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Visiting Versailles, France for a Weekend

Visiting Versailles, France for a Weekend – Part Two

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In Part One of my article Visiting Versailles, France for a Weekend, I provide details on visiting the buildings at Château de Versailles. In this installment, I highlight the fun outdoor activities and ways to get around the Château that families might enjoy during a weekend trip.

On the Grounds of the Versailles Château

While Versailles is known for its Hall of Mirrors and other grand rooms, we found there are more things for families to enjoy outside than indoors. The palaces are indeed incredible, but my best memories of our Versailles visit are the times our family spent outside on the grounds.

The Versailles gardens offer ample open space for kids to run around after spending hours being well-behaved in the palaces. The sheer expansiveness of the gardens is truly awe-inspiring. Here are three specific outdoor attractions not to be missed:

The Grand Canal

Families can rent boats to float on the Grand Canal, or just picnic and people watch on the vast lawn. There are several cafés located within the Château grounds. La Flotille and La Petite Venise both have indoor and outdoor terraces, as well as takeaway service, if you choose to have a picnic alongside the Grand Canal as we did.

Visiting Versailles, France for a Weekend - the Grand Canal

Enjoying the beautiful weather and ornate surroundings next to the Grand Canal in Versailles, France.

The Queen’s Hamlet (Hameau de Marie Antoinette)

Like a fairy tale, this rustic farm adjacent to her personal palace was built as a retreat for Marie Antoinette to escape the pressures of the court and experience “farm life.” It is a beautiful and somewhat secluded place for kids to run around and visit with the cows, goats and chickens. When we visited, it was not at all crowded.

Les Grandes Eaux Musicales (Musical Fountains)

From April to October, two times a day on the weekends, the ornate fountains in the gardens are turned on and put to music. There is an additional cost (€9) to gain access to these parts of the gardens during the Musical Waters. It is possible to see the fountains and hear the music from outside the gardens, but the view is from a distance and can be obscured by the crowds.

Visiting Versailles, France for a Weekend - Dancing fountains

During Les Grandes Eaux Musicales, the garden fountains are turned on and set to music.

Fun Ways to Move around Versailles

The sights at Versailles are spread out, so seeing them all can be a challenge for those traveling with little ones. As we learned the hard way, pushing a stroller through fields and soft dirt paths isn’t always the most efficient mode of transport! Luckily for families like ours, there are several transportation options within the Château grounds:

  • The mini train is perfect for traveling from the main palace to the Trianon palaces and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet, especially if you have little ones. When our kids were smaller, they insisted that we take a mini train ride in every new city we visited. Many offer audio guides in English and can be a helpful way to get one’s bearings.
  • If you have older kids, renting bikes to ride around the gardens and between the different palaces would be ideal.
  • For kids young and old, electric golf carts are now available for rentals as a means for touring the expansive gardens. For €30 per hour for four people, this could be a good option for visitors with limited time to sight see. It sounds like a great family option, but I prefer something that requires exercise to help work off some of the pain chocolat (chocolate croissants) I eat every morning!

As you can see, there are enough sights and activities to easily fill a weekend in Versailles, and it’s a great destination for spending family time outside. If you decide to stay a weekend there, Trianon Palace Versailles is just a short walk away from the main palace.

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Erin is a native Floridian who has resided in Atlanta since 1995. Her husband Mike and she have two funny, smart, active girls and two cats.


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