Visit Versailles On Your Own – Tips You Need To Know

June 21, 2010 | By | 1 Reply More
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Why sign up for a pricey group tour to visit the Palace of Versailles when you can easily venture out on your own? It’s easy to plan a visit to Versailles from the city of Paris.  Recently Linda and I decided to tackle a Versailles visit on our own, and we are happy to report it was easily done and saved us lots of time and money.  Here are our tips for planning a great day trip to Versailles:

#1 Tickets to Versailles –  Purchase tickets in advance if at all possible. Tickets are available on the Versailles website, and as an extra convenience, you can order your train ticket at the same time.  Each area of the Palace is priced separately unless you purchase the One Day Passport, which we highly recommend  (18 €).  The Passport gives you access to the chateau, the gardens, the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, and recently re-opened, Marie Antionette’s farm village – all worth visiting.  If you purchased a Paris Pass for your trip, entry to all of the Versailles’ venues are included.

If you did not purchase your ticket in advance, there are two storefronts selling tickets as you walk from the Versailles Rive Gauche train station to the chateau. The first seller (across from the train station) often attracts long lines, so we suggest continuing 2 blocks further to the Versailles Tourism Office where the lines are usually considerably shorter and you can pick up plenty of brochures while you’re there.  They do charge an extra 2 €, but once you see the HUGE lines at Versailles itself, you will be all too happy you have tickets in hand.   If you wait to purchase your tickets until you reach the chateau, you are destined to wait in EXTREMELY long lines, cursing yourself for not picking your ticket up on the way.  The walk from the train station to the entrance of the chateau is about 4 blocks – 5 minutes of level walking.

#2 Getting to VersaillesWe suggest taking the RER C train (called VICK – yellow) which we boarded from the station right outside of the d’Orsay Museum.  Tickets can be purchased at the automated machines – just press the large ‘To Versailles’ button.  (Your US credit card will not work in these machines, so bring along some Euros).   I believe our tickets were 6 € for 2, for the half hour journey.  It’s important to visit Versailles as early in the day as possible, as the crowds grow by the hour, especially on weekends.  Once you arrive (Versailles Rive Gauche station), stop at the ticket window and purchase your return ticket so you don’t have to wait in a long line at the end of the day.  Now just follow the crowd to the palace.

#3 Your visit: The palace is usually very crowded – always be on alert for pickpockets! We took along our iPods and used Rick Steve’s free audio tour – which was terrific (download free from iTunes).  There are also audio guides available at the entrance of the chateau for a small fee – but again it may involve long lines.  Now shuffle, shuffle, shuffle your way through – you’ll be glad to know the Trianon chateaus are far less crowded.  As you exit the palace, the gardens are SO compelling that you’ll be drawn to go exploring.  (Hopefully you took our advice and bought an passport ticket, so you won’t have to wait in yet another line to pay admission to the gardens).  Enjoy a leisurely stroll down through the magnificent gardens.  As you reach the courtyard mazes half way to the Grand Canal, you’ll find refreshment stands and toilets tucked into the greenery.  We sampled one of the 4 cheese pizzas -excellent!  Further on at the Grand Canal you’ll also find more formal restaurants if you want to relax while watching boaters on the canal.

Further on, you’ll find the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon – smaller less formal palaces built when Kings got bored with life up at the chateau.  And finally tucked into the rolling valley behind the Trianon palaces, you’ll come upon Marie Antionette’s charming and picturesque farm village, where nobility pretended to be simple folk tending their perfumed sheep.  No wonder there was a revolution!  Right about now your feet will be screaming in revolt as well.  You won’t care what it costs to hop the tram back to chateau, just fork over the cash and climb on board!

To visit all of the palaces (with a few breaks to message your toes in-between), allow about 5 hours. And on days when there is a water and/or music show, you’ll need an additional hour (shows are an extra fee of course).  There are also golf carts and bicycles for rent if you want to visit at a faster pace.

So plan a full day to visit all of the magnificence that is Versailles.  Wear your most comfortable shoes and bring along a bit of patience.  The entire estate is simply magical and you’ll be glad that you’re visiting it on your own so you can poke in nooks and crannies and take a breather whenever you like.  You’ll leave with a new appreciation for the building prowess of Louis the 14th, 15th and 16th!

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