grounds
- Exclusive access to closed areas
- Extras like bicycles and other specialized tour options
Viator.com has a long list of Versailles tours to choose from. Click the button below to see options and pricing. Guided tours of closed sections of the Palace of Versailles are also available through the official website.
The Palace of Versailles is located a few miles west of Paris. It's easy to get there on the RER C train. The trip takes about 45-60 minutes each way.
There are two RER C trains headed toward Versailles that end in different places. For the only time during our Paris trip, we couldn't figure out which train was the right one. So of course, we got on the wrong train.
We panicked when we figured this out because we were already late for our timed-entry ticket. It turned out that we didn't need to worry because both trains end within walking distance of the Palace of Versailles. It was just a slightly longer walk from the “wrong” station.
The Palace of Versailles is just as grand as we imagined. The self-guided tour will lead you through the famous Hall of Mirrors and a number of the public and private rooms in the palace. It takes about an hour to walk through without an audio guide or tour, and it's just a fraction of the thousands of rooms in the palace.
I thought that touring the palace would be the highlight of our day, and it was impressive. However, I loved the gardens and Trianon Estate even more.
Gardens and Park
The gardens and park at the Palace of Versailles are wonderful. We loved meandering down the hill, through maze-like hedges to the Trianon Estate and Grand Canal.
We rented a row boat at the Grand Canal for an hour, and that was lots of fun. I rowed first, and then my husband took a turn. My 11-year-old son wanted his own turn, and he did a great job. The birthday girl was happy to just hang out and take lots of photos. Renting the boat was an unplanned splurge, but I'm so glad we did it. It helped me savor our Versailles experience and that memory is well worth the expense.
Be sure to wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. The gardens and park are very large and the walk to the Trianon Estate is more than 2 km each way. We loved exploring the grounds and buildings on foot, and spent most of our day outdoors.
For those with limited mobility or those who want to cover more ground, there are other options for getting around Versailles. Each of these requires an additional fee. Your options include:
- Little Train – an open-air tram with regular stops around Versailles. You can hop on and hop off any time.
- Golf cart rental
- Bicycle rental
- Segway rental
Trianon Estate consists of two more palaces: Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. Marie Antoinette preferred to spend much of her time at Petit Trianon instead of the main palace. She also had a farm – the Queen's Hamlet – where she could live a “simple” life. Grand Trianon was the palace of Louis XIV's mistress.
We enjoyed exploring Trianon Estate and learning more about the women who lived in these homes and why. We ran out of time and energy to see the Queen's Hamlet, which gives us a reason to return. Seeing all of Versailles in one day is challenging on foot. If you want to cover more ground, consider a tour, tram ticket or rental.
Shopping and Dining
The Palace of Versailles has all the amenities you need for a full day, including shopping and dining. You'll find gift shops and restaurants at the Palace, Trianon Estate and in the gardens.
My daughter's trip to Paris would not have been complete without a Laduree macaron, which you can buy at the Palace of Versailles. I surprised her with a colorful box of macarons for her birthday, which helped make the day extra special. We sampled lots of macarons in Paris, and agree that Laduree is the best.
You can bring your own food into the Palace of Versailles. We picked up baguettes, ham, cheese, fruit and drinks at a grocery store near the train station and stored them in our day packs. We enjoyed our inexpensive picnic in the gardens, which is now a fun family memory.
There are lots of ways to spend a day at the Palace of Versailles, and the right way is the one that best fits your family's interests and budget. I hope our experience helps you make the most of your day at Versailles.
Good to Know
Where: Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France. The Palace of Versailles is just a few miles west of Paris. We took the RER C train, but that's just one option. Check the official website for more advice on getting to Versailles by train, shuttle or car.
When: Open year-round. Closed on Mondays and May 1. Tuesdays and weekends are the busiest days. Musical Fountains Show available on select days each week during high season (April – October). Check the website for details.
How Much: Up to 27€ per adult for a one-day passport. Multiple ticket options available. All children under age 18 (and others) get in free to the palace and gardens, except on Musical Fountains days. Visit the website for details and current pricing.
How Long: One full day
Amenities: Dining, shopping, restrooms, tram, rentals
How else can I help?
Need a place to stay? The Palace of Versailles is located in the town of Versailles, a few kilometers outside of Paris. You can stay in Paris and take public transportation to Versailles, or stay closer to the palace. Click the button to check rates and availability for hotels in Versailles on TripAdvisor.com.
Want more tips for visiting Paris? We visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame on our first day in Paris. Click the Next button to read about our experience climbing to the top. Or, visit my France page for more free tips from our trip to Paris.