Summer is coming and that means tourists are already flocking to the Chateau de Versailles on the outskirts of Paris. Getting there is easy once you’ve boarded the right train, but the place itself is so big that further transport is available once you’ve made it there. Here are my top tips for spending a day at Versailles.
1. Do your research before visiting Versailles
Make sure you check the palace’s ticket website to see a full list of ticket options, as there are plenty of options. There are also maps and information on each of the options. Know what you want to see before you go so you don’t waste time deciding once you get there.
2. Go early
You can book pre-book tickets online but if you aim to get to the palace early, you can beat the queues regardless of whether you’ve pre-booked or not.
3. Prepare for crowds
The palace rooms are extensive, and you could spend hours observing the interiors and listening in on the passing tour guides telling interesting stories to their tour groups. Information boards provide basic information and audio guides are available, so a guided tour isn’t a must (but a nice bonus). Many of the rooms get crowded quickly, so prepare to be pushed by impatient people trying to get through the slow traffic. Don’t stress — it’s part of the Versailles experience.
4. Know your Versailles Palace garden transport options
The Versailles gardens are vast. Save your energy for the visits and walk in the gardens at the end of the day if you’re not too tired. The mini train is cheap and provides a regular service between all four stops. However, that queue that looks short will take a long time to get through. If you don’t mind paying a bit extra, walk past the train and rent your own electric vehicle instead. You can also hire bikes from the North end of the Grand Canal (along with row boats, which won’t get you far), or do a guided Segway tour, which starts at the South end of the Grand Canal. Some of these options aren’t well advertised within the gardens. If you hire a bike, you will have to leave them at the entrance to the Trianon area and go in on foot.
5. Check lunch options before you go
Eating options are spread out and the prices aren’t always competitive. There are a few restaurants and lots of snack bars which you can see on the interactive map. With some distance between options, it’s worth knowing the location of places before you go, so you don’t spend half the day finding a place everyone is happy with. A tasty alternative is a picnic, presuming there’s someone in your group who doesn’t mind carrying around a backpack of food. Grab a baguette, some cheese and anything else you like and stop for a coffee later on when your legs have stopped working from all that walking.
6. Don’t miss the last train back
The gardens at the palace are extensive, and the walk back to the train station will be significantly longer if you miss the last mini train back to the palace. Make sure you’re not left stranded by checking out the timetable before you go!
7. Don’t drink the water.
Dead fish ahoy!
Do not drink the water from the ponds. I don’t know what’s in there, but the sign confirmed what the dead fish indicated when I visited a few years ago: the water is nasty. Stay away from it.
This was definitely the low point of the visit. It would have been lower had I taken a dip in the water, presumably.
8. Read even more tips
The Chateau de Versailles official website contains an abundance of useful tips right from the horse’s mouth. Spend ten minutes and save time, confusion, stress and money during your visit.
9. Visit Versailles for free!
Like a huge number of museums and monuments all over France, Versailles Palace is open for free on the first Sunday of each month from November to March. Some of those days are likely to be uncrowded too! Check the website’s peak day planner to avoid the crowds no matter what day or month you go.
10. What’s yours?
I’m sure some of my readers have some great tips to share too! Feel free to add them in the comments below.