Palace and Park of Versailles
Highlights of Palace and Park of Versailles
Introduction to Palace and Park of Versailles
Long considered the quintessential royal residence, the Palace of Versailles and the park surrounding it was the home of many of France’s kings, beginning with Louis XIII and continuing through Louis XVI. Just 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Paris, the structure grew from a small hunting lodge to one of the grandest chateaus in the world, developed according to the designs of several talented artists and architects.
Palace and Park of Versailles Gallery
Guide to Palace and Park of Versailles
There is much to see on a guided tour of the Palace and Park of Versailles including:
The Grand Apartments – The Grand Apartments of the king and queen are located on the main floor of the palace. When Le Vau designed them, he followed the popular Italian models of that time period. The King’s Apartment had seven rooms based on the seven known planets of the time, with the Salon of Apollo in the center, serving as the throne room. The Queen’s suite had seven salons as well and the decoration in these rooms depicted heroines of ancient times. Both apartments were reconfigured when the Hall of Mirrors was added.
Hall of Mirrors – Created while Louis XIV was on the throne, the hall has seventeen mirrored arches reflecting the seventeen arcaded windows that look out onto the grounds. In total, there are 357 mirrors in this grand hall, which is 73 meters (240 feet) long. Truly spectacular, this hall was the location for the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.
The Royal Opera – Inaugurated for the wedding of the future Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the Royal Opera is still in use today. It is made entirely of wood, giving it some of the most unique acoustics of any opera performance space. During the 18th century, it hosted small opera performances for a very elite guest list though it could accommodate about 700 audience members. One of its most notable characteristics is the fact that it has a mechanism that can raise the floor to the same level as the stage.
Chapel – The Chapel of Versailles is largely built in the Baroque style though it certainly boasts some Gothic touches as well. This was the fifth chapel at Versailles, built by Louis XIV beginning in 1699. No expense was spared for the chapel, which was consecrated in 1710. The church itself is a work of art, and inside are many stunning paintings, sculptures, frescoes, and more. However, it was decommissioned in the 19th century and relegated to hosting state and private events. Today, visitors can enjoy concerts in this grand chapel.
The Gardens – The Gardens of Versailles are considered the best example of the classic French Garden. Sitting west of the palace, they occupy 800 hectares (almost 2,000 acres) and attract some six million visitors each year. Besides flowers, trees, and shrubs, there are abundant sculptures and 50 breathtaking fountains in the gardens.
Video of Palace and Park of Versailles
History of Palace and Park of Versailles
Versailles was first mentioned in the history books in the mid-11th century, home to the Abbey of Saint-Pere de Chartres. It soon developed into a small, charming village, consisting of a castle and the church of Saint-Julien. Though it was prosperous, it remained a fairly small town until Louis XIII put it on the map by purchasing a wooded parcel there on which he could hunt. He built a modest house in Versailles in 1622 and soon became “Lord” of the town, purchasing more land to expand his estate.
However, it was King Louis XIV that took an even more intense interest in Versailles and upon ascending to the throne immediately began to expand the house and purchase more property. He hired one of the most well-known architects of the time, Louis Le Vau, to come up with the perfect design for the expansions. He was assisted by artists Andre le Notre and Charles Le Brun.
Upon Le Vau’s death, the king hired Jules Hardouin-Mansart, who came up with a new design, which tripled the size of the Palace of Versailles, adding huge northern and southern wings, the Grand Trianon, and the Orangerie.
Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour added even more when they took up residence in Versailles from 1715 until 1774. But when the French Revolution began in 1789, officials realized that the treasures of the then-abandoned palace would need to be protected. Much of the artwork inside was sent to the Louvre and other items went to the Naitonal Library. Sadly, records show that some furniture and other valuables were sold at auction.
Once the revolution ended, Versailles went back to being a home for royalty. Napoleon I was particularly enamored with the property and spent his summers there while he was France’s ruler. It was Louis-Philippe, however, that chose to make Versailles a museum, believing that the grand palace demonstrated to the world the power of France and the French people and should be open to the public. The king’s plans called for some of the smaller apartments to be demolished and turned into exhibition spaces, but the most notable rooms/areas remained intact. Versailles remained as-is until the 1960s, when some of the aforementioned apartments were restored and several pieces of furniture returned.
Getting to Palace and Park of Versailles
A trip to Versailles Palace and Gardens can include either a guided or self-guided tour. The latter allows visitors to explore at their own pace but some guests prefer to partake of the services of guides who can provide more information about each individual room. Many visitors, however, opt for audio guides, which still allows for leisurely exploration but with plenty of information about each stop on the tour. They are available in several languages. Either way, a cost is incurred for admission.
To reach Versailles from Paris, travelers need to hop aboard the RER line C1 to Versailles at the Gare d’Austerlitz, St-Michel, Musée d’Orsay, Invalides, Ponte de l’Alma, Champ de Mars, or Javel stations. Riders should depart at the Versailles-Rive Gauche station, not the Versailles Chantier station, the latter of which is quite a distance from the palace. The trip only takes about 40 minutes and trains to Versailles depart several times a day.
Palace and Park of Versailles News
Palace and Park of Versailles Tours
Palace and Park of Versailles Weather