If you are ever near Paris, the one tourist-y thing you MUST do is spend a day in Versailles.
I’ll be the first to say that the tourist-y things are usually best avoided, and I will always advocate for the hole-in-the-wall spots where you can find the locals hanging out.
Versailles. I still can’t even believe it. Maybe it was so impressive because I expected it to be so overdone, so marketed to tourists, and it wasn’t too bad. Maybe it was because I underestimated the enormity of the palace. Maybe because I had no idea of how large the surrounding park was, or how good it would feel to spend a day among old trees and clear skies, far out of the filth of the city.
Versailles is incredible.
Let me show you.
When you arrive, you will be amazed at how mammoth the chateau itself is. Go in the winter, like I did, otherwise you’ll be surrounded by millions of tourists. In the winter, there’s hardly any line, especially if you buy your tickets online. I think there was only one person in front of me.
You’ll go through a quick security check, then you’ll be let in through the golden gate…
The exterior of the palace is so ornate you can hardly believe it. Knowing how old it all is just amazes me. It’s all so massive, so intricately carved and put together, and it has lasted all these years…. It’s simply incredible.
Once you can tear your eyes away from the palace’s exterior for two seconds, you’ll realize you can actually go inside. You can tour the rooms of the royals who used to live there, but you’ll probably too distracted by the ceilings to pay attention to their old bedding (though that’s pretty cool, too).
Throughout the palace there are so many beautiful pieces of artwork. The design of the whole building, from the doorknobs to the archways, is utterly stunning.
Wow. After seeing all that beauty, I wasn’t sure how the gardens would compare. From the window you could only see bits of them, and I didn’t have a good grasp on how far they extended. I took a moment and had some macarons from Laduree (I’ve seen Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette a few too many times) before continuing on to see what I could find.
I got so lucky and ended up picking the most beautiful day to be there. The grounds were absolutely beautiful, and seemingly endless. I walked for several hours enjoying the fresh air and the silence. For most of my walk I was entirely alone, and it was so relaxing to be away from Paris for a while. I’m sitting in my hostel as I write this with a group of Spanish-speaking boys singing along with a guitar in the corner and the hostel employees chatting in French as they clean out the fridge, listening to the music playing over the speakers mix with the sirens wailing past every so often outside.
Versailles was a lot more peaceful and serene.
I walked for hours just letting the breeze and the sun wash over me. I saw TONS of runners (um, can I please have somewhere like this to run through in my backyard??) and made it out to Petite Trianon, basically Marie Antoinette’s personal mini-palace. My camera was dying about this time, and Petite Trianon was pretty similar in style to Chateau Versailles, if a little more rustic. What was really cool, though, was the network of paths, meadows and gardens behind the residence. I could have explored for longer but having been out for so long already, I didn’t make it much further than this little pavilion below.
The pavilion and little lake, though, were gorgeous and quaint and everything you would expect from the Dauphine’s little hideaway.
Heading back to the palace, I found a beautiful fountain that I’d somehow missed the first time around- obviously a big tourist-y site because of all the people gathered around, but with the sun beginning to dip down in the sky and the light hitting it just right, it seemed magical.
Versaille’s gardens contained so much more than I had anticipated, and even more than I managed to see despite all the time I spent there. Despite the area’s rocky history, the location itself has become and absolutely stunning place to escape city life and enjoy oneself in an enormous, beautiful park.
I couldn’t capture half the grandiosity of this place in a photograph, so I hope someday you make it out to Versailles. Definitely one of those things worth seeing. Also, for my budget travelers- I spent money to go inside the Chateau and Petite Trianon, but wandering the green spaces is free! Because of recent terrorist attacks you will have to enter the park though a gated checkpoint, where they will ask to look inside any bags you may be carrying. Other than that, though, it’s an easy attraction to make happen.
Thanks for reading, as always, and stay tuned for more Paris stories soon!