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Versailles

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Île-de-France : Versailles
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Central Court of the Palace of Versailles

Versailles [1] [2] is a city on western edge of the French capital city Paris, now part of the sprawling metropolis within the Ile de France region. Versailles is best known for being the site of the vast royal palace and gardens built by King Louis XIV within what was previously a royal hunting lodge. It is also one of the most wealthy neighbourhoods near Paris.

Understand

The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

The Palace of Versailles has been the scene for several historic events, not the least of which was the signing, on 28 June 1919 within the Hall of Mirrors, of the Peace Treaty between defeated Germany and the Allies that brought the First World War officially to an end. The signing of the treaty at Versailles, of course, mirrored the proclamation, in 1871 within the same long hall, of the establishment of the German Empire under the Prussian king, subsequently the Kaiser.

Get in

The easiest way to get to Versailles palace and avoid queue is to buy the ticket directly from the Chateau Versailles web-site: it costs a bit more than the usual entrance ticket, but includes railway and metro tickets (to and from), an audioguided tour of the Chapel and Opera House, the King's and Queen's State Apartments, the Dauphin's and the Mesdames' Apartments, the Coach Museum, Trianons and all the temporary exhibitions.

However you can get to the Palace easily by train and buy tickets per attraction once you're there. This may be the best approach if you want to see something in particular or you just want to explore the enormous gardens.

By train

It takes about 40 minutes to reach Versailles from Paris.

There are three different train stations in Versailles: Versailles Rive Gauche, Versailles Rive Droite and Versailles Chantiers. Versailles Rive Gauche is the one closest to the Palace (5 minutes by walk), so this is probably the one you want, but you might end up in another station depending on where you come from.

  • RER C line, direction Versailles Rive Gauche (train called VICK), get off at Versailles Rive Gauche station. Be careful not to get off at Viroflay Rive Gauche! The name looks somewhat the same, but this is not the same station! Another branch of the RER C, direction Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, stops at Versailles Chantiers.
  • Paris Montparnasse: you can take a train to Versailles at Gare Montparnasse, but it will stop at Versailles Chantiers. Versailles Rive Gauche station is only accessible via RER C.
  • Paris Saint Lazare: suburban trains stop at Versailles Rive Droite.

both Stations are about a 5 minute walk from the entrance of Versailles

By bus

Route 171 travels between Pont de Sèvres (at the end of Métro line 9) to Versailles. The bus journey from the station to the Chateau takes approximately 25 minutes.

By bike

It's a nice bike ride from Paris via Bois de Bologne and Parc St Cloud. See http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/france/paris/387633911

Get around

The main city is easily traversable on foot, however a good network of buses run throughout. Once inside the palace it's possible to hire both bikes and battery-powered golf carts (see section below).

See

Château de Versailles

In the town about a kilometer from the château.
  • Chateau de Versailles, [3], [4] open daily (except Mondays when the chateau is closed) 9AM-5:30PM November-March, 9AM-6:30PM April-October.

One Day Pass (all inclusive) Apr-Oct: €20 weekdays, €25 weekends; Nov-Mar €16; under-18s free. Chateau-only tickets also available : €13.50, museum pass holders and under-18s free. Marie-Antoinette's Estate & Grand Trianon -only tickets : Apr-Oct €9, Nov-Mar €5 ; under-18s free. The grandes Eaux Musicales, week-ends and bank holidays only, Apr-Oct €8, under-18s €6, under-10s free.

Another famous "must see" location on the western outskirts of Paris. Not only does it have enormous historical significance, it is also a very beautiful building. Do other tourists a favor - do not use your mobile phones inside, it ruins the atmosphere. The rear of the palace also is partially covered by scaffoldings. If you plan to visit the palace it cannot be stressed enough that getting there earlier is recommended, because the lines stay very long all day. Even if you have a Paris Museum Pass or similar, you will still be directed to stand in the long line while construction is underway.

  • Alternatively, and especially if you have young children, you can gain access to the grounds only for 6 euros.
  • Note that it is often free to access the park from the Rue de la Paroisse entrance (leads to the Bassin de Neptune), or if you are walking, from the Boulevard de la Reine (next to the 4-star hotel Trianon Palace).

