Getting There from Paris — 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 (4.95€ adults, 2.25€ 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). This is a great option if you plan to picnic in the palace grounds, as you’ll go down Rue du Maréchal Foch, past a U Express supermarket (no. 45) and Marché Notre Dame, pl. du Marché Notre-Dame (daily 7am–7pm; outdoor stalls in the center of the square Tues, Fri, and Sun from about 9am to 2pm), where you can fill up on French delights. Glass is permitted in the park, so don’t feel you have to skimp on wine!
Unless you have a Paris Visite or other pass that includes zones 1–5, you’ll need to buy a special ticket for the RER C (one-way fare 4.05€ adults, 2€ children 4–10, free for children 3 and under); a regular Métro ticket will not suffice.
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 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 21.50€ adults, Apr–Oct including Les Grandes Eaux Musicales 28.50€ 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 (19.50€, free 17 and under) or just the Trianons and Marie Antoinette’s Estate (12€).
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 (31€ adults, 27€ ages 6–17), where you stroll around the gardens and enjoy illuminated fountains, music, and fireworks.
And most of the year, the Opéra Royal, Louis XV’s chef d’oeuvre, built in 1770, opens to the public for opera, theatre and ballet performances. Restored to its 18th-century glory, it’s a magical place to take in a show (prices from 40€).
Daytime Shows — From April to October on weekends and Tuesdays, “Les Grandes Eaux Musicales” (depending on your ticket, this could be included; otherwise 10.50€ adults, 9€ 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).
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.
Tickets: Unless otherwise stated purchase tickets to all shows mentioned above at the chateau, at www.chateauversailles-spectacles.fr (tel. 01-30-83-78-89).
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 (10€ 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 lunch in world-famous chef Alain Ducasse’s new restaurant Ore, set inside the palace. Open from 11:30am, you can buy a lunch/passport ticket for 85€ (that’s 56.50€ for a 3-course meal, plus mineral water and a glass of wine. Excellent value as the 3-course lunch alone costs 55€!) then head straight into the palace without even seeing the snaking lines outside.
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.