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 av. de Paris; www.versailles-tourisme.com; tel. 01-39-24-88-88.
Tickets — If you are made of tough stuff and want to see everything in a day, you can buy the all-inclusive 1- or 2-day Château Passeport, which grants you access to the main chateau, the gardens, the Trianon palaces, the Marie Antoinette Estate and the temporary exhibitions (1 day Nov–Mar 20€ adults, Apr–Oct including Les Grandes Eaux Musicales 27€ adults; 2 days Nov–Mar 25€, Apr–Oct 30€; free for children 17 and under). If you’d like to make an overnight of it (and it’s worth doing as Versailles is such a lovely city), consider the 2-day Passport. 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€). A Paris Museum Pass will get you into everything except Les Grandes Eaux musicales (Apr–Oct; see below), 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: Tuesday is by far the busiest day of the week at Versailles (because that’s when the Louvre and several of Paris’s other big museums are closed). Weekends are predictably busy too. Most any other day of the week will be (slightly) less crowded.
Evening Shows — Spectacular fountain night shows are held from mid-June to mid-September (24€ adults, 20€ 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), 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 (45€–140€).
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, at www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr (tel. 01-30-83-78-89), or from a Fnac store (www.fnactickets.com; tel. 08-92-68-36-22 at .40€/min).
Les Grandes Ecuries: The Académie de Spectacle Equestre is housed in the royal stables, a palatial edifice situated immediately opposite the chateau. Both the school and its shows are directed by Bartabas, whose equestrian theater company, Zingaro, has garnered world fame. On weekend afternoons (Sat 6pm, Sun 3pm), you can watch their “equestrian ballet” in full swing; 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.
Two Line-Jumping Tactics
Versailles is so popular you will not be alone, so grin and bear it. But there are two little-known ways to avoid the lines at the entrance and waltz straight in. The first: Reserve a 90-min. guided tour in English (7€ on top of your entry ticket; free for children 9 and under). You will be given a time slot and enter the château via a different door than the masses so you shouldn’t have to wait. Once the tour is over, you’re free to roam the rest of the palace and gardens. The second: Go for breakfast in world-famous chef Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant Ore (from 9am), set inside the palace. You can buy a breakfast/passport ticket for 40€ (that’s 20€ for fabulous pastries, eggs, and sausages) then head straight into the palace without even seeing the snaking lines outside.