The Gardens of Versailles at the Château de Versailles, approximately 12 miles southwest of Paris, France, is one of the most magnificent gardens I’ve ever visited. It’s an incredible 2,000-acre garden that was first built in 1624 but looks quite similar to how it would have nearly 400 years ago. We visited during our time in Paris as a day trip, and I was blown away by the complexity and sheer magnitude of these gorgeous gardens. Truly, I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t even imagine how this space would have wowed visitors centuries ago who had little frame of reference.
Entire books and gardening encyclopedias exist about this impressive garden that’s not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also the world’s largest garden and largest palace garden anywhere in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. For a garden to be the world’s largest and remain the world’s most significant is an awe-inspiring feat. With this in mind, I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of this magnificent place. Still, I recommend that those interested in the intricacies of the natural wonders here read A History of the Gardens of Versailles, Gardener of Versailles: My Life in the World’s Grandest Garden, & Royal Gardens of the World to learn more. How to Read Gardens is an invaluable book for anyone looking to understand the “why” behind various garden features found around the world. I bought this in Scotland at Blair Castle, and I’ve read it several times over!
Instead, I’ll give you everything you need to know to have a wonderful visit while educating you on how incredibly impressive this place is. It’s a place that a person could spend several months exploring and learning about and still not see and appreciate everything here, so consider this a crash course and put on your favorite pair of walking shoes. Indeed, there’s nothing else like it in all the world!
Above: Garden of The Trianon Estate (R&L), Pomegranates growing in the Orangery (center)
The Gardens of Versailles
Location: Near Paris, France
Address: Place d’Armes
78000 Versailles, France
Admission: €19.50 / adult
(Free to EU residents 18-26 years old)
Hours: 9:00 am – 5:30 pm
(see hours here)
Designation: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Handicap Accessible: Partially
(Dirt paths, parts are inaccessible to some due to stairs)
How to Reach Versailles from Paris
First, I recommend downloading the free Château de Versailles app for your smartphone. This tells you everything you need to know about the gardens, the palace, and the rest of the grounds, like hours, landmarks, suggested routes, events, and more. Just as importantly, their tab “Access” helps you find your way to the Palace of Versailles even if you don’t know your way around the French train system. You can even download this app for free and listen to its guided tours in numerous languages with beautiful images and videos for context from anywhere in the world. It’s SUCH an excellent way to learn, and the app is very user-friendly and modern!
Many train lines run to Versailles. SNCF trains from Gare Montparnasse reach Versailles Chantiers train station, and from there it’s an 18 minute walk to the Palace of Versailles. SNCF trains from Gare Saint Lazare arrive at Versailles Rive Droite train station, which is then a 17 minute walk to the Palace. The RER C train runs to the Versailles Château Rive Gauche Station. The train station nearest the Gardens of Versailles located all around the Palace of Versailles is Versailles Château Rive Gauche station. Of course, you could also hire a car or rideshare to reach the gardens too.
No matter the route you take, follow the large signs for ‘Château de Versailles’ and prepare to get your steps in in one of the world’s most breathtaking gardens. Also, be aware that there is a limited number of times one ticket will grant you access to the gardens. When we visited we were allowed two entries. Be sure to plan this with your timed entrance to the Palace of Versailles so you don’t miss out on anything!
- Download the Château de Versailles app for iPhone or Android
- Select your route (train, rideshare, or car)
- If you’ve selected the train, ride until the Versailles Château Rive Gauche station
- Walk to the Palace entrance and head around to the gardens (there will be signs)
- Note how many times you may enter and exit the gardens and coordinate this with your palace entrance reservation
About the Gardens of Versailles
Again, entire books have been written about this place, and some gardening programs even teach classes dedicated to its complexity. I won’t go into such great depths, but I will tell you enough to give you context for your visit and share some quick facts with you to help make your visit that much richer.
The gardens are primarily associated with King Louis XIV of France, also known as the sun king, which is why you’ll see so many sun and ray of sunshine motifs throughout the garden. Furthermore, the last Queen of France, Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI were the last monarchs to enjoy the Palace of Versailles before the French Revolution and their execution. History gives them a bad wrap, but I must say, particularly about Marie Antoinette, what exists about her seems very tragic. Her final words were to her executiner upon whose foot she accidentally stepped, and it was an apology. When gifted a slave, she immediately freed him, gave him a home and education. She strived to advance the position of women and girls as much as she could in 18th century France where even the queen of the nation was extremely limited in what she could do as a woman.
Still, standing inside the Gardens of Versailles, it’s easy to see why the average person would have been so furious with the monarchy for having so much when they were sstarving and had so little. The gardens and the tours do a great job sharing some of this history and putting into perspective what life was like for all occupants of the palace and those who tended to the gardens, from the lowest ranks to the highest. Nonetheless, the breathtaking gardens stand as a tribute to seemingly limitless wealth that has endured until today.
There are so many different gardens, groves, fountains, and sculptures on the property that it would be impossible for me to list them all here without turning this into a book. Here are a few of my favorites instead!
This is perhaps the most recognizable part of all of the Gardens of Versailles. Just below the Palace of Versailles rests intricate swirling patterns of bright green grass and neatly trimmed topiaries surrounding round reflecting pools. Through these lead straight paths perfect for prommenades. These gardens stopped me in my tracks. We happened to tour them on a day dedicated to trimming of the verge and topiaries. Still, this is one of the most elaboorately arranged gardens I’ve ever seen.
