The Gardens of Versailles
Perhaps two instances of an event is a bit on the early side for calling it a ‘tradition’, but spending an afternoon doing a lot of nothing in the Gardens of Versailles has been one of my favorite memories of both trips I’ve made to Paris (despite the fact that they were 8 years apart).
The Palace of Versailles itself is lovely, to be sure, but after my third visit I’m not certain I’ll ever make a point of going inside again. The grounds, however, are an entirely different story. I’m sure I could visit once every month or two if I lived in Paris and be entirely happy with each outing. To go once every 8 years when I happen to be in the city? Its a no brainer.
With over six million visitors each year, the gardens of Versailles are one of the most visited tourist attractions in the most visited country in the world. Yet walking through some hidden grove far away from the palace, this is actually any easy thing to forget in the midst of the calm quietude that permeates all but the busiest sections of the park.
There are the busy bits, to be sure. The Grand Canal is swarmed with people all day every day, it seems, and the immediate surroundings not far behind.
Not even ten minutes’ walk from the Grand Canal, however, can be found arbored walkways and manicured trees with not a single soul in sight.
I suppose that to some people the idea of spending one of your days in Paris just napping somewhere pretty seems ridiculous. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss a moment of a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip doing something to mundane as sleeping! In a beautiful garden on a beautiful day though? Perfect, especially if you happen to have along a beautiful girl to share the experience with. Though not *officially* allowed, I can also recommend Versailles as a great spot for a clandestine baguette/cheese/deli picnic. To get out of the city atmosphere of Paris and enjoy an extended day surrounded by a magnificent landscaped green space, I don’t know of anywhere better.
Both times I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the gardens of Versailles I’ve wandered a little further and discovered a little more. In some places this is not a sustainable way to travel – after all eventually you’ve seen it all. With so many diverse bosquets and so many small hidden treasures to stumble across, Versailles’ gardens somehow feel exempt to this.
With any luck I’ll be able to continue visiting, wandering, napping, and picnicking in the incredible Gardens of Versailles for a long time to come. Just imagine how annoyed the Kings would be!
Train Ticket Round-Trip from Paris: €8.20 (on the RER-C, generally the train named ‘Vicky’)
The Palace Gardens and Park are open from 08:00 – 20:30 (18:00 in low season). From early April to late October there are Fountain Shows and Musical Gardens (admission €9, but included with the Versailles Passport Ticket) every Saturday and Sunday. From mid-May to mid-June these are available on Tuesdays as well. See the official site of the Palace of Versailles for more info.
I visited Paris and the Palace of Versailles primarily while working a a photographer with GetYourGuide. Versailles is easy enough to visit on your own, and the gardens themselves especially. If you want to visit the palace I would suggest this company, or if you want to visit the Trianon Palaces as well these guys. Finally, though I didn’t work with them at Versailles, the Fat Tire Tours company offers a Bike Tour of Versailles and Trianon. They were great fun to work with at Giverny on the Monet’s Garden Bicycle Tour, and I assume their Versailles trip would be good too.