A stunning leafy suburb about 15miles to the west ofParis,Versaillesis one of the most outrageous places you will ever go, thanks to its Castle which is up there with the grandest of them all. From 1682 to 1879 the castle played home toFrancespolitical and royal courts, and it was only in 1789 when revolutionaries came to the castle and dragged Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette back to centralParisand cut their heads off that the castle ceased to be the most important place inFrance.
Amazingly the castle itself sees over three million different visitors every year, and the area around it is largely forgotten, although wrongly so. The castle can see some huge queues in the busier months so visitors are advised to arrive early, and to avoid Tuesdays, when most of the other museums inParisare closed.
If you only want to see the Grands Appartements, then spend the day looking around the rest of the area, before returning around 3.30pm, when you should be able to walk straight in.
Getting toVersaillesis very easy, and you can simply fly, or get the Eurostar into anyone ofParismain airports of train stations, where you can hire a car for the short 30 minute drive to theVersaillesarea. You can also get the train to a station 1.2km from the chateau from Gare St-Lazare, or get the RER underground to Versailles-Rive Gauche, which is 700m from the chateau.
What to do when you hire a car in Versailles
Chateau de Versailles
The main attraction is the Palace, and it’s not hard to see why. The current restoration program will limit your access until it’s complete in 2020, but with a 400million Euro budget it’s sure to be good. The actual building itself is home to over 2000 rooms, and 30,000 workers and soldiers were responsible for its construction which started in 1661. The construction almost bankrupted the country, but with a stunning building to explore, and 90 hectares of garden it almost seems worth it seeing the results as they are today.
Salle du Jeu de Paume
Built in 1686, you can now visit the famous tennis court where the Third Estate Reps formed their own national assembly and took the Serment de Jue de Paume, known in English as the Tennis Court Oath. The site can only be visited by guided tour, but played a key role in the downing of Louis XVI andVersaillesas the centre of allFrancespolitical and royal activity.
Academie du Spectacle Equestre
A stadium, again commissioned by Louis XIV who seemed hell bent on spending the nation’s reserves of money. Home to sold out training sessions for 45 minutes every morning, you can also pre book tickets for the famous Reprises Musicales horse shows months in advance, as they sell out in no time.