City of Versailles | Hightlights, History, Plan Your Visit and More
Versailles is a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO. It is a commune and the capital of the Yvelines département in the Île-de-France region. The city of Versailles is known worldwide for its palace, Château de Versaille, and gardens of Versailles.
Versailles is located just 14 miles southwest of Paris and is a wealthy suburb with a service-based economy. As a major tourist destination and a historical site, Versailles was the glorious entre of the Kingdom of France and then went on to become the cradle of the French revolution. The landscape of Versailles, to this day, represents the Absolute Monarchy of the kingdom of France and the seat of power associated with the reign of Louis XIV.
The etymology of Versailles can be attributed to the Latin word versare which means ‘to keep turning’ or ‘to repeatedly turn over’, an expression for ploughed and cleared lands, and the French formation of semailles which means ‘sowing’ or ‘sown seeds.’
Why Visit the City of Versailles?
- Home to the Palace of Versailles - Versailles is where the magnificent Palace of Versailles stands, offering incredible insights into French history and spectacular displays of the Royal Courtyard, State apartments, the famous Hall of Mirrors as well as the lovely palace gardens and estates.
- Explore the striking fountains - Versailles is known for its heavenly gardens that have majestic statues and marvellous fountains placed meticulously to create the aesthetic of the city. Plan your visit accordingly to not miss the Musical Fountain shows along with fireworks and pyrotechnics every evening in summer.
- The city is filled with stunning attractions - The Versailles Cathedral, Royal Chapel and the Notre Dame de Versailles are architectural landmarks of the city housing illustrious period paintings, exquisite altarpieces and sculptures.
Where is the City of Versailles?
Highlights of Versailles
Versailles is an attraction of historical significance and cultural notability. Designed by Jules Hardouin Mansart and chief architect André Le Nôtre, the city offers pleasant surprises and historical treasures to visitors.
The Antiquarian District
The Antiquarian District is next to the palace and is a place loved by antique lovers. Here you will find beautiful jewellery, furniture, paintings both contemporary and old, antique toys, porcelain and everything else that a historical site has to offer. This district also houses the first prison and court of Versailles, the Bailiwick and another interesting structure is the Square, ‘Le Carré’, which was originally the stables of Bailiwick but today, both the complexes are galleries and craftsmen shops for antiques, furniture, paintings and artefacts. The Village also gives you glimpses into the historical past of the French monarchs while you admire picturesque passages, stairways and antiques along the way.
Notre Dame Area and Montbauron-Montreuil Area
The Notre Dame Area is the oldest area established by Louis XIV. It is very organised and irresistible with its old-time charm. The Notre Dame Cathedral is a wonderful place to visit here and the bustling Notre Dman Squares are undoubtedly the best markets in the region. The first octagonal town square of France was located here and the Lambinet Museum houses rich collections of the city’s history.
Montbauron and Montreuil are districts with cobblestone lanes located next to the Avenue de Paris leading up to the Palace. Its proximity to the palace also made it a convenient place for royals to step away from the Royal Court. Madame Elizabeth’s estate is one such attraction where you can enjoy its beautiful gardens.
Parks and Gardens of Versailles
The Gardens of Versailles add to the natural heritage of the city and are among the most magnificent gardens in the world. The King’s Kitchen Garden is another monument listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The Arboretum of Versailles - Chevreloup is located in the north where you can discover over 2000 species of living trees from the Himalayas, China, the Caucasus and more. The Pond of the Swiss is a marvellous garden for taking a relaxing stroll around its 13-hectare pool. Garden and Court of Scents is the perfect place to excite your senses. The Balbi Park, the Public garden of the "Etangs Goberts" and the Park of Madame Elisabeth's estate are other beautiful gardens you can explore and enjoy in Versailles.
Here is a list of some interesting museums in Versailles that you can explore during your visit:
- Equestrian Academy of Versailles
- Musée de la Toile de Jouy
- Lambinet Museum
- The House of Italian musicians
- Gallery of Sculptures and Casts
- The Coach Gallery
- Madame du Barry's private mansion
Experience the city like a local in Versaille's friendly market atmosphere. Here is a list of markets you can visit:
- La Ferme de Viltain - traditional dairy products
- City Vrac - Bulk organic and local products
- Brasserie du Roi - brewery for organic beers
- Notre Dame market - an exciting crossroads of colours and flavours
- Arts and Crafts in Versailles - meet traditional craftsmen of the region
- Saint Louis market
Give in to the gourmet temptation and treat yourself with the best macarons and patisseries Versailles has to offer:
- Atelier Saveurs
- Rive Gauche Réception
- Fromagerie Le Gall - cheese factory
- Art et Chocolat
- Comtesse du Barry
- Pierre & Tim Cookies
- Comtesse de Provence
Brief History of Versailles
13th century - 1643
After a series of major events like the Black Death and the Hundred Years’ War in the 14th century, century, Versailles came under the French monarchy when Louis XIII bought the total land from Jean-François de Gondi in 1632. The village of Versailles at that time had only about 1000 inhabitants. The hunting lodge of Louis XIII in the village was then expanded into a small castle during the period of 1632-1634, thus laying the basis for the Palace of Versailles.
