Palace of Versailles, France

The Palace of Versailles grew from a dilapidated cottage in a farming village to a magnificent Baroque building that was once the seat of French government. Today it houses many museums and attracts 3 million visitors a year.

The Baroque Palace of Versailles is located in a suburb of the French capital Paris and is considered one of the most beautiful European palaces. The palace and its park have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. It also has a fixed place on our lists of the top 10 sights of France and Paris.


PICTURES: Palace of Versailles

Photo gallery: Palace of Versailles near Paris

History of the Palace of Versailles

The impressive grand ballroom at Versailles Palace, France - © vichie81 / Shutterstock
© vichie81 / Shutterstock

Originally, the magnificent castle was a small dilapidated building in the insignificant farming village of Versailles. King Louis XIII often spent the night in the area on his hunting trips and eventually decided to convert the building into a hunting lodge.

The royal residence, often derided as a house of cards, did not even offer space for the Queen's rooms and was considered a poor dwelling for a statesman. So the hunting lodge became a three-winged hunting lodge, which still encloses the marble courtyard today.

The subsequent Sun King Louis XIV regularly used the castle as a summer residence and arranged for the actual extension as a demonstration of his power and wealth.

Gradually, the magnificent additions made it visibly impressive and even worthy of housing the seat of government. In the middle of the 17th century, it became the cultural and political centre of France.

Looting during the French Revolution

Staircase in the Palace of Versailles - a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979 - near Paris, France - © JoseIgnacioSoto/Shutterstock
© JoseIgnacioSoto/Shutterstock

The turning point came with the French Revolution. In 1789, the castle was stormed and the king and his queen were expelled. Plundering and destruction were in store for the castle.

Unfortunately, most of the interior furnishings were lost, but everything riveted and nailed can still be seen today. Artistic murals, ceiling paintings, marble columns, figures and frescoes bear witness to the enormous skill of the architects and the wealth of the time. In the 19th century, parts of the former furnishings were recovered and supplemented by more recent works.


Sights at the Palace of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles impresses visitors with over 350 mirrors, France - © Jose Ignacio Soto / Shutterstock
© Jose Ignacio Soto / Shutterstock

Versailles is the most visited palace in France. Besides its magnificent garden and wonderful architecture, most of the palace serves as a museum. For most travellers to the area, the palace is a must-see, attracting close to 3 million visitors a year.

The most famous rooms of the Palace of Versailles are:

  • the two magnificently decorated bedrooms of the king and queen
  • the overwhelmingly decorated hall of mirrors between them
  • the ox-eye hall with two huge round windows
  • the Hercules salon, which once served as a chapel and impresses with magnificent paintings
  • the acoustically flawless wooden Court Opera House
  • the château chapel with its magnificent ceiling paintings, where the wedding of Louis XIV with Marie Antoinette took place

Tip: With the Paris Pass, you can visit the Palace of Versailles with free admission. Pass holders can also avoid the queues, which can get particularly long in summer and at weekends.

Magnificent Palace Gardens in Versailles

The Palace of Versailles with beautiful Baroque garden, France - © Filip Fuxa / Shutterstock
© Filip Fuxa / Shutterstock

Outside the palace lie the no less impressive gardens. Beautifully laid-out floral ornaments delight the strollers, who are repeatedly led past fountains, salons and sculptures along the lovely paths. Several pergolas connect the low-planted part with the more distant hunting forest and the closer pleasure forest.

The vegetable garden is also impressive. Strawberries, figs, grapes, cherries and many other fruits are cultivated here just as artfully. The "Hundred Steps" staircase leads to the orangery with its imposing arched windows, where exotic fruits are grown in a heated environment in winter.

Facts and figures about the Palace of Versailles

  • A visit to the Palace of Versailles takes between 3 hours and a whole day, depending on your interests.
  • The palace building stands on an area of over 60,000m².
  • The entire area of the castle covers an unimaginable 790 hectares.
  • The castle houses almost 300 flats and around 2,000 rooms.
  • There are over 350 mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors.
  • There are 75,000 trees in the park.
  • The garden yields a rich harvest of up to 80 tonnes of fruit and vegetables every year.
  • The administration and maintenance of the palace and garden employs 800 people.
  • The castle was built between 1661 and 1689 by 36,000 people, some of whom died of marsh fever.

Related links:

Official site of the Palace of Versailles
Tickets for the Palace of Versailles (no account creation necessary)
Info about the Paris Pass