Published on February 17, 2012 | by Elena1
A trip to the Palace of Versailles
If you’re in Paris for a week or more, why not take a day trip to see some sites beyond the City of Lights? And why not one of France’s major landmarks? Versailles has been the capital of the kingdom of France for over a century, from 1682 to 1789. Nowadays it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 17 km away from French capital, and remains an important administrative and judicial centre.
Versailles is renowned worldwide for its château, the Palace of Versailles, which is currently a national museum on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years. This is where we would like to focus your attention today.
The Palace of Versaille is a very popular tourist destination, and can get a bit packed with student or tour groups, but don’t let that turn you off from a visit!
As you enter the Palace from the main entrance, you immediately realize that the Château de Versailles is all about extravagance and luxury. Gold accentuates everything from the gates to the statues ornamenting the exterior of the building, up to furnishings inside. Opulent chandeliers and loads of paintings, sculptures, and tapestries adorn the interiors. Each of the French kings who lived there until the French Revolution, added improvements to make it more beautiful. The major of these, were those by Louis XIV, who devoted many rooms and parts of the gardend to the sun – the monarch’s symbol – or one of the seven planets that revolve around the magical star.
Breathtaking in its hugeness, to facilitate your visit to the Palace, the best thing to do is take your time to enjoy each and every moment of your trip.
Step one (to 20 thousand!). Enjoy the Hall of Mirrors, the biggest room in the Palace of Versailles. It owes its name to the seventeen mirror arches – each containing 21 mirrors with for a total of 357 – facing seventeen windows overlooking the Park. The Grande Galerie, as it was called in the 17th century, served daily as a passageway and a waiting and meeting place, frequented by courtiers and the visiting public. Here is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed following World War I, while nowadays the hall is often used for Modern Art exhibitions. The Hall of Mirrors is entered through the War Room, and is exited through the Peace Room, which leads to the Queen’s apartments. The king’s and queen’s bedchambers are also as impressive as you would expect them to be. Continue your visit and don’t miss the Royal Chapel, the Congress room and the Historical Galleries.
Once you’re finished with the Chateau, just get outside and start wandering through the gardens. Take care, as it could be very, very cold, especially in this period. But, again, don’t let the climate stop you from taking pleasure in this wonderful experience. Louis XIV entrusted the creation of the gardens to André Le Nôtre in 1661. The result was this masterpiece, where everything is, once again, perfection, symmetry and harmony. Gardens for walking and flower beds to highlight the castle, statues, vases and busts decorate its paths. And, last but not least, a great number of fountains and waterfalls – only 607 of them, though, remain today – as an integral part of the production. Finally, the sun theme is honored in the gardens as it is inside the castle.
How to take the train to Versailles from Paris:
Purchase a round trip RER-C ticket and depart from one of the RER-C stations in Paris. Follow signs to the platform for the train going to Versailles Rive Gauche: trains going to Versailles have names beginning with a V, and your destination is the last stop. Finding the Palace from the train station in Versailles is easy. You can follow the instructions on any guide, or… just follow the crowd!
History, legend, mythology, every step here is like poetry in motion. A dream: but keep your eyes open or you will miss the best! And don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes…
Photo by Renata Barros