1643 - 1715
The landscape of Versailles flourished under King Louis XIV. The castle was further expanded leading to the French government and court being permanently established in Versailles on 6 May 1682. This imperial shift also saw a new city emerging with the land made available to anyone for free and the old village transformed into new neighbourhoods of Notre Dame and Saint-Louis with new markets, churches, aristocratic buildings and a growing population of 30,00 inhabitants.
The Seat of Power
1682 - 1789
From 1682, until the death of King Louis XIV, Versailles remained the unofficial capital of the French monarchy. The city grew multifold in the coming century and became the most powerful capital in Europe as everyone admired its new architectural designs. Many imperial buildings were built, one where the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783. By 1789, the population of Versailles touched 60,000 making it one of the largest cities in Europe.
1789 - 1799
Versailles was the cradle of the French Revolution where the General Assembly, followed by the National Constituent Assembly met and abolished feudalism in 1789. The invasion of the palace in October 1789 forced the royal family to move back to Paris. Versailles lost its title as capital and the Palace of Versailles was stripped of its grandeur after the French revolution leaving it abandoned and a place of nostalgia for the monarchy.
City of Versailles
19th century to the present day
Versailles came into the spotlight again in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian War when the king of Prussia was proclaimed the emperor of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors. The Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, was signed in the Grand Trianon of Versailles. The city grew economically and demographically as the Paris suburbs expanded and the 1960s-1970s reinforced the judicial and administrative roles of the city while maintaining a bourgeois aesthetic.
Plan Your Visit to Versailles
- Take the RATP Bus 171 from Pont de Sèvres to the Palace of Versailles. The travelling time is approximately 40 minutes.
- You can also take the Versailles Express Bus departing near the Eiffel Tower. Round-trip tickets are available for half-day transfer to and from Versailles giving you a limited time in Versailles city.
The N118 is the fastest road between Paris and Versailles. From central Paris, head west along the Seine taking the D910 to Pont de Sèvres. Cross the bridge and keep to your left to continue on the N118. There are signs that you can follow to arrive at Versailles in less than 40 minutes.
The best time of the year to visit Versailles is from April to June and October to November. During these months, the weather is mild making your travel and visit quite pleasant. The crowds are also relatively lesser and the low season starts from November to March.
During the week, avoid visiting Versailles on Tuesdays as the Palace remains closed on Mondays and the Louvre in Paris is closed on Tuesdays making it a convenient day for many tourists from Paris to visit Versailles. Weekend visits are also not recommended due to heavy crowds in the city of Versailles.
Versailles offers a wide range of restaurants serving traditional French food, exquisite gourmet experiences as well as vegetarian and vegan options.
- French cuisine - La Petite Venise, ReminiSens, Trois Matches, La Véranda, Le Molière and Au Chapeau Gris.
- Gourmet Restaurants - Gordon Ramsay au Trianon, Ducasse au château de Versailles and ore-Ducasse at Versailles's Palace.
- Cafes with outdoor seating - Café Bleu Roi, Le Lyautey, La Flottille and Monument Café.
Here is a list of hotels in Versailles offering you a comfortable stay:
- Dress comfortably during your Versailles tour and wear appropriate shoes/sandals as there will be a lot of walking to do.
- Even in summer, carry something light that can keep you warm. It can be handy during your visit to the Palace of Versailles.
- Avoid weekends due to the heavy crowds. Visiting on Tuesdays is also not recommended as the Palace is closed on Mondays and the Louvre museum in Paris is closed on Tuesdays making Versailles a popular option for tourists.
- Buy your bus/train tickets in advance to avoid long lines as Versailles is a highly visited place.
- Take advantage of the free entrance to the gardens of Versailles. It can also be a perfect place to plan picnics with your kids.
Frequently Asked Questions about Versailles
A. Versailles is located 25 kilometres southwest of Paris, France. It is commune in the Yvelines département in the Île-de-France region.
A. You can get to Versailles from Paris in three ways. Via trains, take the (Line C) from Paris to Versailles Château Rive Gauche station or the SNCF trains, line N from Montparnasse station and Line L from Saint-Lazare station to Versailles Chantiers station and Versailles Rive Droite station respectively. Bus line 171 is from Pont de Sèvres to palace of Versailles and N118 is the fastest road from Paris to Versailles
A. Versailles is a famous historical and cultural attraction that houses the world-famous Palace of Versailles and the Hall of Mirrors. Gardens of Versailles are also a major attraction and one of the best and most magnificent gardens in the world with marvellous sculptures and picturesque fountains.
A. The Palace of Versailles was built by Louis XIV when he decided to move his royal home and state affairs from Paris to Versailles. After him, Louis XV also stayed for a short while before moving back to Paris.
A. Yes, you can visit Versailles and its gardens for free all days throughout the year.
A. The best time to visit Versailles is on weekdays. Avoid weekends due to heavy crowds. The city also attracts a lot of people from Paris as the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and the palace of Versailles is closed on Mondays.
A. Versailles is a cultural hotspot in the Pars suburban region. You can visit its beautiful gardens around the city, bustling markets, interesting museums and historical neighbourhoods.
A. You can plan to cover the Palace of Versailles, its gardens and the Estate of Trianon in half a day and spend the rest of the exploring the city thus, making it a perfect one-day trip to Versailles.
A. Yes. You can find public toilets at three points around the city- the marketplace next to the Carré à la Farine, near Saint-Louis cathedral and on the avenue de l'Europe next to the bus station. You can find these spots on the city maps which are available at the Tourist Office for free.