Visiting Versailles, France for a Weekend – Part One
Many people have asked me if Versailles is a feasible day trip while vacationing in Paris. It is possible to visit the Château de Versailles in one day (see my tips for a Versailles day trip from Paris). However, to truly take in its grandeur, I would recommend spending a weekend there. A family could easily fill a weekend visiting Versailles’ beautiful palaces and gardens, riding bikes or le mini train (the tourist train) to and from the palaces, renting row boats in the canals, and enjoying meals on garden terraces.
Sound like the idyllic French experience you’re imagining? Part One of this article will give you details about where to stay and things to see when visiting Versailles, France for a weekend. Part Two will provide details on outdoor activities on the grounds of the château that kids of all ages are sure to love!
If you do decide to make a weekend of it, the Trianon Palace Versailles is an elegant option. The grand hotel is its own historical artifact with picturesque views that will have you wondering what its own walls have witnessed. It also has modern comforts like tennis courts and an indoor pool to make it really feel like a vacation. Best of all, the hotel is located just a short walk to the main palace.
If you decide to take a Versailles day trip from Paris, there are two Hilton hotels within central Paris that offer easy access to the Métro or RER train: Hilton Paris La Defense and Concorde Opéra Paris.
Visiting the Versailles Palace
The biggest attraction of Versailles is of course is the main palace. As you can imagine, this UNESCO World Heritage site becomes very crowded, but with a little attitude management (remind yourself: “There WILL be crowds”) and pre-planning, you can limit your wait time and maximize your family’s enjoyment.
Knowing where the crowds will be is half the battle
At the main entrance, there are two lines: one to purchase tickets and another for security. The latter is a line through which everyone must pass. The lines seem to be longest in the morning so if your schedule allows you to visit in the afternoon, you may experience fewer crowds. If you really want to be strategic in avoiding the crowds, this graph will show you the best times to visit Versailles. (I wish I had seen this before our visit!)
Planning Ahead Helps
Consider buying your tickets online beforehand to avoid waiting in one of the two long lines that seem to be a constant presence at the main Château entrance. If you have purchased a Museum Pass, it is honored here and will also allow you to skip the ticket line.
Tip: There are two other main entrances at the Trianon palaces and the Queen’s hamlet, where you can also buy tickets and perhaps avoid waiting in long lines. Another important scheduling note: The Palace of Versailles is always closed on Mondays.
See also>> Tips to Avoid Standing in Line
Other Attractions within the Palace of Versailles
Although it’s smaller than the main palace, the Grand Trianon is still quite “grand” and boasts as much political history as its bigger neighbor. Constructed of pink marble in the late 18th century, a tour through the Grand Trianon offers a glimpse into two centuries of French royal life. (Napoleon stayed here too, and it is still used for visiting heads of state).
Located a 10-15 minute walk from the main palace, the Grand Trianon is usually significantly less crowded than the main palace, but with similar views and its own gardens. If you hate crowds and your children’s tolerance for touring buildings is low, you may want to opt to tour only the Grand Trianon and skip the main palace, but that’s only if you don’t mind missing the famous Hall of Mirrors.
This might be your kids’ favorite part! This mini palace and its fairy tale-like hamlet (le hameau) were built for Marie Antoinette as an escape from the pressures of the French court. Now visitors can tour the Queen’s palace and its surrounding gardens and farm. The kids will love the farm animals, the fish-filled pond and the lookout tower. It’s another scenic walk from the main palace, but it’s totally worth it.
In the next installment, I detail some of the other outdoor activities in Versailles that are perfect for families and the various ways families can travel around the Versailles Palace grounds.
You may also enjoy:
- Save Money on Travel with City Pass and Memberships
- How to Buy Eiffel Tower Tickets and Avoid the Lines
- Climbing to the Top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France
- Read all of our articles on family vacations to Paris, France
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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.