A Journey to the Age of Magnificence

Travel tips from this month's Journeys column

Smithsonian Magazine | Subscribe

"From morning until three o'clock in the afternoon we went hunting. On our return from the chase we changed our dresses and went upstairs to the gaming, where we stayed until seven o'clock in the evening," reports Louis XIV's bemused sister-in-law, Elisabeth Charlotte of Bavaria, known to all as Madame. She hurried to a play, ate a hearty supper at 10:30 and danced at a ball until 3 in the morning, when she and the exhausted guests finally satisfied their social obligations and retired for the night. That was a typical day at Versailles in December of 1676. Without the king around to schedule every moment of your day, your trip to Versailles should be far more relaxing. But don't try to cram a visit to the château, its gardens and the Trianons into one day or you'll be left exhausted, just like Madame.

Our author, Richard Covington, calls the village of Versailles his home, so we asked him to put together some travel tips and information, which we've printed below.

Summertime and the Joint Is Jumping

The best time of year to visit the gardens is July through early September, largely to take advantage of the nighttime fireworks spectacles and the daytime fountain show promenades (which run from early April through early October).

Fall and Winter Have Their Own Rewards

If you're more interested in musical performances, the time to come is October through June, when several series of baroque concerts, operas and ballets are held in the exquisitely well-preserved Opera House and in the Royal Chapel.

Click on the Versailles Website Here you'll find a great deal of easy-to-follow background information and a complete listing of lectures, tours, fountain shows and fireworks scheduled for the current month. For armchair travelers, the site includes a virtual tour with moving 360-degree panoramic images. It also provides contact information for the château, including the main telephone number (011-33-1-3083-7800) and fax (011-33-1-3083-7777).


The park and the gardens are free. Fees for the château, the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon vary. Check out the "passport" deal offered on the Versailles Website, which enables access to all locales for just one price. After 3:30 P.M. each day, admission fees for the château, the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon are all reduced, but be forewarned that the last entry is at 6 P.M. sharp.

The Tracks Best Traveled


Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus