We have just watched the recent adaptation of “The Beauty and the Beast” (2017) which has awakened memories of our summer visit in Versailles. I am convinced that the person who has designed scenography in this movie, must have taken inspiration form the Versailles estate. If you could visit it first, and then watch the movie, please let me know if you have the same impressions! For now, let me take you on a private virtual tour there and its well-hidden secrets.
We have arrived at Versailles on 20th August 2017 early morning to avoid lines, which are almost guaranteed later in the day. What was interesting, that early morning whilst the palace was closed, the gardens were opened and you could wander around and no one was asking for a ticket!
Tip: Do not park your car by the entrance of the palace – it is horrendously expensive there. Plan your parking before arrival as other parking places nearby are a lot cheaper.
We joined a very short line to the palace at around 8:45am and went inside as one of the first visitors. It really was astonishing how quickly the rest of the line has formed, within minutes it has reached all the way to the gates!
The palace was very well maintained. Some historic estates tend to have an “antique store smell”, not that one – it was refreshingly fresh as if still in use. What we have done, was to skip a few first rooms (to which you can come back later) so that we were the very first visitors there. This has allowed us to be there “on our own”. Ever wondered how the hall of mirrors looks without tourists?
We were also very fortunate to experience empty halls and rooms which in some odd way has felt like we lived there. I do not know however, what has happened to our servants as they were nowhere to be found!
Tip: Chateau de Versailles is not just the palace. The most beautiful sites are away from the palace!
As we left the palace we went straight to the gardens. They were typical French gardens, which in my mind means very well kept, clean and natural. You could easily get lost there as the gardens are connected to the park. We have looked for staff who have checked tickets there – they have been our guide as to where the garden ends and the park starts.
Tip: The whole estate is massive. When planning your visit, buy a 2-day passport rather than for one-day, if you can. (It goes without saying – buy it online before your visit!). There is no way you can properly explore everything in just one day. Be prepared for a lot of walking.
There were many beautiful fountains in the gardens, but what has drawn our attention the most were called “musical fountains show”. Mirror fountain was particularly impressive where the classical music played and set the pace for the water cannons display.
Or, if you prefer, a more intimate experience, you will find it at Colonnade grove. There was a musical show there too. What was different in there, was that you sat in the middle of a round enclosed space listening to the music with the fountains rhythmically splashing water behind you!
This is where most visitors would have normally finished their day – they’ve seen the palace and if lucky enough, some of the gardens. For us, it was only half of our adventure as we knew there is a less known place walking distance from the palace – The Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the Queen’s hamlet with fairy tale gardens.
Tip: You do not need a separate ticket for that, all is included with the passport ticket!
On the map it does not seem very far from the palace but after a good amount of walking (and in our case being lost a few times, or “taking shortcuts” as I explained to Sylwia at the time) it is further than most tourists are prepared to walk. And this was actually the place we were looking forward the most, so there was no excuse!
Tip: Look at the Google reviews using Google Maps to “assess/avoid” the crowds. At the time of writing this post Palace of Versailles has nearly 13,000 reviews but The Grand Trianon only 1000 and its gardens around “Le Hameau” just 40 reviews!
There was so few visitors there, that initially we have doubted whether we were in the right place – and it was Sunday. The interior of the “smaller” palaces were even prettier (and untouched) than the main Palace of Versailles. The smaller buildings were spread on the estate, each with its own character.
The gardens outside the Trianon palaces were more “botanical” rather than “crowd-ready” hedges only, with more variety of plants and tiny buildings perfectly placed amongst the surrounding nature.
I have left the most marvelous attraction to the end. At Marie Antoinette’s estate you will find the real 18th century French village which has come straight from the fairy tale (think Beauty and the Beast)! And the most fascinating thing there is that, is it fully operational. The authenticity of the whole place is something we have never experienced before. There are free roaming animals, vegetable beds and “peasants” working there. When we visited, the outstanding look of the sky has amplified the feeling of being in the real-life fable.
Tip: You can purchase a ticket to only see the estate of Trianon and it is about half-price of the normal passport ticket. This is exactly what we will do when we visit Versailles the next time.
A little bonus, if you still have some energy, you can also go to the coach gallery.
I hope that this post has encouraged you to go and visit yourself – go ahead and plan your trip now!
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