GETTING THERE: Take the RER C (www.transilien.fr; about 40 min. from the Champs de Mars; Pont d’Alma, Invalides, St-Michel, Musée d’Orsay or St-Michel stations) to Versailles-Château–Rive Gauche. Make sure the final destination for your train is Versailles-Château–Rive Gauche and not Versailles Chantier, which actually runs in the opposite direction, touring all around Paris before arriving at Versailles, which will add an hour or so to your journey. Assuming you’ve taken the right train, it’s about a 5-minute walk from the Versailles Rive Gauche train station to the chateau—don’t worry, you can’t miss it. For a little more (4.35€ adults, 2.15€ ages 4–10), you can also take the SNCF Transilien suburban train (www.transilien.fr; 40 min.) from the Gare St-Lazare station to Versailles–Rive Droite, and then walk about 10 minutes to the chateau (around 50 min. total).
Unless you have a Paris Visite or other pass that includes zones 1–4, you will need to buy a special ticket for the RER C (one-way fare 3.55€ adults; 1.75€ 4–10; free under 4); a regular Métro ticket will not suffice. You can buy a ticket from any Métro or RER station; the fare includes a free transfer to the Métro.
TICKETS: If you are made of tough stuff and want to see everything in a day, you can buy the all-inclusive Château Passeport, which grants you access to the main chateau, the gardens, the Trianon palaces, the Marie Antoinette Estate and the temporary exhibitions (Nov–Mar 20€ adults; from April–Oct the price, 27€, includes Les Grandes Eaux; free 17 and under and under 26s from the EU). If you’d like to make an overnight of it, consider the 2-day Passport (Nov–Mar 25€ adults; April–Oct adults 30€), which offers the same entries plus discounts around town. If you have limited time and energy, you can buy a ticket to just the Palace (18€; free 17 and under) or just the Trianons and Marie Antoinette’s Estate (12€). From April to October, the under-18 crowd (who get in free) will likely have to buy a ticket to get into the gardens (9.50€). You can avoid some of the long lines at the entrance by purchasing your tickets online. A Paris Museum Pass will get you into everything except Les Grandes Eaux musicales (Apr–Oct), so you’ll have to buy a separate ticket to get into the gardens when the fountain shows are playing (9.50€; see below).
Important note: Tuesdays is by far the busiest day of the week at Versailles (because that’s when the Louvre is usually closed). Most any other day of the week will be (slightly) less crowded).
VISITOR INFORMATION: Château de Versailles, www.chateauversailles.fr; [tel] 01-30-83-78-00. Palace: Apr–Oct Tues–Sun 9am–6:30pm; Nov–Mar 9am–5:30pm. Marie Antoinette’s Estate: Apr–Oct Tues–Sun noon–6:30pm; Nov–Mar Tues–Sun noon–5:30pm. Garden and park: Apr–Oct daily 8am–8:30pm; Nov–Mar daily 8am–6pm. Versailles Tourist Office: 2 bis ave. de Paris; www.versailles-tourisme.com; [tel] 01-39-24-88-88.
EVENING SHOWS: Spectacular fountain night shows are held from mid-June to mid-September (26€ adults; 22€ ages 6–17), where you stroll around the gardens and enjoy illuminated fountains, music, and fireworks. During the same period, you can walk through the Hall of Mirrors and the royal apartments accompanied by musicians and dancers in baroque period costumes in the Royal Serenade (24€ adults, 21€ ages 6–17), which brings this grand setting to life, giving you a taste of what it was like back in the day. You can buy combination tickets for the two events (42€ adults, 35€ ages 6–17).
Big names in classical music, theater, and dance fill the stage at the magnificent Opéra Royal in the palace; reserve well in advance and expect royal ticket prices (55€–400€).
DAYTIME SHOWS: From April to October on weekends and Tuesdays, “Les Grandes Eaux Musicales” (depending on your ticket, this could be included; otherwise 9.50€ adults; 8€ ages 6–17) play throughout the gardens closest to the castle. This consists of fountains playing to Baroque music. While pleasant, you won’t miss anything essential if your ticket does not offer you entrance to this part of the gardens (the rest of the park is accessible from side entrances and is free of charge).
Tickets: You can purchase tickets to all shows mentioned above at the chateau, online at www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr ([tel] 01-30-83-78-89), or from any Fnac store (www.fnactickets.com; [tel] 08-92-68-36-22/.40€ per min).
Les Grandes Ecuries: The Académie de Spectacle Equestre is housed in the royal stables, situated immediately opposite the chateau. Both the school and its shows are directed by Bartabas, whose equestrian theater company, Zingaro, has garnered world fame. Visitors can watch hour-long riding demonstrations by the students and their mounts on Sundays and certain weekdays at 10am; tickets cost 8€ to 10€. On some weekend afternoons, a more elaborate “equestrian ballet” is on offer; tickets to those shows are 16€ to 25€. After the shows, visitors can tour the stables. For additional information and schedule, see www.bartabas.fr.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.