Not just an orangery in name only, numerous varieites of oranges, lemons, limes, and pommegrantes grew here in neatly and evenly arranged orange tree boxes. Evidently, they use this fruit for the pastries and desserts baked and sold around the Palace of Versailles and its grounds. Wide stone staircases border the orangery garden and in colder months, long orangery galleries that abut the palace serve as a sanctuary for delicate citrus and fruit plants, and make a unique place to visit when the garden sleeps in winter.
The Colonnade Grove
Filled with trellises, rocailles decor, topiary and statues, this round garden feels like its own world. Here, a statue of the Abduction of Persephone is just one of many Greek and Roman inspired statues around the gardens. 15 different masster sculptors worked on the elements of this portion of the Gardens of Versailles.
The Grand Trianon Gardens & The French Garden
This is another great house on the Versailles Palace grounds, but its gardens are some of the most beautiful and least visited. Built after a village was acquired in the mid 1600s and leveled, this château and its gardens are breathtaking in their symmetry and composition. Kings, queens, and other dignitaries and countless other people have walked these gardens and admired the avenue of boxy trees, simple yet elegant architecture; the epitomy of a French garden. The building below is the French Pavillion.
The King’s Garden, Grand Trianon
In an effort to take a break from their curtly duties, kings and queens of France sought refuge here in nature, far away from the demands of their station. Wallss covered in trellises, winding herb gardens, and breathtaking fountains make thiss a true oasis. Even during our visit, there were very few people in this part of the gardens and it felt like we had it all to ourselves.
Le Pavillion Frais or Pavillon du Treillage (Aka Salon Frais or Cool Salon)
This pavillion was originally made of stone and ergo was much cooler than any other building in the Estate of Versailles. As a result, the king and queen, as well as the queen’s ladies, frequently ate dinner here to escape the heat. In the 1810, Napoleon destroyed this part of the gardens, and it was covered with dirt and other gardens for decades. In 2010, American Friends of Verseilles, a Chicago-based non-profit group completed restoration of this rebuilt building so that it may keep the historical significance of the Gardens of Versailles alive for generations. This was one of my favorite places in the Gardens of Versailles, because of the gorgeous, intricate green lattice work and the ornate knotted herb gardens.
The Temple of Love
On an island overlooking a vegetable garden east of the Petit Trianon, this temple dedicated to love is ssurrounded by an artificial river connected by a wooden bridge. The temple has seven marble stairs and twelve grand Corinthian columns with a statue of Cupid by master sculptor Jospeh Deschamps. The statue here isn’t genuine, because evidently it was deemed too indecent, so the original was moved to the orangery in the 1700s. This replica now stands where the original would have.
The Queen’s Hamlet
This replica of a medieval village and farm was one of Marie Antoinette’s favorite places to take a break from her royal responsibilities. Here, the queen had her own house, a billiards room, and a functional farm and dairy. Even today, tremendous amounts of food grows here in a beautifully pastoral setting. It reminds me of something out of the Shire from Lord of the Rings!
Quick Facts About Versailles
It is and always has been the World’s Largest Garden. The Gardens of Versailles was one of the first places in the world designateed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural significance. The gardens receive more than 6.5 Million visitors every single year. It was built to originally serve as a refuge for King Louis XIII to get away from his responsiblities, and some say, his overbearing mother Marie de Medici. Subsequent French aristocraats used it similarly.
The Gardens of Versailles are open every day of the year, although much of the estate closes on December 25th for Christmas and January 1st for New Year’s Day. Many other monarchs were exceptionally envious of the unprescedented gardens of Versailles. So much so, that numerous gardens, palaces, and homes around the world were modeled after this place, like the Orangery Palace in Potsdam, Germany.
At its ultimate height before the French Revolution, the Royal Estate of Versailles covered more than 2,000 acres or 800 hectares. The gardens took more than 40 years from start to finish and have been redone several times over the centuries. There are 55 fountains and pools with 620 waterjets within the gardens and the biggest challenge in maintaining the gardens is understandably water. Rain and several large reservoirs help supply the gardens, ponds, and fountains with water, but sometimes they are turned off to conserve water during particularly hot summer days to avoiod needing to take water from the city of Versailles.
200,000 trees and 210,000 flowers are planted every year, in addition to what already grows there and perennial plants that come back year after year.
What to Know Before Visiting the Gardens of Versailles
Book tickets in advance to see the palace’s interior. They sell out quickly. I recommend booking the opening slot ticket if possible so you can see the palace without major crowds and have mroe time to explore the gardens after your tour.
Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking a ton. However, there are bikes and boats for rent towards the rear of the gardens.
Entrance is free most days to gardens only. Check their website before goiong without a ticket. If you don’t plan to visit the palace, this is a great option!
Guests are allowed to bring food and drinks, but be aware of where you’re allowed to consume them.
Why I Loved Visiting
This was one of the mot incredible places I’ve ever been. We got here the moment it opened and stayed until they ushered guests uot at closing and we still didn’t see it all. It was an incredible garden I’d love to visit again someday soon. If you find yourself in Paris, don’t skip a day trip to Versailles!