We recently came back from a wonderful two weeks in France. During that time we stopped in Versailles to show the children the Palace of Versailles with its glorious gardens and sumptuous fountains and royal playgrounds.
The history of Versailles is perfect for kids; from beheadings to beautiful princesses, spoiled kings and revolutions. Everything that a good book needs to capture your child’s imagination; but its real, and they can actually touch it *reaches out to pooter screen.*
To give you every chance of a successful trip to Versailles, here are our top ten tips to make your day at the Palace of Versailles and its Gardens fit for royalty.
1. Prepare for queues
If you have younger children, or indeed children of any kind, be prepared to queue to visit the Palace.
Take entertainment, a buggy; whatever you need to help your children in the queues both inside and outside the palace rooms. Some of the more popular places, such as the Queens bedroom, are so packed that you queue there too. Don’t be put off though, the public rooms in the palace really are stunning.
2. Bring your own food and drink
Food and drink within the palace grounds is expensive, particularly bottles of water. Your kids will get thirsty, and so will you. It isn’t nice having to fork out €3.50 just for a small bottle of water. Bringing a picnic is a good idea, but you also need to be aware that you can’t eat within the formal gardens at Versailles. The Grand Canal and Boating Lake is where the informal gardens begin, and it is a reasonable distance form the main palace entrance.
3. Take ice cream money
You may well get hot, depending on the time of year you are going and you will therefore want to partake of the ice-cream on site, so make sure you have a few Euros so that the kids pestering for their purple ice-cream doesn’t drive you mad. It really is one of the things within the grounds worth spending your own money on.
4. Be aware that the fountains are only run on specific days
The Gardens of Versailles are actually free to enter in the majority of the week. The only time you have to pay is when the Musical Fountains Shows are running. There are on from April to November at the weekend, and on Tuesdays. Check out the exact times locally, or on their website. For a night-time show, you will need to visit on a Saturday evening.
It is really important to realise these time constraints when you plan your visit. The gardens are famous for those fountains, so you won’t want to miss them. Your kids will be entranced. Don’t let them touch the water though, there is a chance of water pollution; so hands off!
5. Allow plenty of time for your visit
The grounds of Versailles and the palace itself is HUGE. You won’t finish it all in a day, two days you might manage it – just. If you have smaller legs with you, and/or a buggy, then it’ll take even longer. So you aren’t rushing, give yourself a few days to explore Versailles, making sure you take in the fountains if you can.
5. If you want to see the palace, consider taking a tour of the private apartments as you jump the queues…
When you arrive at the palace, there will be a massive queue to get in. If you would like to jump it, book yourself on a tour, in your home language, and you will be shown the Kings Private Apartments, which aren’t included in the public tour, for only €7 each. This tour is 90 minutes, and children under 10 are FREE! If you think that your children will be OK on the tour for this amount of time, it is definitely worth a little bit extra to be able to avoid the queues. We paid only €14 to get on an English tour just after midday on the first day we were there. A tenner seems a small price to pay not to have to wait.
7. Take a camera, and encourage your kids to look around from every angle; if you want a great shot of the outside of the palace, go on a Monday!
We visited the palace and gardens on a Sunday and Monday. We didn’t realise that the palace is actually shut on the Monday, including the Petit and Grand Trianon, as well as the Queen’s Hamlet. Don’t make the same mistake we did. However, this is a perfect time to capture the front of the palace and the gardens without the crowds. Great for all those family photographs around the grounds; and the ones where a reduced police presence aren’t a bad thing…..
It is worth remembering that in photography the devil is in the details, and the angles. Encourage your kids to take a look at everything in the palace and the gardens from different perspectives. Sometimes you can capture some great memories of the visit by looking at things slightly peculiarly…
As we have already shown with some of our photos here, it really is rather important to look up once in a while, but even through things helps sometimes too….
8. Consider hiring bikes
The grounds are massive! Bikes are a lovely way for the kids to explore the paths and to take everything in, so if you have children that are able to cycle – why not consider a bike? There are also golf buggies that can be hired for €30 for the day; but make sure you don’t park them in front of anyone else trying to take pictures. There was a lot of that about when we visited….
9. Wear comfortable and sturdy footwear
Your children will be on their feet for a long time; make sure those feet are adequately protected. Don’t go in your stilettos, and the kids in flip flops! ;-)
10. Take bread to feed the fish in the Queen’s Hamlet
Finally, we leave the best until last. Marie Antoinette’s Estate, or the Queen’s Hamlet, is the most beautiful part of the Gardens of Versailles. You can really see why Marie Antoinette loved spending so much time here.
It can be a magically place for your children. If you take some bread for the fishes, you will be able to feed them in the lake, and watch their hilarious reactions – something not to be missed for all the young at heart.
If you are quiet enough, you might even see an otter…
The palace is quite simply stunning.
So just take it easy, relax and enjoy. The kids will love the grandeur and the history of the location; you just can’t beat a bit of royal intrigue. If you do visit, let us know how you get on; we might even see you there again as we missed the musical fountains show in the evening, and would love to see it at night.
Do be careful you don’t get photobombed though….
Have you been to Versailles? If you have, do let us know, and share your top tips for enjoying your visit there too.
All photos are original and copyright KiddyCharts. No use without permission.
Further information for your visit:
For full details of tickets and prices, please visit the Versailles website, where you can also access an interactive map of the Versailles estate. Tickets for the fountain shows and the palace are, for over 10s, €18 for a day, and €25 for 1 or two days, for the second day you must come back within a year.
Opening Times for the Palace of Versailles and the Gardens are available on their website – remember in high season, they are still closed on Mondays.