When we originally booked our trip to Paris we purposely scheduled two free days/nights because we weren’t sure what we wanted to do. Originally we thought to take a train or quick flight to Belgium, but packing all of our stuff back up and catching 2 flights in as many days sounded pretty terrible. Plus I didn’t want to risk getting pickpocketed again…
In the end we decided to extend our stay at Le Metropolitan Hotel in Paris using SPG Starpoints. The going room rate was €320/night or just 12,000 Starpoints per night. I paid for our stay using Starpoints and the hotel gladly let us remain in our existing room.
After deciding to stay we had to figure out what to do. We ended up spending the first free day exploring parts of Paris we visited in the days prior. We went back to a few stores we liked, had lunch at a cozy cafe, and ended up relaxing in the hotel spa/pool in the evening. For the second day we decided to take a day trip to Versailles. I realize this is a pretty popular attraction, but several of our friends and family members told us not to waste our time with Versailles. We decided to write the trip off of our original itinerary, but decided to go once we decided to stay in Paris for the whole week.
Getting To Versailles By Train From Paris Proper
Versailles is located approximately 15 miles south-west of Paris proper. There are several ways to get there, but the cheapest (and the one we chose) is to use public transportation. Buying a train ticket is fairly straight-forward, but not as simple as buying a single-fare metro ticket. Instead, when buying a ticket you have to select your destination from the menu. Simply roll the roller to the “V” destinations and select “Versailles Chateau – Rive Gauche.” There are a few Versailles destinations to choose from, but the Rive Gauche destination via the RER C train gets you closest to the Palace. A one-way ticket cost €3.55 per person and allows the rider to use any combination of Metro trains to connect to the RER C. If you are worried about buying the correct ticket there are also standard human ticket windows at metro stations to help.
In total our trip from Le Metropolitan Hotel to Versailles took just over an hour. Buying tickets from the automated kiosks was painless, but transferring to the right train took a little work. Unlike Metro lines, RER trains (commuter lines) have multiple destination on the same line. For example, the RER C train terminates at two separate stations when heading south-west to Versailles. It’s a little confusing to figure out which train to get on, but the TV monitors clearly state “Versailles Chateau – Rive Gauche” when the right train approaches.
Buying Tickets At Versailles Palace
One of the most interesting things about Versailles is that the grounds are free. Visitors can access nearly all of the entire 800 hectare of property for free. Only the interior of the Versailles Palace and The Estate of Trianon require paid tickets. The interior Palace tickets cost €18 per person while the Estate of Trianon is an additional €2. We opted to buy both as we planned on staying the whole day.
Guests can of course pre-purchase tickets online, but we decided to stop at the visitors center to buy our tickets. Interesting there are two rooms to buy tickets inside of the visitors center. The first room is full of automated ticketing kiosks which offer a wide variety of languages and were extremely user friendly. The second room features full service ticket counters manned by humans. When we visited there was a line for the regular ticket windows, but no line for the kiosks. We purchased our tickets in about a minute and before we knew it were on our way into the Palace of Versailles.
Note: At the end of our visit we found the added fee to visit the Estate of Trianon was well worth the additional cost.
Touring The Versailles Palace and Gardens
One of the first things I noticed about our interior tour of the Palace of Versailles was how crowded it was. We visit the Palace on a somewhat cold Wednesday morning and the number of visitors crammed into the Palace was overwhelming. The entire tour is set up as a continuous flow of people from entry to exit. There aren’t many opportunities to deviate from the planned path. First you see a brief history of the Palace and its many expansions and remodels. Next, you move on to see various rooms and learn what each was used for at one time or another. There’s a ton of history inside the Palace, but we often felt rushed (pushed) to move from one room to the next.
After walking through the Palace we ventured out into the gardens and surrounding landscape. As we exited the Palace the weather was slightly cold and foggy. When you walk out of the main building you’ll notice the surrounding landscape is in a small valley. Seeing the fog roll through the trees into the valley below the Palace was extremely beautiful. As the day went on the fog burned off and the sun came out which was equally beautiful. In total we ended up walking about 6 miles around the grounds.
Touring The Estate of Trianon
When looking at the map the distance between the main Palace of Versailles and the Estate of Trianon seems overwhelming, but in fact, the walk took well less than the estimate 30 minutes posted. Visitors who purchased the Estate of Trianon pass can enter each of the Trianon buildings and Trianon gardens. Also featured in the Trianon tour is Marie Antionette’s estate which was undergoing extensive renovations during our visit.
Overall the Trianon Estate was much more enjoyable than the Versailles Palace tour. The Trianon Estate features several buildings, extensive manicured gardens, and essentially an endless maze of walking paths. The Trianon portion of our visit was much less crowded than the Palace. For more information I found a great review of the Trianon Palaces from TravelYesPlease.com.
Walking The Grounds of Versailles
By far our favorite part of Versailles was being able to get out of the city and be in “nature.” We ended up walking nearly 7 miles during our time at Versailles. Luckily, if you’ve had enough of crowds and old buildings the grounds are completely free to walk around. Visitors can rent little row boats and row around the Grand Canal for less than €20/hour. Visitors who hope to see all of the grounds can also rent golf carts to drive around the gardens.
The whole landscape is truly beautiful and the views overlooking the Grand Canal or from the end of the Canal back to the Palace are stunning. We got extremely lucky that the weather cleared up in the afternoon and were able to experience Versailles on a sunny day.
Taking The Train Back To Paris
Right about the time our feet started to hurt we decided to head back into Paris. Again we purchased train tickets from an automated Kiosk to head back to Paris proper. When we arrived at the train platform there were two trains waiting to depart and we were unsure which to get on. Luckily although both trains terminate at different locations, they also both pass through Paris proper before diverging. After arriving back in Paris we again transferred to a Metro train and found our way back to Trocadero.
I’m glad we didn’t listen to our friends and family about visiting Versailles. The entire journey was well worth the time and cost. If we had a tighter schedule I don’t know if I would have done it, but since we had the free day it was a perfect way to fill a day. I don’t know if I’d ever pay to visit Versailles again considering much of the grounds are free, but I’m glad we did and I’m even more glad we paid for the Versailles Passport than just the Palace tour. We had a great time in Versailles and highly recommend going, just make sure to check the weather first!