Centuries of makeovers have made Versailles the most sumptuously clad château in the world – a brilliant, unmissable cocktail of extravagance. Architect Louis Le Vau first embellished the original building – a hunting lodge built during Louis XIII's reign – after Louis XIV saw Vaux-Le-Vicomte, the impressive residence of his finance minister Nicolas Fouquet. André Le Nôtre turned the boggy marshland into terraces, parterres, lush groves and a spectacular series of fountains.
Allow yourself a good part of the day to appreciate the gorgeous state apartments and the famous Hall of Mirrors – a 73-metre (240-foot) gallery overlooking the garden, hung with 357 mirrors. It was commissioned in 1678 by Louis XIV, decorated by Le Brun and is easily the highlight of any visit. It was also where the famous Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.
After Le Vau's death in 1670, Jules Hardouin Mansart took over as principle architect, transforming Versailles into the château we know today. He added the Grand and Petit Trianons in the gardens – pink marble palaces hidden from the protocol of the court. The Grand Trianon retains the décor of Napoleon who stayed here with his second Empress, Marie-Louise, while the Petit Trianon is a wonderful example of neo-classicism. It later became part of the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette, an exclusive hideaway located beyond the canal in the wooded parkland. Given to Marie-Antoinette as a wedding gift by her husband Louis XVI in 1774, the domain also includes the queen's fairy-tale farm and dairy, known as the Hameau de la Reine.
Outside the château gates are the stables that now house the Académie du Spectacle Equestre, responsible for the elaborate shows of tightly choreographed theatrics on horseback run by famous horse trainer Bartabas.