The Palace of Versailles (Château de Versailles) is one of the France’s most emblematic constructions. The palace, which has been on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list for 30 years, is one of the most referential achievements in 18th- century French art.
Initially built in a country village, it now lies in an important and busy Paris suburb, some 20 kilometers southwest of the capital. Louis XIII first built it as a hunting lodge for his son, Louis XIV, who later expanded it, moving the court and government there in 1682. Three monarchs inhabited the Château from 1682 until the French Revolution, and each made expansions and changes to its structure.
The Château has not been the official seat of power since the late 1700s, but has become, instead, the site of the Museum of French History. Versailles consists of four main parts: The Palace, the Grand Trianon, Marie-Antoinette’s estate and the famous Gardens. Check our tour to Versailles from Paris.
The Palace: decorated with the most lavish furniture, riches and paintings, the Palace of Versailles’ Apartments were suited, quite literally, to fit the King. However, the palace’s most spectacular attraction of all is its renowned Hall of Mirrors, where 17 huge mirrors line the side of a 72 m (235 ft) drawing and ballroom, reflecting the ceiling’s breathtaking frescoes. The Château also counts with guided tours to its Opera, an enormous oval theatre within the palace that can be illuminated by over 10,000 candles.
The Trianons: despite the Palace of Versailles’ unconceivable size, Louis XIV built a smaller palace on the gardens’ far side in order to have someplace to go when court life became unbearable. Thus, the pink marble Grand Trianon was born in true Italian style. Louis XV later built the Greek-inspired Petit Trianon as a refuge for Madame du Barry and himself, yet it was Marie-Antoinette who considered it as the perfect retreat from court etiquette.
Marie-Antoinette’s Estate: the Queen’s Hamlet – or Marie-Antoinette’s Estate – is a charming village and farm found deep within the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. The village was built to indulge the Queen’s fantasy of returning to natural life, inspired by the great Rousseau. Marie-Antoinette and her court would play among its thatched cottages, watermill and lake, acting out the queen’s fantasy of peasant life.
The Gardens: the Château de Versailles is surrounded by a fairy tale garden. Louis XIV drained swamps and moved entire forests to create more than 100 ha (250 acres) of enchanting gardens, tree-lined paths, flowerbeds, lakes and fountains. A Grand Canal divides the park, where tourists can rent boats and bicycles to cover it.
A whole day should be dedicated to enjoy the Palace of Versailles’ entire estate, as there are endless details to take in – aside from the fact that it covers over 800 ha (2000 acres).
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