Versailles is an important tourist destination in France, owing to the fact that it was once the center of the French government throughout various periods in the country’s history. The heart of Versailles lies in the Chateau de Versailles – Palace of Versailles, which was considered to be the grandest palace in the whole of Europe in its time and was the inspiration of so many other palaces and castles in the 18th century. From the Palace of Versailles radiated power to the rest of France until the Revolution.
Today, Versailles is now a commune within the greater city of Paris. To get to Versailles, you can either take the train from central Paris. The journey will take you around 30 to 40 minutes. You can also take the bus number 171, which leaves from the Pont de Savres.
Just like when visiting the Louvre, visiting the Chateau de Versailles is something that should not be crammed within just one day. Exploring this grand palace is something that should be taken slowly and savored. A tour of the chateau is usually divided into four: the chateau itself, the Trianon, the gardens, and the town of Versailles itself.
Palace of Versailles. The palace of Versailles was the vision of the Sun King, Louis IV, once the absolute monarch of France. The Grand Apartment of Louis XIV is the set of rooms that is central to the palace. Aside from the royal bedchamber itself, the suite has a set of salons, with seven of these salons each dedicated to one of the seven planets known at the time.
Among the highlights of the Grand Apartment are the Hercules Salon, which contains the finest marble-and-bronze fireplace in the chateau, and the Hall of Mirrors, considered to be the masterpiece of the palace. The Hall of Mirrors is a gallery of seventeen windows matched with seventeen arcaded glass, with arches gilded with bronze and adorned with fine marble statues.
Another place of interest in the palace is the Queen’s Suite, which was restored to appear as it probably had in the days of its last occupant, Marie Antoinette.
The Trianon. Whenever Louis XIV wanted to escape the rigid court etiquette that he himself established in the Chateau de Versailles, he would go to the palace in the Trianon, just across the gardens of the Chateau. The Grand Trianon, as the palace is called, is where Louis XIV would unwind with his close family members or spend time alone with his mistress.
There are two other palaces on the grounds of the Trianon. One of these is the Petit Trianon, which was first built by Louis XV and then became the private palace of Marie Antoinette. The other is the Queen’s Hamlet, which is a small, picturesque village that Marie Antoinette established for her own pleasure.
The Park. The palace of Versailles began as a royal hunting lodge, and the park was the hunting grounds. When Louis XIV remodeled the Chateau as it is today, the park was transformed into one of the largest and the grandest formal gardens in the world. The layout of the park was organized around the Grand Canal, reminiscent of the canals of Venice. The forest surrounds the Grand Canal. To its north are found the gardens and fountains south of the Chateau, as well as the Orangery and the Basin of Neptune.
The Outbuildings. To serve the immense chateau are built outbuildings such as the Grand Stables, which housed around a thousand horses and a number of carriages during the Sun King’s reign. Also included among the outbuildings serving the chateau are the Grand Lodgings, where the courtiers who were required to stay with the court at Versailles stayed.
As much as the Chateau de Versailles is the central attraction of the town of Versailles, there are other spots worth visiting in the town itself. One is the Quartier Saint-Louis, which was where the government buildings of the French monarchy were located. Another one is the Quartier Notre-Dame, the shopping district of Versailles.
Versailles is worth visiting on a holiday to France. Once the heart of a kingdom, it still retains the regal air that is reminiscent of its past.
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