This iconic site fascinates, intrigues, and surprises. Even after visiting several times, we continue to discover many of the details we missed when we first came. Here are just a few of the things you need to know about Versailles before your next visit. Its history, its architecture, its scandals … and its secrets!
Louis XIII of France had a small hunting lodge built at Versailles in the year 1623. However, it was his son, Louis XIV, who developed a passion for Versailles and who transformed the place. From 1682 onwards, the palace became the main residence of the court and the government.
2- From marshes to dream gardens
The estate covers an area of more than 800 hectares. To create the vast French-style space of the Sun King’s dreams, André Lenôtre, the designer of the gardens, had to tame forests and swamps. It is said that at the time, the smell emanating from the gardens was nauseating, and there were plenty of mosquitoes!
3- Made in France
Louis XIV wanted everything in the château to be 100% French. The only problem was the mirrors, which were imported from Venice… The king bought the secret of tinsmithing at great cost, and 350 mirrors were blown by hand.
4- Celebrities at the château
Molière was one of Louis XIV’s protégés. So was the painter Charles Le Brun, who, at the monarch’s request, produced the first painting in a cycle dedicated to Alexander the Great. As a child, Mozart performed in front of Louis XV and Mme de Pompadour.
5- A life under the microscope
A wealth of anecdotes about the King’s lifestyle is revealed during a visit to the castle. We learn, for example, that he always ate his meals in public.
6- The Treaty of Versailles
Now, some things to know about Versailles make very little sense and yet are completely true. Did you know that the Hall of Mirrors was mainly used as a place of passage? Contrary to popular belief and despite the stunningly ornate decor, very few ceremonies were held there.
It was in this room that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, which put an end to the First World War.
7- The arrival of Louis XV
Everyone left Versailles and returned to Paris when Louis XIV died. But at 13, Louis XV was captivated by Versailles, and court and nobility came back.
8- The Queen’s Hamlet
Marie-Antoinette had a taste for luxury, but she also loved the country life. And so, between 1783 and 1787, the Hameau de la Reine was built two kilometers from Versailles. You can visit this life-size replica of a Norman village that was built around an artificial lake and was designed for the wife of Louis XVI. Thanks to the patronage of the House of Dior, the half-timbered pavilions have been restored. It’s a wonderful walk which allows us to discover another facet of the Austrian empress!
9- Themed tours of all kinds
A wide range of unusual tours, including horse-drawn carriage rides, are available at Versailles. It’s also possible to discover the “other Versailles”, including corridors used by royalty to escape courtiers.
10- No need to queue at the ticket office!
This is one of the most useful things to know about Versailles! Admission to the Château and the Château de Trianon is free for visitors under the age of 18. Buy your tickets online to avoid long queues. You can also download the free mobile app before you visit the Château.