Today we decided to visit Chateau de Versailles. We debated whether we would take a tour or attempt the trip ourselves. I won’t lie I am a bit of a princess. Okay let’s be real, I’m actually a queen so I would much rather be picked up at my door and be dropped off at my destination. But occasionally–I am up for an adventure. If you decide to take a tour, prices range from 150 to 750 Euros for 1/2 day and full day tours.
We did some internet searching, talked to our hotel people and it looked pretty easy. So we went to Monoprix (a local market, a blog post for another day ) the night before and picked up a quick breakfast for the morning . We were hoping to get an early start but it doesn’t get light until 8:45 am so we slept in. Funny- we were wondering why we kept sleeping so late! We didn’t realize sunrise was after 8 am here.
Anyway, we were actually out of the door by 10am. Bundle up (at least in January) because you will be in open gardens and it gets pretty chilly. So off to the metro we went–luckily for us its just behind our hotel. You need to look for the RER (subway train) C towards Versailles Rive- Gauche. If you are a color code type person it’s the yellow route. The train ends at Versailles so just stay on it until the end. They will announce it in English when you get there.
You need to buy a round trip ticket. They actually give you 2 tickets 1 for each way. it’s about 7,50 Euro round trip.
Here’s the hot tip–the trains are not LABELED so don’t look for any signs and there is no metro personnel anywhere to ask. There is one sign on the front of the train but you have to be watching for it…and it says things like VICK, JILL which is not helpful. Ironically, everyone is asking everyone else which train is coming and the people that know only speak French.
This is how you tell, you look for the TV screens. You need to look for the RER C Versailles Rive-Gauche . Here’s what’s on the screen and a general idea how to read it:
1) RER C, 2) The name of the train I think, 3) the arrival time, 4) The direction it is going.
When your train arrives it will say something on the screen in French like “Quai” (it has another word that I can’t remember) to let you know the train has arrived. Below is not the exact screen you need, it was just a random pic I took as we were traveling.
It’s about a 35 minute ride. It was very pleasant although it was a Sunday, which could make a huge difference. It’s clean and nice.
AND……If you are as lucky as we were you will get free entertainment!
DUDE, don’t quit your day job.
Once you get there it’s a very short walk to the palace. You cross the street, pick up a Starbucks if you are so inclined.
Then follow the crowd , turn right, then a quick left. The entrance looks like this, you can’t miss it,
I will have to say it is not what I expected. It had a very Disney-esque feel to me. The line to get in is long. I sound like a broken record but we had the Paris Pass so we skipped the line. Here’s another tip—There is no sign for Paris Pass holders unlike all the other tourist sites we visited. Here you just have to go to the front, push your way in and flash your pass. As usual you have to go through a long security line.
Make sure to pick up the audio guide which is free, easy to work and very helpful. You don’t have to leave your I.D. It has some kind of sensor in it, so if you decide to walk off with it the Versailles police will be after you.
There are multiple ways to tour the palace. I will let you decide how you want to do it since it’s pretty straightforward but …it is HUGE! Most people go into the palace first, the audio guide is only for the palace.
Let me just say it’s very crowded, it felt like a herd of cattle on stampede day. Here’s my 5′ 1″ view of the palace and that’s shooting the picture with my hand stretched way over my head.
Another tip, your supposed to put the audio guide to your ear like a phone, but there is a slot for earphones, so just plug your own earbuds in and hang the ‘thingy’ around your neck.
The crowd thins out a bit so you can see some nice areas.
When you finish the palace take Les Petits Trains for the rest of the grounds, unless you are into some very serious walking!
It costs 7,50 Euros and takes you from the Chateau to 3 other areas if you buy the ticket from the Chateau. Otherwise you pay at each stop.
Stop 1 Grand Trianon a palace built by Louis to meet his lover. It’s small in palace terms.
This is a separate entry fee unless you have the pass. Also there is another security check so be prepared to disrobe yet again.
Stop 2 is Queen Marie-Antoinette’s refuge . Again another fee and more disrobing.
Stop 3 is the Grand Canal. We did not exit the train it was pretty cold and the grounds in January are pretty dull . The train keeps going and returns you back to the Chateau (where you started).
Like I said it was pretty cold and we felt we saw everything we needed in our 4 1/2 hours. I am so glad we didn’t take the tours and especially the whole day tour.
My only tip for the way home is in regards to the train. You need the C train and since they aren’t labeled it gets tricky.
All of us on the train were asking each other if we were on the right train since there is no metro personnel anywhere. I am starting to wonder who drives the train!
We made a group decision to chance it, but I am thinking it was actually the only train we could take. It turned out to be the right train and takes you right back into Paris.
So the verdict? We had a very nice day, but it was very crowded and full of selfie sticks with people on the other end. I am really glad we did the DIY version.
Happy Trails to you Louis!
~Mike and Donna~