When we started planning our trip to France, we were only going to Marseilles for a Mediterranean cruise. Then, my daughter said there’s no way you’re taking me to France and I’m not going to Paris. That’s how I felt about going to Paris and not getting to see the Gardens of Versailles. I had less than 24 hours to enjoy it but what a wonderful 24 hours it was.
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If you love Gardens and French History, then the Gardens at Versailles is truly a MUST for the bucket list. I would think it’s a must even if you do neither, sorry, I’m biased.
I thought I was well-prepared for grandeur and opulence, but nothing really creates the total picture of the entirety of Versailles except feasting your eyes upon it.
There will be gold gilding, ornate structures, and fountains, everywhere. You will peer down a path in the gardens and wonder where it ends and along the way, find surprises, new endings, and more paths.
You will smile as you know you are walking where Kings once walked, you may even wonder, did they really walk or just have people carry them?
You may even feel sorrow for the human toll this treasure probably cost in labor, in poverty, in servitude, in danger, in resistance, and in revolution.
Yet, you might still be both in awe and abhor the extreme extravagance at the same time.
This map is not completely accurate of the tour below but does give you a good idea of what a simple tour through the gardens might look like. Depending on how long you take to wander and enjoy, it could be 1 – 2 hours and cover 1 – 2 miles while stopping at most of the major features in the garden.
A printable tour that might be helpful is found here at gpsmycity.com Self-Guided Versailles Gardens Tour
The History of the Gardens of Versailles
Let’s chat about the Gardens of Versailles for a sec. So, back in the 17th century, Louis XIV, the Sun King, decides he wants a garden that’s as epic as his reign. He brings in this guy André Le Nôtre – basically the garden guru of his time – to whip up something spectacular.
Now, imagine turning a swampy area into this mind-blowing garden. That’s what Le Nôtre did. He goes all out with the French formal garden style. Think super neat lines, perfect symmetry – like, every little bush and pathway is in just the right spot. It’s all about showing off big time, like Louis XIV saying, “Check out what I can make nature do.”
The fountains are the real showstoppers. There are tons of them, and each one has its own vibe. The Apollo Fountain? That’s the biggie, representing Louis XIV himself. And the trees and flowers – it’s like every single one was picked to star in this mega outdoor production.
Over the years, they’ve switched things up a bit. Like, when Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were around, they added their own twists, a bit of that English garden flair.
Jump to today, and the Gardens of Versailles are this amazing must-visit spot. It’s not just a garden; it’s a walk through history, an open-air museum of landscape art. The way they keep it all looking sharp? Seriously impressive. It’s this mix of nature, art, and a dash of royal drama.
So there you have it – a quick trip down memory lane to the Gardens of Versailles. It’s wild to think about all the history in those trees and paths, right? If those gardens could talk, oh, the stories they’d tell about the days of the Sun King!
Waldorf Astoria Versailles Trianon Palace
We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Versailles Trianon Palace, known for its famous guests and role in the Treaty of Versailles. If that’s not enough to make you want to stay there, I could give you 10 more reasons but let’s stay focused and I’ll suggest it also for the back-door entrance to the gardens.
The hotel is located next to Grille De La Reine and there are guards as you enter. They were especially helpful to me, as I had asked at the hotel’s concierge about the best way to hurry and get to the Palace for our appointment time but then, second guessed the answer I was given. My way worked better, and the guards confirmed it. Shout-out to Google Maps!
Immediately cross over and turn down Allee des Moutons which takes you right to Avenue de Trianon and the Neptune Gate. Again, you’ll be greeted by guards that will want to see your tickets on days that fees are required. Just my luck, my one day there was a fee day.
If you decide to do your own tour, here’s another handy resource. An interactive map that works on smartphones and tablets.
Touring the Gardens of Versailles
Our first stop – The Orangery (Orangerie du château de Versailles). This isn’t just any old greenhouse; it’s a botanical wonderland with a royal twist. Packed with orange trees brought over from sunny Spain, Portugal, and Italy, it’s like a little Mediterranean oasis right here in Versailles. Plus, it’s home to lemon, oleander, palm, and pomegranate trees.
Here’s a cool bit of trivia: some of these leafy residents are over 200 years old, making them silent witnesses to centuries of history. And get this – there are over 1,000 trees and bushes, all neatly potted in containers. Why? So they can be whisked away to the adjacent gallery when winter rolls in. Talk about high maintenance, but in the most luxurious way!
From there, you can catch a glimpse of the Lake of the Swiss Guards. This isn’t just any lake; it’s steeped in history. Named after the Swiss Guards who protected the royalty, this lake is a serene reminder of the palace’s past, set against the backdrop of meticulously designed landscapes.
