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Make the most of Versailles this summer

The Palace

If you think you've seen opulence before - take a visit to the Palace of Versailles. Few places in the world are as impressively over the top as the Hall of Mirrors, where the almost garishly bright gilt decor, reflected in the mirrors that line the walls, can be blinding on a sunny day.

If the interiors are too overwhelming, calm yourself down with a stroll around the gardens and the 55 water features ranging from lakes to pools and fountains.

Versailles is very popular as a destination and is always pretty busy so prepare yourself for long waits or get yourself a skip-the-line ticket.

  • The Trianon Estate

    Estate of Trianon, 78000

    Set aside by Louis XIV as a family retreat away from the central château, the Trianon complex is still impressively regal. Tasteful gardens surround two palaces, the Queen’s Hamlet, and a theatre. A neoclassical icon, the Petit Trianon is decorated in the style of famous resident Marie Antoinette, who dabbled in rustic living in her own village-like bolthole.

  • The gardens of Versailles

    Château de Versailles, 78000

    As impressive as the palaces of Versailles are, it’s the rambling, spectacular gardens that really steal the show. Explore the private groves, go boating on the Grand Canal, picnic under a tree, and admire the sculptures – including new works by contemporary artists. Don’t miss the musical fountain shows, which are held regularly throughout the week and on Saturday nights.

  • Le Potager du Roi

    10, rue du Maréchal-Joffre, 78000

    Now home to a renowned school of horticulture and landscape design, these rather glam allotments once provided just-picked produce for Louis’ table. The potager still grows rare fruits and vegetables, and preserves historic gardening techniques. After a nose around the gardens, stock up on jams and honeys to take home in the shop.

The town of Versailles

Versailles may be known for its opulent château, over-the-top decor and perfectly manicured gardens, but it’s also a vibrant city in its own right. A walk through its elegant streets takes in a lively street market, adorable cafés and a Baroque cathedral. Take in horseback acrobatics at the National Equestrian Academy – shows are held most weekends throughout the season. Catch live music and water displays in the palace gardens. If you’re in the mood for exquisite plates and starched linen, Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay both have restaurants here.

  • La Mangette

    38, rue Carnot, 78000

    Skip the overpriced and over-subscribed palace restaurants and lunch like a local at this chic little canteen a couple of blocks away. The daily menu features local, sustainably grown, and mostly organic ingredients, and plenty of veggie-friendly options. Best of all, you can stock up on salads and other picnic essentials for a sun-kissed lunch in the gardens.

  • Notre Dame market

    38, rue Carnot, 78000

    Skip the overpriced and over-subscribed palace restaurants and lunch like a local at this chic little canteen a couple of blocks away. The daily menu features local, sustainably grown, and mostly organic ingredients, and plenty of veggie-friendly options. Best of all, you can stock up on salads and other picnic essentials for a sun-kissed lunch in the gardens.

  • L’Équilibre

    8, rue des 2 Portes, 78000

    After a long day of traipsing around the regal grounds of the château, we’d give our kingdom for an apéro. Rest your feet over a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate at this charming, Basque-inspired tapas bar down a cobbled street. Regular live music and a generous daily happy hour only serve to sweeten the deal.

Getting to Versailles from Paris

From central Paris, take the RER line C to Versailles-Rive Gauche, a ten-minute walk from the château. Tourists naturally flock here in the summer, so get there early for a chance to gawp at the main palace’s jaw-dropping Galerie des Glaces and ostentatious throne room. Or pick up picnic supplies in town and wander the nearly 2,000 acres of gardens and parkland, which are almost always free to enter – and the only part of the complex open on Mondays.

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Infants can travel for free on an adult’s lap and just need a passport. You can only take one infant per adult.

Image credits: © walter_g / Shutterstock; © walter_g / Shutterstock; © Château de Versailles; © Château de Versailles; © Sylvain Duffard; © La Mangette; © Alamy; © L'Equilibre