What’s So Special About Versailles, France?
Well, for starters almost everybody in the world knows it is where the famous Chateau du Versailles is located—the one where Queen Marie Antoinette lived with her husband King Louis XIV and their children. And what happened to them during the French Revolution. Specifically how the word Guillotine came into the modern lexicon. No, they weren’t killed there, but taken to the Concierge in Paris before their famous public execution in Paris.
Explore more in the City of Versailles
The City of Versailles in France is located about 1 hour west of Paris. To get there after your arrival at the main airport of CDG or Charles De Gaulle you can train directly to Versailles using the RER B train, getting off at the Notre Dame stop, switch to the platform to connect to the RER C which goes directly to the Chateau du Versailles Rive Gauche station. However, there is a second train line of the RER C which goes to the Versailles Chantiers station. It ends up only being an additional 15 minute walk further away from the Chateau but it does give you a better option to stay in this area of the city and explore.
A Cleaner, Nicer Train Station: Versailles-Chantiers
Originally built in 1849, I was surprised to learn its most recent renovation was in 1932. Compared to the other train station “across town” it’s much more elegant in an Art Nouveau style with an expansive overhead ceiling, and tiled floor that is surprisingly clean. Vending machines and even a nice little café/coffee shop are located inside. Download the Transilien network map to your phone and be able to connect to further routes out from Versailles. The end point on this particular train route is the city of Brest way out on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in the Southwest region of France.
Getting Around Versailles
Walking is your best bet for getting around the city of Versailles. That’s because the city is only about 10 miles square in size yet has a population of 86,477. Phebus is the company that runs the city’s bus system. An individual ticket bought on board the bus is 2 euro (there’s a single coin for that). However, if you think you are going to use the bus more frequently there is a ticket called a carnet that can be purchased for 14.50 euro and includes 10 tickets. Each ticket is valid for 1.30 hours to make a connection to another bus. A carnet can be bought at any RATP train station. Another convenience is using UBER car service. Make sure you have downloaded the UBER app to your phone and set up payment. It’s pretty easy to use and one night I was tired of a lot of walking and used it to get back to my apartment. The driver arrived within minutes and was courteous. I also used an UBER to go a longer distance from Versailles to Roissy-en-France (near CDG) and was pleasantly surprised at getting a clean, modern Peugeot station wagon with a full sun roof on a clear blue sky day. This was really nice to do when travelling on a busy workday and having make one’s way through the heavy traffic congestion that exists around Paris. Bicycles (Velo in French) is also an option. See https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/visit-and-explore-versailles-the-royal-town/stroll-through-the-parks-of-versailles/cycling-in-versailles
Where to Stay in Versailles
There are approximately 63 hotels in or near the city of Versailles ranging from 3-stars to 5-stars. You can search them out on Booking.com to compare for yourself. Or you can take my recommendation from where I recently stayed at the Le Logis Apartments. Exceptionally done, with a clean modern tone, complete with a kitchen this is an ideal home-away-from-home situation for stays of 3 days or longer. I stayed 5 days and enjoyed all the amenities from the close location to Gare Versailles Chantiers (5 minute walk) to the convenience of having 2 markets, several restaurants and cafes on the same street. Bus stop is just right outside. The private entrance using a digicode is given upon arrival when you are met by one of the property attendants in a small adjacent office. The young woman walked us through the quiet courtyard and to our apartment advising us of where to find the outside rubbish bin, where to put the keys when checking out, etc. It was a smooth experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again in the Le Potager de Roi apartment on the ground floor.
What Else Can You See in Versailles Besides the Chateau?
The city is divided into quartiers or sections. Besides the Chateau there is the Saint Louis, Notre Dame, Chantiers, Montbauron areas all with their unique charm. The Saint Louis area has an avenue dedicated to a number of restaurants and varietal cafes that gets really buzzing during dinnertime. The Notre Dame area has the Place du Marche open farmers market with throngs of beautiful produce to buy. There is a long building adjacent to this square that has all the charcuterie et fromage you can buy. Further on is the Antique Shopping street.
Royal Historical Places
On an unassuming side street is the Salle du Jeu du Palme museum building where the seeds of the French Revolution germinated on the court between rounds of tennis which was a popular sport in the 17th century. This often overlooked detail to such a monumental piece of history is fascinating to learn. There the lawyers, doctors and aristocrats met to devise a plan to overthrow the Monarchy. On June 20, 1789 they succeeded in writing up a decree and the rest is history.
Some other antiquated sites to discover while walking the city are the:
If you take the Phebus bus to get around the city, a family place to stop at would be the Jardy Equestrian Park or Haras de Jardy. Built in 1890 for aristocratic horse breeders, the Park is now where you can watch Dressage and other horse shows. During the Christmas holidays a petting farm is set up for the entire family.
About 4km away from Versailles is the Le Golf National where the 2018 Ryder Cup Golf Championship was held. This is a relatively new 18-hole golf course that was opened in 1990.
The National Shooting Range is something you might hear as you stroll the grounds of the Chateau. Other noises in the area might be small flying aircraft overhead like Cessna’s as there is an airfield in the neighboring city of Saint-Cyr-l'École Airport.
More than a Chateau
Venture further when making the trek to Versailles. Make it more than a day visit to see the Chateau. Give yourself time to walk and explore and get the feel for this charming city. Imagine how it might have been when it was a small enclave as founded by the King of France. It had remained the capital for over a century until the revolution. Now it serves as a key focal point to visit for tourists from every country. But the hidden sights to the city remain relatively uncrowded as the residents go about their daily business. You too, can discover more to Versailles, than the Chateau.