Next, we take a stroll down the Allée de Bacchus et de Saturne from the Hundred Steps. This path is a journey through mythology and royalty. Each step is like traveling back in time, where you can almost hear the echoes of royal festivities and whispered court secrets. It’s a blend of nature, art, and history, all rolled into one grand walkway.
Through the Parterre du Midi
Alright, let’s talk about the Parterre du Midi. This spot in the Versailles Gardens is a total sun magnet. It’s positioned just right to soak up all the sunshine.
Now, the patterns here aren’t just your regular garden variety. They’re super intricate and artsy. Imagine trying to create those perfect shapes – it’s like nature’s own geometry class. From up in the palace, it probably looked like a giant, living kaleidoscope.
And it’s not just about the greenery. There are statues and vases all over the place, but they’re not just for looks. They’re like ancient emojis, telling stories from mythology. It’s kind of like those statues are gossiping about old myths and legends. They all represent stories that may be known and unknown to you.
Here’s a fun tidbit – keeping this place looking amazing is a big deal. The gardeners here are like the backstage crew at a Broadway show, making sure everything’s perfect. Every hedge, every flower is like a piece of a giant, super fancy jigsaw puzzle.
Pass the Enfants Aus Dauphins in Parterre d’Eau
Next up on our garden tour is the Enfants Aux Dauphins in the Parterre d’Eau. So, this spot is a bit like finding a hidden treasure in a sea of greenery. The ‘Enfants Aux Dauphins’ – that’s French for ‘Children with Dolphins’ – are these super cute sculptures. Picture this: little cherub-like kids playing around with dolphins. It’s like a scene straight out of a fantasy book, but in stone.
And the Parterre d’Eau? Think of it as the Versailles’ version of a water park, minus the slides and the big crowds. It’s this whole area dedicated to water features, and it’s all about the chill vibes. You’ve got fountains and pools that are so perfectly designed, they make you want to just sit down and zone out to the sound of trickling water.
Now, here’s a fun bit: the whole setup with the Enfants Aux Dauphins and the water features? It’s like a nod to the whole luxury and leisure life of the French royals. They knew how to lounge in style, and these sculptures chilling with dolphins kind of give you a glimpse of that royal relaxation.
It’s one of those spots in the gardens where you can take a breather, enjoy the art, and maybe snap a few cool photos. It’s like a little oasis of calm and whimsy in the midst of all the grandeur.
Next stop: Le Rhône.
Now, this isn’t about the river in France, though it’s named after it. In the Gardens of Versailles, Le Rhône is this super cool sculpture, and it’s got its own unique flair. Imagine a big, impressive statue that’s meant to represent the River Rhône. It’s kind of like the garden’s way of bringing a piece of the natural world into this manicured, royal setting.
Le Rhône is part of this whole collection of sculptures that are like shout-outs to different French rivers. Think of it as the Versailles’ way of giving a nod to the natural beauty of France, but in a completely artistic and fancy way.
What’s cool about Le Rhône is how it blends in with the surroundings. You’ve got the greenery, the paths, and then bam – this majestic statue that makes you stop and go, “Wow, that’s something!” It’s like a mix of nature and art coming together to surprise you with something really special.
It’s one of those spots in the gardens where you you’ll want to take a moment to appreciate the creativity and thought that went into designing these spaces. Le Rhône isn’t just a statue; it’s a piece of the garden’s story, adding a bit of river magic to the whole Versailles experience.
Latona Stairs – L’escalier de Latone
So, we’re almost done with our garden tour, but we can’t skip the Latona Stairs – L’escalier de Latone in fancy French terms. This spot? It’s like the cherry on top of our visit. These stairs are all about this cool Roman myth with Latona and her kids, Apollo and Diana. It’s like walking through an ancient story, but you’re outside in this gorgeous garden.
The whole way up, it’s not just about climbing stairs. It’s like you’re stepping into the story, seeing it all play out around you in sculptures and fountains. Kinda gives you that ‘I’m part of history’ vibe, you know?
And the view as you go up – just wow. Every step gives you a better and better look at the gardens, like you’re getting this VIP tour from above. When you hit the top, it’s a total ‘wow’ moment. The gardens look unreal from up there – like a postcard but you’re actually in it.
The Latona Stairs are the perfect spot to wrap up our walk. It’s where you get that mix of a little history lesson, some art appreciation, and heaps of natural beauty. Definitely worth a pause and a photo or two – it’s the kind of place that makes you think, “Yep, this was totally worth the walk.
Palace of Versailles Tickets and Tours
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