Versailles, one of the most splendid castles ever and an important seat of the French kings for centuries, lies about 20 km South-West from Paris. The present appearance of the complex owns a lot to Louis XIV., alias the King of the Sun, who transformed a small hunting residence to a sumptuous palace. The gardens of Versailles were designed by famous garden architect André Le Nôtre, who transformed the marsh into a system of canals, ponds, and fountains – just as Louis XIV. ordered. In the park, you can also find many statues and fountains of authors such as the famous painter Charles Le Brun or architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
Last year in May when heading to the Loire Valley (you can read about our trip here), we stopped for one afternoon in Versailles. As it is such a huge complex, we needed to choose whether to visit the Palace or the gardens and the second won. 🙂
The gardens of Versailles are extended on 800 hectares and are divided into several parts: Orangerie, French gardens and closed groves with ponds and fountains, the Grand Canal, and the Village of Marie-Antoinette.
The Orangerie designed by Mansart is one of the most beautiful parts of the Gardens of Versailles. It is a neat garden full of citrus trees, roses and palm trees, surrounded by a gallery to which you can get by climbing up 100 stairs and enjoy a fabulous view from above. You can also see the Swiss water surface from here.
Fountains and groves in the Gardens of Versailles
In the central part of the Gardens of Versailles, many closed groves and neat gardens can be found. In those you can see ponds and fountains.
The Apollo Fountain designed by Charles Le Brun was inspired by the god of the Sun, Apollo, the emblem of the King.
Enceladus Grove with a statue of a giant partly under the stones represents Enceladus, one of the Titans, that wanted to climb the Olympe mountain despite the prohibition of Jupiter.
Colonnade Grove is created by 23 marble columns surrounding a statue of Proserpine Ravished by Pluto.
Latona Fountain is a marble fountain decorated with golden statues, sculpted by Marsy brothers. You can see it directly under the stairs in front of the entry to the Palace. The fountain was inspired by the legend of Latona protecting her children Apollo and Diana.
When turning right from the Palace, you can reach the Neptun Fountain with 99 systems of water jets and effects.
Three Fountains Grove is composed of 3 terraces, each having its fountain.
Water Theatre Grove is a permanent contemporary art work of Jean-Michel Othoniel, symbolising the dance of Louis XIV.
The Grand Canal in the Gardens of Versailles
The Grand Canal is an extended water surface in the shape of a cross and length 1,5 km. At the beginning of the Canal, you can find boat rental, bike rental or train that allows lazy or tired tourists to see the Gardens without an effort. There are also two restaurants, some refreshment stands and a souvenir shop.
Village of Marie-Antoinette
If you have more time for Versailles, you can also visit the Village of Marie-Antoinette that lies on the right from the Grand Canal, you can fin Trianon and the Village of Marie-Antoinette. The complex is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from 12:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and you need to count at least 3 hours for the visit. Tickets need to be bought separately for this complex.
Practical Information for the Visit of the Gardens of Versailles
The best time to visit the Gardens of Versailles is from May to September, when the gardens are open from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. The fountains work during the weekends when the most of the tourists arrive. Sunday si the worst day in terms of crowds as many shops and attractions in Paris are closed so the organised trips plan Versailles for Sunday. There is a separate queue for tickets and for entry. Do not forget to get a plan at the entry or in the info center as without the plan, the visit can be very chaotic.
Official web of Versailles: http://en.chateauversailles.fr
They say that the visit of the Palace without the Gardens or the visit of Gardens without the Palace is not sufficient, but I have to say that I really enjoyed the Gardens of Versailles even under the rain!! I would like to know whether you visited Versailles and what do you think about it? Did you visit both Palace and Gardens or just one of them?