Hi friends, welcome back to my Paris and London Anniversary series 🙂 In case you missed the first post, you can check out our time visiting Saint Chapelle, the Concierge, and Notre Dame here. Today’s post covers my favorite day of the entire trip, our day in Versailles. This was the excursion I was most looking forward to on our trip because the palace and gardens are so exquisite and extravagant. Jon and I love touring castles and old mansions so I knew we would absolutely love Versailles. Even with my incredibly high expectations, it still blew me away!
We grabbed some cappuccinos and a croissant from Paul’s cafe and then boarded the RER C to Versailles. The easy train ride took about an hour and stopped half a mile from the palace. I booked us an hour and a half tour through Get Your Guide that started at 9:40 am and included tickets to the garden. Our group had a set time to enter the palace so we got to go in a special entrance without waiting in a long line. There were about twenty people in the tour, but we had headsets so we didn’t have any issues hearing our guide. She was incredibly knowledgeable and kept the group moving and together. I also liked that we could wander and look throughout each room while still being able to hear. The tour wasn’t very expensive and gave a great overview of Versailles so I’d highly recommend!
The group walked over together from our meeting spot near the train station and I couldn’t believe how grand the palace was! Versailles was originally a hunting lodge for Louis XIII and consisted of only the red brick building. His son Louis XIV moved the official royal residence from the Louvre to Versailles and expanded it to the present day U-shaped, 2,300 room palace. It’s estimated that the cost to renovate the palace cost half of France’s entire earnings by residents for one year. The gate out front is a replica and covered in over 100,000 gold leaves.
We started the tour in the Hercules Drawing Room overlooking the Royal Chapel. Every morning Louis XIV stepped onto the balcony to attend mass. He considered himself the Sun King, so nobody was allowed to have their back to him and they’d have to watch him the whole mass. The only exception to this rule was for the organ player. This chapel was also the location of Louis XVI’s marriage to Marie Antoinette. On the first floor you can see more of the chapel.
The Hercules Drawing Room was where balls, main suppers, and receptions were held. The room is named after Hercules depicted on the ceiling and was built for the wedding reception of Louis XIV’s daughter. Most rooms we toured were named after the ceiling murals, usually of Greek gods.
Moving into the King’s Wing, the next room was the Salon of Abundance where drinks were usually served during parties. Behind the doors led to the king’s study where he kept his treasures and hung the Mona Lisa.
The Venus Room, named after the goddess of love, was where Louis XIV would have happy hours. The room was complete with a sculpture of Louis XIV as a Roman Emperor… clearly he didn’t lack any self-confidence…
The Diana Room, previously filled with billiard tables, came next featuring the famous bust of Louis XIV.
The Mars Room was where Louis’ guards would sleep under the painting of Mars, the Greek god of war. This room also hosted frequent concerts for the king.
The Mercury Room, can you imagine sleeping in this bed? Every morning, nobles would come and watch him rise and dress for the day, and they would return at night to watch him get ready for some shut eye. Everything the king did was public and quite the spectacle. Louis XIV clearly thought the world revolved around him.
The Apollo Room housed Louis’ throne, although it is no longer here, only the platform. On the ceiling is depicted the seven continents through Europe’s eyes. This room also includes the most famous picture of Louis XIV in dancers pose. It’s estimated that he had over 300 wigs and started the fashion trend because of his receding hairline. I’m very glad men don’t wear wigs like that anymore!
The Last room in the King’s Wing is the War Room showing off France’s major wartime victories.
My favorite room was obviously the showstopping Hall of Mirrors, it was truly spectacular! Mirrors weren’t common back in the day which made this room especially grand and awe inducing. There are seventeen arched mirrors spanning the 250-foot length of this impressive hall.
This hall was also where the Treaty of Versailles was signed and hosted many parties and events.
While we were in here, we missed a torrential downpour outside.
Through the doors is Louis’ actual bedroom that he slept in, and it was purposefully in the exact middle of Versailles Palace.
We then headed to the Queen’s rooms, and I think the Queen had a lot better taste than her husband! The almost hidden door to the left of the bed led to the king’s rooms. The Queens spent a most of their time in this room, and even gave birth in here.
We also passed through the Queen’s Guard Room where Marie Antoinette was hiding when the mob of revolutionaries came to Versailles and dragged her away to The Concierge. This is as good of picture I took that day…
The Coronation Room marks the era of Napoleon. Napoleon led France’s recovery after the Revolution and he is credited with restoring Versailles and opening it up to the public as a museum.
The tour only went through the second level, so Jon and I explored the lower level on our own. We went the wrong way and ended up walking through the second level again and I couldn’t believe how few people there were compared to our tour in the morning. Seems like the pro move is to tour the gardens first (if it’s not going to rain), and then go inside the palace in the afternoon when the tour groups and field trips have left for the day. It felt like we had the Hall of Mirrors to ourselves the second time around!
There are areas of Versailles that we weren’t able to see due to renovation, or the need for a guided tour to have access, so there’s always a reason to go back! I think everyone should visit Versailles, it’s truly like nothing I’ve ever seen before and oozes extravagance. I’d also recommend devoting a whole day to the area so you can take your time and soak it all in. We are heading out to the gorgeous gardens next, so stay tuned 🙂