The Château de Versailles was the main residence of the French Royal Family from 1682 to 1789. Originally a hunting lodge, Louis XIV decided to turn it into a grand palace with luxurious entertainments for the court. It remained the center of government until the French Revolution.
Nowadays, the Château de Versailles is second only to the Louvre in number of visitors. The complex includes several royal buildings and an extensive garden. It will easily take you an entire day to visit, so put that aside and don't try to squeeze more than a dinner back in Paris on the same day.
Best option: Versailles Château - Rive Gauche
There are 3 stations around Château de Versailles but the one closest to the palace is Versailles Château - Rive Gauche. This station is part of the suburban trains line RER C, so you can change onto it through many stations: St-Michel Notre-Dame, Musée d'Orsay, Invalides, Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel, to name the most central ones.
This station is on Zone 4 of the transport network, so if you bought the Paris Visite for:
- Zones 1-5: this route is included and you can just hop on the train. Easy peasy.
- Zones 1-3: you can buy a stand-alone ticket to visit Versailles. [Purchase it online]* for 4€ each way or RATP ticket desks and vending machines (in all metro and RER stations) for 3.65€ each way.
Online purchases at ParisInfo must either be delivered at home (for a fee) or collected (for free) at one of their information centers:
- Hôtel de Ville, 29 Rue de Rivoli, 75004 (M1/M11Hôtel de Ville)
- Gare du Nord, 18 Rue de Dunkerque, 75010 (M4/M5 Gare du Nord)
There are two other stations, a little bit further from the Palace. If you are staying in a central location, it's unlikely that these would be more practical than the RER C above, but just in case...
This is 18 minutes away on foot. This is also an RER C station but it goes all around Paris, instead of the more direct route above.
More importantly, it's reachable with SNCF trains from Gare Montparnasse, adjacent to M4/M6/M12/M13 Montparnasse–Bienvenüe.
VERSAILLES RIVE DROITE
This one is 17 minutes away on foot and reachable with SNFC trains from Gare Saint-Lazare, adjacent to M3/M12/M13/M14 Saint-Lazare.
This is the single most important point here: buy your tickets in advance. Remember I mentioned this is the 2nd most visited spot in Paris? The lines for the ticket desks can get insanely long and you still have the unavoidable line for security checks. So save whichever time possible.
To make a day of it, it's advisable to buy the Passport, which gives you access to the entire Estate: the Palace, the Estate of Trianon, the Gardens with Musical Fountains Show or Musical Gardens.
The Gardens (without Musical Fountains Show or Musical Gardens) and the Coach Gallery are free for everyone.
You also have the possibility to buy a 2-day passport, but unless you are an enthusiast, one full day is enough to explore the grounds.
EXPLORING THE COMPLEX
Expect to spend at least 2 hours here. Audioguides in 11 languages are included in the ticket price.
Highlights: The Hall of Mirrors and the Royal Chapel.
Saying the Versailles Gardens are expansive is a major understatement. It covers a whopping 800ha. Good news is that you have some interesting options to explore it:
- Bikes: bring an ID to avoid having to pay out a deposit.
- Electric vehicles: don't forget your Drivers' License!
- Le Petits Trains: you can hop-off and hop-on as you wish within a single circuit.
- Segway: explore the gardens on your own or with a group tour.
THE ESTATE OF TRIANON
The Grand Trianon was used by Louis XIV to spend time with his mistress Madame de Maintenon.
The Petit Trianon was gifted to Marie Antoinette in 1774 and became a favorite refugee from the formalities of court. The Queen's Hamlet and the Queen's Theatre were also built for her, making the Trianon Estate and the last Queen of France inextricably associated.