Whether you’re in Paris for a family vacation or wandering France searching out the best places to retire, Versailles is a huge draw. Located about 12 miles from the City of Lights, it’s one of the most splendid historical sites in the world. However, a trip to Versailles can end in disaster (or just a lot of blisters) if you don’t plan well, so here are some tips to help you make the most of this marvel.
Give yourself enough time
Versailles is not something you can pop over, visit, and return from in an hour. It takes between an hour and an hour and a half to reach the palace by public transport. Then, if you don’t have your tickets—well, there’s a nice, long line for that. If you have your tickets, there’s another (shorter) line for that. Then, the grounds, museum, and palace are huge, meaning you need at the very least a half day to be able to see a decent portion of them.
Buy your tickets ahead of time
You can waste a whole lot of time standing in lines for tickets. Obviously, the simple solution to this is just to buy them online ahead of time.
Wear good shoes
Versailles is huge. As in, its grounds cover nearly 88 million square feet. The paths of the gardens, while generally level, are not paved—they’re gravel. You’re going to be doing a lot of walking on maybe not the smoothest surfaces—so maybe don’t wear flip-flops.
Go into the palace very early or very late
While the grounds have endless space to roam around in, the Palace of Versailles is more or less always crowded, because they’re funneling thousands of tourists through the small selection of rooms they open to the public. If you want to avoid getting elbowed in the face by someone photographing the ceiling, tour the palace as soon as it opens, or after 3 pm when crowds thin.
Right so you’re now taking out several hours to visit Versailles, and are very likely walking your feet off in the summer heat. Clearly, you should bring some water with you, and a picnic lunch is a great idea as well. You can eat on the grounds (not in the palace) in the shade of a towering hedge, or at the edge of a massive fountain, and get a nice breather as haggard-looking school groups walk by. (Sadly, though, you can’t bring alcohol.)
Don’t go on weekends (or Mondays)
Want to not be smothered to death by hordes of humans? Try to avoid peak days and times. Versailles opens around 9, so that’s when you should aim to be there. Generally, it starts to gets quite busy between 10 and 3, and quiets down after 3. Check out here to see the Palace’s list of peak days each month.
Rent a golf cart or a bike
If you want to see as much of Versailles as possible, walking probably won’t do it for you—not only will you kill yourself trying, but there’s simply too much to see. Happily, there are two solutions for this. First, rent a bike for a little more than six Euro an hour and whiz around the grounds. Second, avoid exercise entirely and rent a golf cart, which will make you the envy of pretty much everyone you meet.