Queues so bad there are people from the French Revolution still waiting in line to decapitate someone…
Going out to see Louis IV’s famous chateau is a must-do but also a bit of an ordeal unless you play it right. First you have to know that all year round the queues are enormous. There are queues to enter the chateau and then queues to move from room to room. (If you have children rope them together like cattle.) It can be worse than the the Kumbh Mela Festival on the banks of the Ganges at sunset. Talking of toilets – there is a monster queue at Versailles for them too just outside the exit (they’ve thoughtfully provided about 4 cubicles for all the seething masses)
I suggest the following plan of attack……
1. AVOID GOING TUESDAYS. Versailles is shut on Mondays so any tourists who couldn’t go Monday flock there the next day.
2. Pre-buy your tickets online first of all. This presumes you know what day you are going in advance. Then go queue to get into the Chateau marked as A on the map below.
But if you have no ENTRY ticket you have to queue first in the other line on the left of this to buy your tickets from the BILLETRIE.
If you have not pre-booked your entry tickets online, then when buying your tickets there, the faster lane is the automatic machines inside the Billeterie (left hand side of map below). They are easy to use.
3. Train down in the morning and walk into the township of Versailles to the wonderful Hall Market they have there. Delicious food. Download a town map from here
4. Buy up big for a gourmet picnic and then taxi or walk to the Chateau from here.
5. Wander and picnic round the enormous grounds of Versailles gardens (free entry round the side past the queues and there are toilets and cafes hidden in the mazes in the grounds to enjoy) and then stroll back to the Palace entry when the line of tourists into the chateau has lessened after lunch sometime.
6. My best suggestion is: think of staying at the lovely chateau hotel in the Versailles park or a local three star hotel nearby overnight and walk to the Chateau early to be one of the first in the queue. If not staying overnight – then you can still pre-buy your tickets and /or:
- book a place on a private day tour that picks you up and drops you back at hotel (from 150 euros pp)
- go on a Bike ride tour out to Versailles (for the more active among us) with an organised group
- book a public bus & guided tour
- or catch the train out yourself (about 45 mins see details below)
As I said earlier, avoid Tuesdays and weekends (unless you want to see the fountains display only on at weekends) when there is a crowd. You can also consult the calendar of the castle to see the tourist crowds forecasted.
You can go to Versailles by public transport, several solutions for this:
- Take the RER C to Versailles Château Rive Gauche
- Or take the Gare Montparnasse train to Versailles Chantiers
- Or take the Gare Saint-Lazare train to Versailles Rive Droite
- The RATP bus 171 departs from the Pont de Sèvres (terminus of metro line 9) and goes to the castle
A forewarning, all of these options, except the bus, require you to finish the journey on foot (between 10 to 20 minutes walk from the station). There is also a shuttle, Versailles Express, which goes directly to the Palace of Versailles. The shuttle departs from Quai Bourdonnais, near the Eiffel Tower.
TAKING THE TRAIN TO VERSAILLES FROM PARIS You take the RER C line from several metro stations in Paris (eg: St Michel-Notre Dame, Musee d’Orsay, Invalides, Pont de L’Alma, Champ de Mars.) See a metro map here. The Yellow Line stations go out to RER C in the bottom left of the picture.
It is a bit tricky but very cheap and quick. Catch the train early! Metro tickets are not valid. Between central Paris and Versailles, you need to take the RER C Line in a way which will lead you to ‘Javel’ station and later to ‘Porchefontaine’ station. Since the line forks, it will really depend on where you start to know how many stations away Javel and Porchefontaine will be. These stations will indicate whether you’re heading in the right direction to end up at the station ‘Versailles Rive Gauche’. I suggest you catch the train to Versailles Rive Droite and then you will get out nearer Les Halles – or covered Markets (on corner of Rue du Marcehal Foch and rue de la Paroisse) open nearly every day where you can shop and potter and buy a picnic and take it to the Palace Grounds to enjoy http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/versailles/restaurants/market/marche-halles-notre for a map of Les Halles Markets
Once in the grounds of Versailles Palace, you owe it to yourself to
- stroll or bike-ride (hire them in the grounds) the superb Chateau grounds and imagine your are Kirsten Dunst the night after that famous Versailles party.
- Bring a bottle of champagne and have a picnic on the Grand Canal.
- Hire a paddle boat.
- Visit Marie Antoinette’s Petit Hameau where she played at milkmaid with cows (and her sheep dyed blue, pink and green)
- Then visit Les Trianons where Louis went to escape from his courtiers and play with his clocks.
- For history of Versailles Palace click here.
Check out this lovely website for what to see too: https://www.hometown-paris.com/visit-versailles-differently
Finally – on weekends; a good time to enter the chateau and look through it is often around 3 pm as many of the tourists have wandered outside to watch the fountains display. I also recommend you by-pass King Louis’s private Chapel on the first floor as the crowds clustering round the doorway are appalling. You get to see the chapel more easily from the floor above with less people.
CLICK HERE to find out more information on visiting the Royal Stables at Versailles on the weekends