If there’s any castle in Europe that needs no introduction, it’s the Palace of Versailles in France. Famous mostly because of the last king to call it home, Louis XVI, and his even more famous wife, Marie Antoinette, this palace and its opulent gardens play host to over three million visitors per year. So instead of telling you everything you already know about this grand chateau, we’ll take this opportunity to shed light on a few lesser known – but equally fascinating – facts and figures.
- The earliest mention of Versailles was in the year 1038, in a document that referenced Versailles as a village, long before the castle was ever there.
- The construction of the Palace and gardens lasted through three different reigns – it began with Louis XIV, saw several adjustments under Louis XV, and was made infamous during the reign and subsequent beheading of Louis XVI.
- Louis XIV’s daily schedule was so strict, regular, and predictable that it was once written, “With an almanac and a watch, you could be three hundred leagues from here and say what he was doing.”
- The entire grounds of Versailles measure larger than the island of Manhattan in New York.
- The Queen’s bedroom was one of the largest rooms in the private apartments because she was required to give birth in public, so that there would be no question of the heir’s legitimacy.
- There are 700 rooms and 67 staircases. Imagine having to decorate for the holidays.
- The Palace is still used as more than just a tourist attraction today; politicians meet here to discuss amendments to the French Constitution, and there have been a few contemporary art exhibitions that have taken place on the grounds – most notably American artist Jeff Koons’ exhibition in 2008.
Transportation to the Palace of Versailles by rail:
Versailles is just a 20-minute ride away from Paris on the local RER C line. The RER trains are similar to metro trains, but they run longer distances outside the Paris city limits. Take the train that is headed towards Versailles-Rive Gauche — this is your stop and, conveniently, it is also the last stop on this line, so you won’t need to worry about missing it. When you exit the train, there will be signs directing you towards the chateau, and from this station it’s only about a five minute walk.
How to Travel to the Palace of Versailles from Paris using a pass:
The France Rail Pass is valid on the entire RER line C, and so you can use the pass to travel to Versailles without having to buy an extra ticket. Keep in mind, however, that it will require the use of a day on your pass. (Travel tip: train travel is unlimited during each day of your pass, and so you could easily travel from one city in France to Paris and then from Paris to Versailles in the same day while only using one day on the pass) In order to use your pass for the RER, please visit the ticket counter at the RER station and show the attendant your pass, and they will issue you a ticket for entering through the turnstile in the station.
*This only applies to the France Rail Pass, not the Eurail Global or Select Passes, or any other Eurail Passes including France.
Travel around and outside of Paris:
The Paris Visite Card is a travel card that covers public transportation. This product provides unlimited travel on the metro, bus system (zones 1-5), the RER, and several SNCF lines in the greater Paris region. To get the Paris Visite Card that covers trips to Versailles, make sure to choose zones 1-5.
The biggest benefit of the Paris Visite is that almost all of your transportation in Paris is covered, so you don’t have to keep waiting in line to buy tickets each time that you want to use public transportation. Traveling in Paris can be hectic enough without having to worry about buying tickets each time you need to get somewhere. And a lot of the metro and RER stations only take small bills or change and will not accept foreign credit cards, meaning you always need to have cash on hand.
As you can see, Versailles is a whimsical, beautiful destination that is unique not only to the chateaux of France but also to famous palaces throughout the world. It would make for an easy and refreshing afternoon trip outside the Paris city limits, especially if you already have a France Rail Pass or a Paris Visite card that you could use. Happy traveling!