Visiting Versailles

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One of the best things about Ver­sailles is that almost all of the rumors are true. The stuff that went down here would make you think, “Noah, get the Boat”. Rit­u­al human sac­ri­fice, poi­son­ings, dev­il-wor­ship­ping nobles’n lords on drug binges, pris­on­ers being used to test hot air bal­loons, queens giv­ing birth with an audi­ence look­ing into the, eh, « eye of the storm », crooked priests tak­ing bribes to drop a diss on some Duke dur­ing the Sun­day ser­mon, and even assas­sins sent from Venice, because, mir­rors. Ver­sailles’ his­to­ry is as absolute­ly bonkers as the whole place is stunning. 

The only untrue sto­ry I have ever found that per­sists like her­pes in Mont­par­nasse is that Mozart com­posed « Twin­kle, Twin­kle Lit­tle Star » for Marie Antoinette in her music room in the Queens Ham­let. Nope, but lazy tour guides love to tell that sto­ry. I’m a his­to­ry geek so I checked and as much as I wished it was true, that sto­ry is a hard no. Also, the Cham­pagne coupe was not mod­eled after the left breast of Marie Antoinette (who THINKS of these things???).


Ver­sailles is the leg­en­dar­i­ly sump­tu­ous palace among the Roy­al Domain; a vast for­est, man­i­cured gar­dens, the famous­ly over-the-top Château, as well as a charm­ing small town just south-west of Paris. It housed the French kings and gov­ern­ment until the French Rev­o­lu­tion of 1789, after which it became a muse­um of his­to­ry and then for a while, Napoleon’s coun­try house. He didn’t want to stay in the actu­al cas­tle and start to give the rab­ble the rev­o­lu­tion­ary chop-chop tin­gles again, so he stayed only in the Grand Tri­anon, a sort of mini palace on the grounds of the domain. He had his table set up in the long mar­ble arcade to plot his bone­head­ed inva­sion of Rus­sia while enjoy­ing sum­mer breezes.

Now you can enjoy the paint­ings and sculp­tures it exhibits with all the glitz and glam that comes with roy­al­ty and an aggres­sive appro­pri­a­tion of com­mon funds. There are 2,300 rooms adorned in glit­ter­ing gold, beau­ti­ful stone arch­ways and columns, mar­ble check­ered floors, and an actu­al hall of mir­rors. This was a big deal back in the 1600s. Only the Vene­tians pos­sessed the knowl­edge of mir­ror mak­ing and almost no one alive at that time had ever seen their reflec­tion in a real mir­ror. Back then, pol­ished met­al had to do the trick. Need­less to say, the make­up game was ele­vat­ed with the intro­duc­tion of mir­rors (no won­der the starv­ing peas­ants revolt­ed and stormed the place).

There’s also a mas­sive man­i­cured gar­den and minia­ture forest­ed groves with sur­pris­es around every cor­ner, includ­ing sculp­tures and a sea-themed grot­to, for when you want some fresh air. There’s almost def­i­nite­ly going to be a sea of tourists, but don’t let that stop you from pre­tend­ing you’re a princess.

The usu­al advice is to go dur­ing the off sea­son, but we know you want to vis­it when the weather’s nice, so get your tick­ets to the chateau in advance here. We rec­om­mend going lat­er in the day as the gigan­tic tour bus­es roll in first thing in the morn­ing and pack the house. The 4pm entry is the time to go in my opin­ion. See the mar­ket and the tri­anons (mini palaces that were a kind of get­away from the sti­fling nature of court life for the roy­als. Remem­ber the giv­ing birth in pub­lic thing? They are about a half hour walk or ten min­utes by the petit train) in the ear­li­er part of the day, then do the cas­tle last. Just make sure to get the timed entry to avoid the lines and don’t be late for your time slot. Get ready for one of the most opu­lent (and his­toric) palaces in the world and savor wit­ness­ing right where it all went down.

Here is all you need to know:

Address  Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France

Metro  Versailles-Rive Gauche (RER C)

Neighborhood — Versailles

Nearby — Gardens of Versailles, Grand Trianon, Royal Opera of Versailles, Versailles Cathedral, Hall of Mirrors, Royal Chapel, Versailles’ Markets

Opening times — 7am to 7pm. Closed Mondays

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