The Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles

A "must-see" World Heritage Site just a few kilometres from Paris: the Palace of Versailles

The Palace of VersaillesThe Palace of Versailles, part of UNESCO's World Heritage portfolio since 1978 has always been viewed as one of the most spectacular attractions in the areas surrounding Paris. Versailles is just 25 kilometres from the centre of the French capital and welcomes thousands of tourists through its doors all year round.

The history of the Palace of Versailles

What we refer to today as the Palace of Versailles was initially just a simple hunting lodge belonging to King Louis XIII. The radical transformation of this humble residence was undertaken on the instructions of King Louis XIV who loved this unassuming place and had used it frequently as a secret refuge in which to indulge his secret liaisons, away from the prying eyes of the court. The long reign of the Sun King, (about 72 years) enabled him to adapt the site according to his own personal tastes and after every battle that was won, he returned to Versailles with plans for further expansion and embellishments. In 1670, under the creative influence of the architect Le Vau, the building took on the characteristic "U" form which encompassed the original structure of King Louis XIII. In 1682, the buildings were expanded yet again in order to transform the Palace into the actual seat of government. Then in 1690, the palace was enhanced by the construction of the Chapel Royal which the Sun King had always dreamed of but which was actually only finalised during the reign of King Louis XV who also commissioned the construction of what became known as The Royal Opera House.

The rooms

Amongst the most beautiful rooms in the Palace of Versailles are:

  • The Gallery of Great Battles and the gothic rooms where you will find the Museum of French History which was much loved by King Louis Philippe;
  • The Royal Opera House with its oval plan: which is reminiscent of the Olympic Theatre in Vincenza, famous for its vast size (700 seats), and the presence of an impressive feat of engineering involving a system of moveable flooringwhich made it possible to convert this space into an enormous ballroom;
  • The rooms of the Grand Apartment which is a suite of rooms that continue from one to another like Chinese boxes;
  • The rooms of the Queen's Apartments, in other words, the rooms on the ground floor which were symmetrical with the King's and were those in which the Queen resided;
  • The War Salon which pays tribute to French victories over Germany, Spain and The Netherlands;
  • The Hall of Mirrors which was one of the highlights of Louis XVI's building campaign;
  • The Peace Salon exhibiting paintings collected by King Louis XV;
  • The King's Apartments where you can see a dramatic change in style compared to the Queen's apartments: pine wood panelling gives way to marble and Italian paintings and white ceilings with gilded woodwork.
  • The Petit Trianon, an architectural work of art designed by Jacques Gabriel to accommodate the tastes of Mme de Pompadour;
  • The Grand Trianon with a Mirror Room which, in times gone by, was also a Council room.

The gardens

The gardens at Versailles were designed by the famous Le Nôtre starting in 1660. This was one of the King's passions and he, with tremendous pride, would show them off to all visitors to the palace. Inside the gardens there are magnificent fountains and statues that were created by some of the most famous sculptors and artists of the period, from le Brun to Bernini. You can hire electric vehicles in which to explore the gardens making it possible to discover a variety of different routes around the park. In addition to these, there is a small train which will take you to from the palace to the Trianon and the Grand Canal for a small fee.

How to get there

Versailles is well connected via a variety of different means of transport:

  • RER: Line C to Versailles-Château-Rive Gauche;
  • SNCF Trains: Versailles-Chantiers or Versailles-Rive Droite;
  • Private Taxi at a fixed price;
  • Booking a tour by car


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