Versailles is a complex of buildings that were built over a long periods by decree of French kings.
Originally, Versailles was a hunting lodge of Louis XIII who liked the setting, being close to Paris. (Today it is a suburb of Paris).
Louis XIV who decided to transfer the French court and his residence to Versailles expanded it. He liked to follow a very strict daily schedule of waking up between 7.30 – 8 am, breakfast (a thick soup), 10 a m entry to the Hall of Mirrors for 30 minutes to one hour, 11 cabinet meeting in his residence, 1 p m “dinner” alone, 2 ordering servants to accomplish chores around the palace, hunting or promenading with ladies, and 10 grand public dinner called supper, served with grand fanfare and pomp was watched by 1000 courtiers, government officials, and servants. The king retired at 11 to his “apartment”.
Louis XIII, who liked hunting, ordered in 1682 the building he used as haunting lodge.
His successor Louis XIV expanded Versailles. As did this successors.
Versailles is a complex of buildings planned by different architects, of which Jules Hardain Mansart and Le Notre are the most famous, influential and important.
The Hall of Mirrors, still used today for important state banquets and receptions was commissioned by Louis XIV, as were the king’s apartments (residence) late in the 17th century and Museum of France.
Louis XV built the chapel and opera and by 1789 Versailles had become the centre of power and centre of French politics and influence in the diplomatic world.
The extensive and fascinating gardens of Versailles, probably the most impressive garden designs oft eh time, were designed by Le Notre who included the L’Orangerie, (to grow oranges, that Louis XIV liked) flower beds, fountains and canals – a feat since the grounds were marsh, forest and grasslands. Thousands of tons of earth had to be transported, drainage canals dug and pipes installed for the elaborate fountains.
Marie Antoinette, the wide of Louis XIV, who liked a simple life in the country, built an estate in the nearby town called Versailles Le Grand Trianon castle, accessible only by those who had her permission to visit her. This building should not be missed.
requires time (at east a full day), to appreciate it historic importance and to gain an in-depth knowledge of French history. There are food stands within the palace grounds, but you can buy picnic provisions in the town including wine and have a relaxing lunch in the gardens.
Audio guides, in several languages, are available and highly recommended.
Reaching Versailles is relatively easy – by bus, train or taxi.
Versailles is a must-see World Historic Site not to be missed when in Paris.