Palace of Versailles

Located approximately 12 miles west of the heart of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is one of the world’s most regal estates. Constructed primarily during the late seventeenth century for King Louis XIV, Versailles today has become almost synonymous with glamorous architecture, luxurious living, and unfathomable wealth. The palace features some 2,300 distinctive rooms—including such memorable areas like the Hall of Mirrors, Royal Chapel, and Grand Trianon, just to name a few—spread across roughly 700,000 square feet.

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History of the Palace of Versailles

The story of the Palace of Versailles begins with a simple hunting lodge built on the site in 1623 by King Louis XIII. At that time, the king’s official royal residence was Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (today France’s National Archaeological Museum), and Louis XIII would only occasionally visit and stay at these accommodations. Louis XIII eventually enlisted the architect Philibert Le Roy to construct him a château in place of the hunting lodge; work on this project ran from about 1631 to 1634, and once completed Louis XIII frequented the home more often.

It wasn’t until the early 1660s (some two decades into his reign) that King Louis XIV would set in motion the work that would transform his father’s château into the sprawling palace we know today as Versailles. By 1682, Louis XIV had moved his royal court and government to Versailles, even as work continued on various parts of the estate for another 30 years. King Louis XIV died at Versailles in 1715, after ruling France for 72 years. His successors added flourishes to the palace here and there, but the core of the property remained the same. The events of the French Revolution drove the royal family from Versailles in 1789.

Palace of Versailles Highlights

Perhaps the most famous single area within the Palace of Versailles is its hallowed Hall of Mirrors. Constructed between the years 1678 and 1684 under the direction of the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart (who also designed the Les Invalides’ dome, an integral part of the Army Museum experience today), the Hall of Mirrors is nearly 250 feet long and lavishly decorated throughout. Some 30 paintings adorn its vaulted ceilings, chandeliers, marble surfaces, and gilded-bronze capitals are everywhere you turn, and of course, an incredible 357 mirrors hang above arches across the room’s 17 windows. The result is an opulent hall that seems to glow.

The Royal Chapel at Versailles (also designed by Hardouin-Mansart) is another highlight of the palace. The chapel’s vaulted ceiling is decorated with three large frescoes, one each by Antoine Coypel, Charles de La Fosse, and Jean Jouvenet. The ground-level décor pays tribute to the accomplishments of King Louis IX (Saint Louis), who built Sainte-Chapelle while ruling France during the thirteenth century. The chapel’s organ was built by Robert Clicquot and is itself a beautiful piece of art.

With so much to see and do, touring Versailles can be a dizzying experience. Regardless, visitors to Versailles will want to be sure and explore the War Room, an ornate space of marble panels, gilded bronze, and stucco bas-reliefs that depict the King’s successful military campaigns; the seven, Italianate rooms of the King’s State Apartments; the suite of rooms that comprise Marie-Antoinette’s Private Chambers; and the magnificent Royal Opera.

More to See and Do at the Palace of Versailles

As befits an attraction of its immense size and prestige, there’s a lot to see and do at the Palace of Versailles. Keep reading below for a few more details about this famous destination.

•The Palace of Versailles contains far more fabulous interior spaces than can be detailed on this page, but that doesn’t mean its exquisite grounds should be neglected, as these meticulously designed and maintained green acres are a significant part of the charm of the palace. The bottom line is you’ll for sure want to carve out some time during your visit to move about the Versailles Gardens. And, while you’re at it, make certain to stroll through the Grand Trianon, which is bordered on one side by a courtyard and the other by a garden.

•The Palace of Versailles routinely hosts temporary museum-style exhibitions like its recent show Masterpieces of the King’s Chamber: The Echo of Caravaggio at Versailles. Likewise, Versailles is often the site of special events like music concerts, theater productions, and guest lectures. For more information on the sort of things that might be taking place when you’re planning to visit Versailles, check out the palace’s official website in advance of your trip.

•A great way to get more out of your visit to Versailles is by picking up the official audio guide from a designated counter in the Vestibule of the Dufour Pavilion; there’s a small extra charge for this service. There’s also the official Versailles app, which contains the same audio content and can be downloaded directly to your smartphone for free. It comes in 12 languages and has interactive maps of the estate and its grounds. For those wanting a truly thorough Versailles experience, there are a variety of guided tours on a number of themes and topics available, too.

•For a single attraction, Versailles is home to a remarkable number of dining experiences encompassing a wide range of price points. Restaurants here include La Girandole, which serves sandwiches, salads, and crepes on a lovely terrace in the middle of the gardens; Angelina, an outpost of the acclaimed Rue de Rivoli tea room famous for its hot chocolate and pastries; Ore, an Alain Ducasse-branded restaurant perfect for those guests desiring an unforgettable (and pricey) meal; and Grand Café d’Orléans, a fast-casual establishment with seating and takeaway options. Several other casual options are located throughout the attraction as well.

•Multiple gift shops and themed stores are found on the grounds of Versailles. The Gardens Shop is a must for any visitor with a passion for botany and the palace’s lavish grounds, while the Librairie des Princes has a sizable selection of books as well as home-décor items like crystal, glassware, porcelain, candles, and more. Ladurée sells their beloved macarons on-site here, and there are multiple Estate Shops that stock all types of fun souvenirs and thoughtful gifts.

Why the Palace of Versailles Should Be on Your Must-See List

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the entire planet. Each year tens of millions of visitors travel from all over the world to enjoy the many splendors of this luxurious destination. A powerful symbol of wealth and power, Versailles is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a good reason: it’s a historically important estate whose grandeur has to be seen to be believed. If you’re going to be visiting Paris for more than a day or two, the Palace of Versailles should be at the top of your must-see list.