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Versailles

Orange trees outline a formal garden at Versailles, once the epicenter of French royal power. The
Versailles gardens took 40 years to complete; Louis XIV valued them as much as the palace.
Photograph by Herb Bendicks, Alamy Stock Photo
Site: Palace and Park of Versailles
Location: France
Year Designated: 1979
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(vi)
Reason for Designation: Europes quintessential royal residence was the principal home of French
kings from Louis XIV to Louis XVI.
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This former home of French kings epitomizes royal elegance in the style of Old Europe. Versailles
originated in 1631 as a humble hunting lodge for Louis XIII. But his son Louis XIV built the now

familiar palace on the site outside Paris and moved the nations government and court to Versailles
in 1682.
Versailles remained the epicenter of French royal power, home to government offices and courtiers
alike, until 1789when a hungry and agitated group of mostly female revolutionaries stormed the
palace and essentially evicted Louis XVI and his queen, Marie-Antoinette. The mob sent the royal
couple back to Paris on the first steps of a journey that led eventually to their beheadings.
Versailles sprawling, stunning palace is matched by the splendor of the gardens in which it is
situated. A pleasurable visit can be spent simply perusing paths and admiring fountains and flowers
without setting foot inside the palace or Versailles other notable buildings.
Marie-Antoinette enjoyed these grounds so much that she created her own private estate here, a
collection of rural homes and buildings laid out along the lines of a Norman village. The queen
sought privacy and escaped the pomp and hubbub of the palace court at her hamlet, which now
draws crowds in its own right. The queens estate even operated as a working farm where peasants
and livestock produced fresh product for the tables of the grand palace.
The 17th-century Grand Trianon, an incredible array of pink marble buildings and enchanting
gardens, was another integral part of life at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV and beyond. In
later years Napoleon Bonaparte often stayed in the elegant but intimate palace, and Charles de
Gaulle converted its northern wing into an official presidential residence, which still hosts guests of
Frances head of state.
The Palace of Versailles offers visitors a chance to walk in the footsteps of royalty and visit intimate
chambers, including the kings grand apartments. But perhaps the most famous room at Versailles is
the Grande Galerie, or the Hall of Mirrors, which was once haunted by courtiers playing politics or
awaiting an audience with the monarch. This same room later witnessed one of the defining
moments of 20th-century European history when the Treaty of Versailles, ending the First World
War, was signed within its walls in June 1919.
Beginning in the 19th century, portions of the magnificent palace were put to work for the French
public as the home of the Museum of the History of France. And while the monarchs are long gone
today, Versailles still plays a role in the nations governancethe palace regularly hosts joint
sessions of the French legislature.
How to Get There
Versailles is some 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Paris and easily accessible by car (parking
available), taxi, bus, or train. The RER C line links central Paris with the Versailles Rive Gauche
stationfive minutes from the palace on foot. Trains also run from Paris Montparnasse to Versailles
Chantiers and from Paris Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive-Droiteeach a ten-minute walk from the
palace. The RATP bus 171 runs from Pont de Svres metro station to Versailles.
When to Visit
Theres no bad season to visit Versailles, but its extensive gardens are at their best in spring and
summer. While the gardens and park remain accessible, the buildings of Versailles are closed on
Mondays.

How to Visit
More than three million people visit Versailles each year, so it pays to arrive at off-peak hours
such as soon after the 9 a.m. opening. Some days are also busier than others, including Sundays and
Tuesdays, when many Paris museums, including the Louvre (another former royal palace), are
closed.