Paris

Museums in Paris: Palace of Versailles

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The Palace of Versailles — a ridiculously extravagant royal palace built in the 15th century, which appropriately reflects the wealth of France during the time. The Court of Versailles is the former government and center of French’s political power — remember “Perjanjian Versailles” in history class in high school? Here is where it was signed.

The palace was also the residence of the royal family and its courtiers, before an economic crisis hit the people of France which made them resent the royal family and aristocrats for their lavish spending and ousted them. That’s when the French Revolution began… while the absolute monarchy ended.

I told Reza that we had to go here, else our trip to Paris won’t be complete!

Things we did before visiting Versailles

I always think that we’d be more appreciative of what we see if we know its history, even for a little. The least we can do is understand its significance.

I wanted Reza to understand why I was looking forward to the trip to Versailles, so the night before we left for Versailles, I explained what it was and made sure that we watched Marie Antoinette (a movie that briefly tells the story of the last queen of France before the French Revolution) since the movie was shot at the palace.

Marie Antoinette

I suggest you read up about the palace and watch the movie, too, before you head to Versailles.

Survival kit

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The Palace of Versailles is one of the largest palaces in the world. It’s super huge, that if you plan to visit the entire estate it can take you days! It’s advisable go early in the morning and to know where you want to go before visiting.

Things you need?

Bring your Paris Museum Pass with you, as it covers the Palace of Versailles (else, a ticket is €18,00). At the information center, get a copy of the map of the Estate of Versailles, so you won’t get lost.

Once you’ve gone through the gates and about to enter the palace, please get yourself the free audio guide. Everytime you step into a room inside the palace, the audio guide will play — it’s taught us so much about the palace and allowed us to appreciate the history behind the building better.

Our trip to Versailles

Reaching Versailles from the city center took us about 45 minutes by rail. From the train station, we just relied on the maps that were sprawled around the area to walk to the palace. To get there, view access to the Palace of Versailles.

We spent almost a whole day at the estate. When we first arrived and saw the front gates, we were like, “Really? This is it?” because it looked so grand in the movie. But don’t let the front facade of the palace fool you — the palace is seriously huge! Here’s a painting of the palace, back in the days, just so you’ll have an idea:

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Attractions of the Estate of Versailles include the Palace, the Gardens, the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the Hamlet. Our trip, though, was limited to a tour of the palace and a brief stroll at the Gardens of Versailles to reach the Grand Trianon (that “stroll” alone took 45 minutes really WTF).

In this post, I’ll just be highlighting some of the main rooms in the palace… it was a gloomy winter so there’s nothing much in the outdoors anyway.

The gallery of the history of the palace

The gallery is a great place to learn the history of the palace — how it turned from a small hunting lodge for the king and a few of his men and expanded into one of the grandest palaces in the world, that it could accommodate thousands of court members!

The first room in the gallery introduced us to the palace’s origins by playing these videos on a wall:

On the opposite wall, the family tree of the royalties who have lived at the palace were displayed.

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The next rooms inside the galleries did the same thing, but provided a better insight by exhibiting paintings and sculptures. Each room told a story about the different major periods in the development of Versailles. In the middle of each room, is a model of the palace within the period.

Here’s a painting of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, with their children:

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Read more about The Gallery of the History of the Palace.

The royal chapel

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The Royal Chapel was where the Court would attend the king’s mass every morning. The court held celebrations here — be it royal weddings, royal births or military victories.

The King’s Grand Apartments

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The King’s Grand Apartments consist of several heavily decorated rooms to serve as a venue for events. Each room had its own theme and almost every other room was named after and dedicated to a god e.g. Hercules.

The King’s Chamber

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The King’s Chamber was elaborately decorated. It’s heavily furnished with velvet and brocade and decorated with valuable paintings from the era. It’s a serious room.

They say the life of the royalties was a public affair at the palace. The king didn’t have any private space — his courtiers were always there to watch him, waiting behind the gold railing for the ceremonies — to watch him get out of bed in the morning and to watch him go to bed. No wonder he needed to have his bed covered!

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The Queen’s Chamber

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The Queen’s Chamber is my favorite room.

During her reign, the tasteful Marie Antoinette had the room lavishly re-decorated by renowned designers to reflect a more modern bedroom, which explains why the room looks more fabulous than any other rooms in the palace.  I’d love to have the handwoven floral sheets and curtains.

Like the king, the queen was not entitled to any privacy. Every morning before the queen wakes up, her courtiers would gather behind a gold railing (it’s still there) and wait for her to wake up to assist her out of bed. They’d then bathe and groom her from top to toe — she didn’t need to do anything. She even had to give birth here, while being watched by members of the court!

Inside the room, there is a small door on the right side of the bed — reportedly the door Marie Antoinette used to escape the palace using a secret passageway, when the mob attacked the palace during the French Revolution.

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Beside the queen’s chamber is her antechamber, where public meals were held. Public meals because the court members were given a chance to watch the king and queen have their meals here, everytime.

Man, I was hanging out at Marie Antoinette’s chambers!

The Hall of Mirrors

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The Hall of Mirrors is a beautiful passageway that provides windows great view of the gardens of Versailles. On the opposite, were walls decorated with mirrors. Apart from being a passageway, here was where the court helds its functions and entertained guests back then.

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I felt privileged to see it with my own eyes — the mirrors, marble tiles, intricately carved panels, painted ceilings and chandelier. Reminds you how wealthy and glorious the French were back then.

Final thoughts

Visiting Versailles was nothing short of amazing. The palace is lavishly decorated, that we couldn’t help but to be in awe all the time, while imagining how it was like to live within the court (we kind of get why the French resented the court, too). Every part of the palace is rich with history and has an interesting story to tell.

We learned so much within a day — being exposed to the history of France made us more appreciative of our trip. In fact, Reza (who initially thought that he wouldn’t appreciate historical attractions) says that he because he learned a lot, he feels very attached to the country. We’d definitely return if we’re given a chance — next time, to tour the whole estate!

You must go! Learn more about Palace of Versailles.

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