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Many people think that Versailles is just a grand palace outside of Paris that was home to King Louis XVI, but there is a small town surrounding the palace as Louis’ wished to give visitors to the palace much more to explore than a simple day-trip from Paris. There are many historically important places to visit and wander around in the palace and it can delight any kind of traveler: history buff, art and architecture lovers and fairytale enthusiast. Take some time to travel to the town of Versailles on your way to or from Paris – you will greatly enjoy it!
The Palace of Versailles is probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in France. The palace and its gardens are gorgeous and extravagant, putting the motives of the French Revolution into perspective. Due to its popularity, one should be prepared to fight lines and crowds no matter the season of your visit. However, the summer months are particularly brutal in regards to crowdedness. The easiest way to combat big crowds is to splurge for a timed ticket. If you buy the timed ticket online, then you will be able to skip the line at your designated time and begin your tour of the palace with an audio guide. If you are under 26 and an EU resident, then you will be able to get a timed ticket for free. However, for those over 26, the timed tickets are €27. A normal ticket to the palace will cost you €18 which includes an audio guide, temporary exhibits, gardens and the coach gallery.
Within the palace, you will see the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Apartments and Gallery of Great Battles. All of these portions of the palace are spectacular so be sure to soak all the grandeur in! It’s like truly walking into a fairy tale or your high school textbook. While at the palace, make sure you have enough time to visit the gardens which are lovely no matter which season you visit. In the gardens, you will see the artistry of French gardener André Le Nôtre. The gardens are free to enter making it a prime location for summer picnics and gatherings. Take note that the statues are brought inside during the winter for protection, however, the statues in the ponds stay put all year round.
Just beyond the gardens is the Estate of Trianon, which is connected mostly to Marie-Antoinette, but in reality, the tiny estate dates back to King Louis XIV. Even though this little escape is only a few minutes’ walk into the gardens behind the main castle, it truly seems like you have gone to another small town. Check to see if the entrance to the estate is included in your ticket, but if you'd like, it is possible to buy an Estate of Trianon ticket only for €12 or free for those EU residents under 26.
Outside of the palace in Old Versailles, there is still more French history to learn and discover. At the Royal Tennis Courts in 1789, the National Assembly was formed and vowed not to break until France was given a constitution, which in turn launched the French Revolution. The court now is a free museum. It is worth the time to walk down the street from the palace. The building itself is still in great condition and the museum is well laid out to give guests an overview of the Revolution.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the touristy palace and escape into the French countryside like the over-the-top royal you are, then start on one of the many trails designated for active visitors to the town. All of the paths that will be mentioned are clearly marked with signs. But if you need a little extra help locating them, you can easily find the paths online or grab maps at the tourist office. The Grand Canal is a 5.5-kilometer path that takes you through nature found just outside the castle. If you are looking for something a little bit more intense, then look into the 13 kilometers walk of Natural Versailles along the GR11 hiking route. This route will take you outside the touristy city of Versailles and into the natural surroundings of the countryside. There are many places along both routes to stop, take pictures, rest and have a picnic.
Hej! I am an American grad student studying and living in Sweden. Being a grad student, I have perfected the act of budget traveling. I have a fierce passion for cute dogs, film festivals, coffee and traveling. Join me as I work towards my personal goal of visiting all 28 EU countries before I graduate in June 2019! Feel free to pop over to my personal blog, Little Mouse. Big World, to read more about my travels while balancing grad school life.
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