Why is the Château de Versailles so famous? Because this stunning, storied castle holds within it centuries of fascinating French history and architectural splendour. Architect Louis Le Vau first embellished the original building – a hunting lodge built during Louis XIII’s reign – for Louis XIV as a rival to Vaux-le-Vicomte, the impressive residence of Louis’s finance minister Nicolas Fouquet. Landscape designer 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 and decorated by the painter Charles Le Brun, and is easily the highlight of any visit. It was also where the controversial Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.
After Le Vau’s death in 1670, Jules Hardouin Mansart took over as principal 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 fairytale 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.
If swooning over a sumptuous château awakens your taste for famous French buildings, make sure to check our pick of the best attractions in Paris.
Opening times, tickets and prices
Château de Versailles is open daily except Mondays. Opening hours are 9am to 6.30pm for the castle and 8am to 8.30pm for the gardens. Exploring the entire estate (including the Trianon Palaces) will cost you €28.50. This also allows you to experience the impressive water-fountain show and musical gardens during summer. It’s especially worth visiting on a Saturday or Sunday evening in summer, so you can witness a breathtaking night-time version of the fountains show, organised every week from June to September. It’s truly spectacular. On the first Sunday of the month from November until March, entry to the entire Palace of Versailles and the Estate of Trianon is free for everyone.
Visiting the Château de Versailles during the Paris 2024 Olympics
During the Olympic Games, some sports will enjoy a truly exceptional setting: those taking place in the vast park that hugs the Château de Versailles. Stalls have been added into the heart of the park just for the occasion.
The horse riding (Jul 27-Aug 6) and modern pentathlon (Aug 8-11) will be taking place in the park, and as well as enjoying the sports, those lucky spectators with tickets will also be treated to a fine view of the estate’s Grand Canal from the stalls.
Want tickets? If you registered before April 20 on the official ticketing platform and are lucky enough to be selected, you’ll receive an email with your individual ticket purchasing window. Otherwise, tickets to attend events will be available for purchase in late 2023 or early 2024. Be quick during this final phase of ticket sales, as they’ll be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.
How to get to Versailles from central Paris
Less than 15 minutes away by train (TER or line N) from Montparnasse station, the Château de Versailles has never been easier to reach. To get even closer to the castle, you can also take the RER C towards Versailles Château-Rive Gauche. Finally, line L allows access by train from Saint-Lazare station.