Others

  • Historic buildings are scattered in the west part of the town. See for instance:
    • Hôtel de Ville: the 19th-century town hall building (you can get inside), on the Avenue de Paris, a 5-min walk from the Château, or from the Versailles-Rive-Gauche station .
    • Cathédrale Saint-Louis, in the old Quartier Saint-Louis neighbourhood.
    • Église Notre-Dame, rue de la Paroisse.
    • Hôtel de la Péfecture, a nice façade across the town hall.
    • The municipal Library, in the former Louis XIV's ministry of foreign affairs, 5 rue de l'Indépendance Américaine. You can enter on opening hours. They also organise open-doors on certain days, to get a glimpse inside the old cabinets. http://www.bibliotheques.versailles.fr/Statique/pages/presentation-reseau/sites/centrale.htm
  • You may also have a look at the Potager du Roi, where the king used to have his vegetables cultivated. Avenue du Maréchal Joffre.

Do

Palace from the back
Some of the gardens
  • Consider taking an audioguide tour of the chateau, available in several languages from various reception points within the palace and grounds. The day pass price includes the audio tour.
  • Within the grounds in the Summer there are a number of activities including a train ride, rowing boat and cycle hire. The mini-train is really the only time efficient way to get an overview of the entire grounds, which include his and hers residence palaces, which otherwise are at least a 30 minute walk each way from the main palace. The mini-train also stops along the main canal, where there is a cafe and a snack shop. For 30 euros it is also possible to hire a golf-style buggy for one hour in order to explore the expansive grounds.
  • Additionally, a short walk into town can provide a welcome contrast to the hectic, tourist-filled chateau. The town is like most others in France, with a couple of small, historic churches and lined with small shops. While eating on the grounds of the chateau can save time and walking, finding food at a small café, patisserie, or sandwich shop in the town is less expensive and an authentic experience. Eating a picnic along the lake at the château is a pleasant experience, and you can find a couple of small grocery stores in town to pick up things like bread, sandwich meat, cheese, wine, etc to take back for a picnic at the château.

Eat

Versailles itself (the town) has any number of good places to eat whilst visiting. Once you have made it into the palace grounds, however, it should be noted that it is far more convenient to eat within — the alternative is to hike back into the town, before returning to the Palace (time better spent viewing the rooms and grounds). The grounds are also perfect for picnicking in warm and/or dry weather.

A number of other options exist:

  • Within the Château itself, a Café is positioned not far from the Cour de la Chapelle
  • Within the Formal Gardens, there exists 2 informal restaurants, La Flotille and La Petite Venise, on Petite Venise (from the Château, head back directly through the Gardens to the start of the canal - Petite Venise and the restaurants can then be found to the right).
  • Several kiosks serving snacks and fast food can be found in the Gardens (Bosquet du Dauphin & Bosquet de la Girandole) and the Grand Trianon.

Drink

Versailles might not be the best town to party. However it is fairly easy to mix with the locals.

There is a little concentration of bars (and restaurants) on the Place du Marché, at the junction of the Rue de la Paroisse, and Rue du Maréchal Foch. This is where most young people go out at night. Tables outside the terraces are plentiful in the nice months. Exploring the walking alleys from the Place du Marché can also reveal less know restaurants.

Another popular bar with Versailles' youth is the O'Paris, on the Avenue de Saint-Cloud, very close to the Château's Place d'Armes (on the right-hand side when facing the Château). They often play sport events inside. Tables outside are also available when it is warm enough.

Sleep

Huttopia Versailles [5] : a nice place to stay, in the forest and very close to the RER (train) station. Ideal for families as it is a campsite with a swimming-pool. Many accommodations to rent (cottages, ridge tents...).

  • Hotel Mercure Versailles Parly 2, Rue de Marly-le-Roi, +33 1 39551141 (, fax: +39 041 5246777), [6].

Get out

  • Giverny - Visit the house and gardens of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Can be packaged with a Versailles visit.
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