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The Palace of the French Kings

Why this Palace is still wowing the crowds after hundreds of years

The BBC’s latest period drama, Versailles is captivating audiences up and down the UK at the moment. Not only is it a fantastic insight into the early reign of Louis XIV, but viewers are being treated to some fantastic backdrop scenes of the sumptuous building that is the Palace of Versailles.

It’s one of the most interesting and fascinating buildings in France, so we couldn’t help but explore more about it, and give you the lowdown. If you haven’t yet been – then you absolutely must, we can guarantee you will be blown away!

Versailles was originally a small village which dates from the 11th century, now it has been swallowed up by the suburb of Paris.

The Palace itself was built as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII in 1623, before being turned into a Royal Palace by Louis XIV.

In 1682, the Palace was fit enough for Louis XIV to move the royal court from Paris, and it remained as such until the French Revolution when the Royal family were forced to return to Paris.

Following the Revolution and the fall of the monarchy, Versailles fell into disrepair. Some work was done to try and restore the Palace by Napoleon and Louis XVIII, but Louis-Phillippe turned the Palace into a museum of French history in the mid-19th Century and continued the work to bring it back to its former glory.

Now of course, it’s primarily a museum and tourist attraction, although it is still used for some political and ceremonial functions.

Visitors to the Palace should ensure they see:

The Gardens

Which span an incredible 800 hectares and contain over 200,000 trees, 50 fountains and, of course, what is a garden without its own mile-long canal? You can rent a boat here by the hour to cruise down the canal.

Gardens of Versailles
Gardens of Versailles

The Hall of Mirrors

An incredibly stunning room which was designed to represent the successes of France in political, economic and cultural terms. It was primarily used as a passageway with over 30 mirrors, but has been used for specific ceremonies in its time, such as the wedding of Louis XVI to Marie Antoinette and also for the Signing of the Treaty of Versailles to mark the end of the First World War.

The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles
The Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Marie Antoinette’s Bedroom

19 royal children were born in this apartment, and it is where Marie Antoinette escaped through a secret side door during the Revolution.

Queen Marie Antoinette's bedroom, Versailles
Queen Marie Antoinette's bedroom, Versailles

The Grand Chapel

Incredible architecture which is awe inspiring, it contains an impressive nave which you can see from the Royal Gallery.

The Grand Chapel, Versailles
The Grand Chapel, Versailles

The Fountains

Not only will you see them as you tour the gardens, but on various days through the week and at weekends, you can witness a fountain show, but it is advisable to pre-book this.

The fountains of Versailles
The fountains of Versailles

Marie Antoinette’s House

About a 40 minute walk from the Palace (you can also catch a mini train there too) you will be able to see the getaway that Marie Antoinette had built to escape court life.

Marie Antoinette's house
Marie Antoinette's house

The Trianon Palaces

Another escape from court life, but not as basic and rustic as Marie Antoinette’s house. This was where Louis XV spent time with his mistresses, including Madame du Pompadour.

Le Petit Trianon
Le Petit Trianon

Private Apartments of the King

A separate tour will allow you to see Louis XVI’s library, dining hall and possibly his wooden opera house.

Throne room, Versailles
Throne room, Versailles

You’ll need a full day here, particularly if you visit in the summer as the queues mean it can take a while for you to visit parts of the Palace.

Our Landscape of Kings Tour is a cycling trip through some of the best and least known châteaux of Paris. You’ll be able to cycle through countryside and forest, with the trip culminating in a visit to Versailles.

If that has whetted your appetite for a French castle, viewing some incredible architecture whilst surveying the countryside on two wheels, then get in touch with us to arrange, you won’t be disappointed!

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