On a business trip to Paris in June 2018, I took the opportunity to visit the Palace of Versailles. The opulent 17th-century palace is located about 17 kilometers southwest of Paris. It was the royal residence from the late 1600s to the late 1700s right up until the French Revolution.
If you’d like to go inside the palace, I recommend booking online well before you go… or you will be standing in a very long line waiting to get in. Not my idea of tranquilo.
For this trip, I skipped the palace and went straight to the extensive royal gardens behind the palace.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Getting There & Back
TL;DR Take the train
Since I am staying in central Paris, the logistics of getting out to Versailles and back could not have been easier. From the hotel in the Saint Germain des Pres district in the 6th arrondissement on the Seine near Pont Neuf, I walked two short blocks to the RER train station for line C at Saint Michel – Notre-Dame.
At this location, the train station is actually underground, so just look for the RER Metro sign. Line C takes you straight to Versailles which happens to be the endpoint of this line… easy, peasy. It is about a 40-minute ride each way. I walked right up to a ticket booth (no line) and spoke to a friendly attendant who kindly offered to speak English. I bought both the out ticket and the return ticket right there for 7,50 euros. I was directed to the correct platform and told to look for the VICK train. The platform was very close and I confirmed with another attendant that I was at the right place. The trains are double-deckers. I sat at the top of the carriage. Unlike the inner city metro, these trains do have some air conditioning… a real blessing on a warm, somewhat muggy June day in the City of Light.
Where To Eat
TL;DR La Flottille
Since it was a very pleasant summer afternoon with gorgeous weather, I opted for a casual outdoor lunch at La Fottille. They offer a casual, al fresco dining experience with good table service and lots of menu choices. I had the entrecote with French fries, a side salad and a Perrier in a glass with ice and lemon. The entrecote had become my go-to entree of choice when dining in and around Paris.
There were a few other dining options on the grounds of Versailles. One of which, La Petite Venise, looked intriguing if a bit pricey. Their dining room lies in what looked to be a historic building beautifully renovated… gorgeous stone floor, wood-beam ceiling, original stone walls with sleek touches like modern lighting, granite tables, and white linens.
What To See
TL;DR Skip the crowds and move to the back of the park!
While the formal gardens immediately behind the palace are the main draw, I say “move to the back of the park!” Don’t get me wrong, the gardens are amazing. They are a beautiful sight to behold. They are wonderful for people-watching. But when you’ve had enough of seeing what everyone else has already posted on Instagram, get into the back-country! It is quiet. The air is fresh.
Hot tip: the further back you go, the wilder it gets. You can literally walk for almost an hour and still not reach the back of the property… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! I virtually circumnavigated the property and it took me the good part of the daylight hours. It was all worth it.
Entrance to the Palace Gardens and Park is free to the public in the low season (November to March) and in the high season on days with no Musical Fountain Show. Otherwise, entry is 9,50 euros per person. Discounts are available for students, pensioners, etc.
Versailles can be an affordable and easy trip from central Paris. If you have the chance, I highly recommend it.