The Palace of Versailles is one of France’s most popular and most visited attractions. And for good reason, as the sumptuous Palace and grounds are stunning and rich with history. But it can all get a bit busy,especially at peak times, and a bit overwhelming for younger folks. So here are 10 Top Tips for Visiting the Palace of Versailles with Kids:
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#1. Book Your Tickets for the Palace of Versailles Online
If you are visiting between November and March and your visit falls on the first Sunday, good news – it’s free on the first Sunday.
Otherwise, save yourself an enormous amount of queuing time by buying your tickets online in advance.
The Chateau de Versailles website is quite informative and we decided to spend the best part of a day there so we plumped for a Passport ticket which gave entry to both the Palace and Gardens for adults. If you decide to spend a night in Versailles there’s also a good value 2-day Passport Ticket, and you could take in a Night Fountain Show as well during peak season.
The good news for families is that under 18s go free to the Palace, the Trianon Palaces and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate. And similarly for under 26s, who are residents of the European Union. N.B. You do have to pay for Musical Gardens entry (if you are visiting on those days) for the under 18s, but tickets aren’t very costly.
TIP: If you have bought your tickets online and have your ticket on your smartphone or tablet you can show the ticket to the entry checkers, you don’t need to pick up any tickets when you arrive,
#2. Go at Off Peak Times if You Can
Avoid August if possible! However, having said that, we did visit mid-August which is the busiest time, so it was mega busy with hundreds of visitors and lots of queues. But with a bit of planning you can manage your visit. The Chateau website has a nifty calendar which shows which days can be expected to be busy days.
If you do go at peak times just be prepared for lots of people and lots of time spent waiting. So be sure to pack some distractions with you and before you go, and plan your day so you avoid the main Palace between 11 and 2 (see next tip).
#3. Get There Early
It’s a long day visiting the Palace of Versailles, the smaller palaces and the Gardens, so get there early to have enough time to do it justice, and to avoid the busiest times for queues.
If you arrive early e.g. well before 11 then do the Palace first, otherwise leave it until at least 2.30 or you will end up queuing for a long time.
#3. Plan Your Travel to Versailles
We drove because we combined a visit to Versailles with returning our hire car to the Airport later that evening. Take the A13 motorway, exit Versailles Centre. GPS direction of the Palace of Versailles : 48°48’17N 2°07’15E. It’s very well signposted to the Chateau once you come into Versailles.
If you are driving, do research the car parks. There are paying car parks at the Place d’Armes, Allée de Bailly, Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. We decided to park at the car park right in front of the Chateau which has higher parking fees (it cost us €17 for 5 hours) however the benefit was we didn’t have far to walk when we left and everyone had tired feet.
If coming from central Paris by public transport the most popular way is by RER line C to Versailles leaving from Saint-Michel and Champ de Mars stations. Make sure to buy a “Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche” ticket (zones 1-4).
There’s also an express bus service that leaves from the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Tuesday to Sunday with two departures per day at 8 am (back at 12:30) and 2 pm (back at 6 pm).
#4. Wear Comfortable Shoes
You’ll be doing a lot of walking around so wear comfortable shoes like trainers, walking shoes or sandals.
TIP: It gets warm inside the old buildings during warmer months and there’s no air conditioning, so wear layers that can be taken off easily.
#5. Before Doing the Main Chateau Tour
Go to the toilets before you start the main palace tour and take a small backpack with you with some water. You will be at least one hour on the tour and there are no toilets or anywhere to get a drink as you go around.
#6. Be Prepared For…
- Be Prepared for Queues – Especially at peak times for entry into the main Palace. But we did find the smaller palaces, le Grand Trianon and le Petit Trianon to be much less busy. Plus our kids got a kick out of seeing Marie Antoniette’s bed at le Petit Trianon.
- Be Prepared for Security – You have to go through security before you enter the Palaces.
- Be Prepared for a Crush – When we visited the main Palace it got very very busy. Everyone is walking through a series of interconnected rooms before you reach the piece de resistance, as it were, the Hall of Mirrors. There is no one stopping the crowds from proceeding into the next room (which would have spaced it out a bit more) so we found it got very crushed at times and you will want to hold tight to little hands. This is why going early morning is really better.
- Be Prepared for the Gift Shop Prices – Set a budget for each child if you plan to visit the gift shop and beware the prices are ridiculously high. (example €2 for a postcard)
#7. Enjoy the Gardens
Don’t just visit the main Palace, spend plenty of time enjoying the Gardens – they really are magnificent and the musical gardens and musical fountain shows are great fun. There are lots of hedges and pathways into each of the smaller gardens that kids will enjoy running through and exploring.
#8. Plan Food
If it’s a nice day pick up a picnic before you head to Versailles, as there are plenty of nice spots around the extensive Gardens to hang out and enjoy a picnic.
Otherwise there are cafes and restaurants around the grounds as well as some kiosks where you can get soft drinks and snacks.
But most of these are not at the main Chateau area so check the map and plan your time so you hit these at times when the kids will be hungry, but before the rest of the crowds arrive.
We ate at La Flotille which is at the end of the Canal. It had snacks and light main courses, and was perfectly acceptable if not that exciting. The nice thing was we could sit outside and they have outside heaters as well if it gets a bit cooler.
#9. Little Feet Get Tired
Because the gardens and grounds at Versailles are so large it can take at least half an hour to walk from e.g. the main Chateau to the Trianon Palaces. Luckily there are some transport options around the grounds. How about a train ride, golf cart or hiring bikes?
Just allow some extra budget to pay for these – you and the kids will enjoy getting a rest, plus grabbing a ride on a train, golf cart or bikes will make it more memorable for them.
#10. Take Some Stale Baguette with You
Yes, you read that correctly, take some stale baguette with you so that you can feed the ducks at Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet. It’s the place that the Queen escaped from palace life and it does feel a bit like a fairytale with little cute buildings and farm animals.
Over to you now! Do you have any tips for visiting Versailles with kids? Share them with us in the comments below.