Versailles – A Fascinating Suburb of Paris
Mostly famous for its marvelous chateau, Versailles is a large and wealthy suburb of Paris and a major tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors every year. You can find it only ten miles from the center of France’s capital, in the beautiful Île-de-France region. The city had a significant role in the evolution of French history, and it even was the unofficial capital of the country for over a century, when King Louis XIV (Sun King) decided to move here for good.
After the French Revolution, it lost its former status of Royal City, but it remained in history as a cradle of change: the 1783 Treaties of Versailles (which ended the American revolutionary War) and the 1919 Treaty of Versailles (that helped end WWI) are two world history changing events that took place here.
The main attraction of Versailles is obviously the lavish home of the royal family, known as the Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles). Back in the mid-17th century, when the construction of the castle began during the peak of French monarchy glory, the rich suburb that you see today was a mere country village. The castle has suffered a number of alterations during its existence, but the majestic layout and grand proportions are a legacy that has remained untouched, proving Louis XIV’s love for luxury, grandeur and opulence.
Speaking of extravagance, visitors cannot miss the opportunity to take a peek at the King and Queen’s grand apartments, dedicated to various important figures from mythology: Diana, Venus, Mercury, Mars and Hercules. Also a must-see is the fabulous Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces), a 246 foot long ballroom boasting 17 giant mirrors on one of its walls, while the opposite side is made up of 17 huge windows that overlook the magnificent royal gardens.
Even though the chateau was used by the royal family for just a little over a century, it has remained in people’s minds as a strong symbol of absolute monarchy, hence its designation as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately, most of the original decors and furnishings inside were lost during the French Revolution, but an ongoing restoration program (scheduled to end in 2020) worth some €400 million will probably also include an impressive reconstruction of the grandiose rooms.
While you are here, you must also take some time (preferably a lot) to stroll about in the famous Gardens of Versailles (Jardins du Château de Versailles), situated west of the palace. Reflecting the same taste for opulence, they are part of an 800 acre property. This is one of the most visited public sites in the country, for pretty obvious reasons. Just one look at these perfectly manicured gardens and you will find yourself totally mesmerized by their beauty.
They flaunt amazing beds of flowers, perfect lawns, various trees, many sculptures, and an impressive number of fountains. The interesting thing about these fountains is that they still use most of their original hydraulics system, from the time of Louis XIV. In fact, the best time to visit this magical place is from late spring until early autumn, when all 620 water jets are in full action – the show is breathtaking.
- If you don’t want to book a room in Paris, you can choose to stay at Hotel Le Versailles, which is very close to the palace and the Parly 2 Shopping Mall. Other good options are also available a few miles from the city.