Versailles: Insider Tip on the Best Time to Visit this Magnificent World Heritage Site
Versailles is built in the image of the Sun King
The magnificent Palace of Versailles was built by the Sun King, Louis XIV. He chose the sun as his symbol because he envisioned himself as Apollo. Appollo represents the ideal physical man as youthful and athletic. He is the god of sun and light. The sun is the centre of the universe and is the heavenly body that controls life.
The Sun King moved the royal court from Paris to Versailles, thereby making Versailles the seat of his political power as absolute monarch of the Kingdom of France. Versailles is 20 kilometre southwest of Paris. Today, Versailles is a wealthy Parisian suburb.
Although the Sun King moved the royal court to Versailles, he did not abandon Paris. In keeping with the sun as his symbol, he introduced street lighting in Paris. He replaced walls with tree-lined boulevards. He supported the arts with renovations to the Louvre.
Versailles is the manifestation of the Sun King’s vision of his absolute power and the divine right of kings. His bed is in the absolute centre of Versailles. It is the room right above the main entrance in this photo. All the power of France emanated from this source. The view from his bed is the long road that leads to the entrance of Versailles.
The whole of Versailles is built symmetrically, emanating from the bedroom of the Sun King.
If you love symmetry, then Versailles is the place for you to visit
The sun is in the centre of the clock that is centred over the entrance to Versailles
The Sun King ruled France for 72 years. He outlived his son and grandson. His great grandson, Louis XV, became king at the age of 5. Louis XV was despised during his long reign. The seeds of discontent, culminating in the French Revolution, were sown during the reign of Louis XV.
These black and white marble tiles can inspire a home reno
We arrived in Versailles at lunch time. The weather was dark and forbidding. Our plan was to spread our visit of Versailles over two days: inside for the afternoon during the dark weather; the gardens the next morning. We quickly had to do a re-think when we learned that a general strike was called for the following day. No one knew when or if Versailles would be open.
With only one afternoon to see all the palace and all the gardens, we knew we had to be selective. We were lucky with the ticket line-up….there was no line-up. I have read online blogs of people complaining about two-hour waits in line. Of course, you can avoid the line-up by buying online.
Once inside, we joined hordes of visitors. I don’t think I have ever been in a more crowded tourist site. We could move only as fast as the slowest person. We often got caught in the middle of tour groups.
All my photos were terrible because I could not get unobstructed views. I casually asked a security guard if it was always this crowded. His response: hang around until 6:00 pm. Everyone is gone by then.
This was a stellar piece of advise. By 5:30, the crowds were thinning. By 6, they were gone!!!
The Palace closes at 6:30 so I had only a half hour to get my photos.
The crowds are gone by 6!
Tip #1: Buy your tickets online
Tip #2: Get all your photos at the end of the day
The Gardens of Versailles are arranged like the path of the sun
The Magnificent Palace and Gardens of Versailles are World Heritage Sites.
The grand vision of the Sun King for the Gardens was canals, pools and fountains. However, supplying the Gardens with water was a critical challenge. Even with a sophisticated and expensive hydraulic system installed by the Sun King, there was never enough water to run the fountains full time.
Modern hydraulic systems have eased the water problem for Versailles, but it remains a challenge. However, if you are in Versailles on a weekend in the summer, don’t miss the spectacular musical fountain show.
I would love to return to Versailles to see this show! Here is the link with info on the summer fountain shows:
Just a few weeks ago, an impossible waterfall was installed in the Gardens. You can see photos in this Daily Mail article.
Just when you thought the Palace of Versailles couldn’t look any more spectacular… ‘impossible’ waterfall from the sky stuns visitors
The attraction has been created to revive the initial vision of Andre Le Notre, principal gardener to King Louis XIV
Pegasus is a winged divine stallion
While racing back to the Hall of Mirrors for my end-of-the-day photos, I just had to stop and take a picture of this glorious sculpture. This photo shows just the top, with Pegasus ready to take flight. Pegasus is normally depicted in pure white.
Normally, I take a shot of the plaque with the name of the artist, but forgot to do so here. I have no information on the artist! Will try to find something and will update.
The Hallway of Busts
With most visitors gone, I was able to take my time and line up this shot.
This is the altar where Marie Antoinette married the future King of France
She was 14 and he was 15. She was 37 when she was executed by guillotine.
This the spectacular chapel in Versailles
The chapel inVersailles is a magnificent two-story structure.
Visitors cannot enter the chapel. There are two viewing stations: one outside the ground floor and one outside the upper story.
Earlier in the afternoon, it was difficult to get a view of the chapel. By the end of the afternoon, I was able to take my time and line up this shot.
The organ in the upper story of the chapel
I couldn’t believe that I was able to get unobstructed photos of this magnificent chapel.
This is the ceiling in the chapel
The chapel has been de-consecrated. It is used for state and private functions.
As we were leaving Versailles at closing time at 6:30, people in formal evening wear were arriving. Sadly, I was not dressed for the occasion and was not on the guest list.
Entrance to the Hall of Mirrors
The Hall of Mirrors is the star attraction in Versailles. It is opulent and magnificent.
The Sun King built the Hall of Mirrors to impress. Mirrors were one of the most expensive luxury items at that time. There are 17 mirror-clad arches in the Hall of Mirrors. Each arch has 21 mirrors. There is a grand total of 357 mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors.
When the Hall of Mirrors was built, the Venetian Republic held the monopoly on the technology to make mirrors. However, the Sun King dictated that all decorative items in Versailles had to be made in France. Artisans were enticed from Venice to France to make the mirrors. According to legend, Venice sent agents to France to poison the Venetian artisans. By that time, the technology to make mirrors was already disclosed and French mirrors eventually rivaled those made in Venice.
Selfie in the Hall of Mirrors
By 6:00, we were the only people in the Hall of Mirrors. Earlier in the afternoon, it was hard to move.
I just had to get a photo of Norman in the Hall of Mirrors.
…. and here is the photo that I waited to get
The only person in the Hall of Mirrors just before closing is the security guard.
After a wonderful day at The Palace of Versailles, we continued with the royal treatment. We went out to a one-star michelin restaurant. They had a set menu with wine pairings. We did not have to make any decisions and had a spectacular evening.
Join me next week on our visit to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny
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