While Versailles is a popular day trip for many visitors to Paris, we think it warrants a more leisurely overnight visit. Home to Louis XIV’s Château de Versailles, arguably the grandest palace in France, Versailles offers luxury accommodations, excellent restaurants, and many popular historic sites.
What to Do
Château de Versailles. Versailles is best known being the home of Château de Versailles, the palace of Louis XIV. The palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is beautifully maintained and one of the greatest achievements in 17th century French art. During the reign of Louis XIV, the palace housed the royal family and over 20,000 courtiers. A succession of kings continued to embellish the Palace up until the French Revolution.
Celebrated for the extravagance of its apartments, the Palace is adorned with gold, crystal and semi-precious gems. One of the most spectacular rooms is the Hall of Mirrors, a long hall decorated with more than 350 mirrors and mirror-decorated arches reflecting gilded and arcaded windows. To make the most of your visit, we recommend having your hotel’s concierge arrange for a private guide for a personal tour of the Palace and gardens.
Gardens of Versailles. Flowing out from the main Palace are the Gardens of Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers over 800 hectares of land filled with meticulously manicured lawns, grand fountains, enormous ponds and canals, sculptures, rare flowers and vivid greenery. During the summer, water shows (often accompanied by fireworks) are performed every evening.
Grand Trianon. Constructed by Louis XVI, the Grand Trianon is a small hamlet with its own private park and thick enclosure of forest that allowed the King to escape from the outside world. Today, the beautiful palace is used as a French Republic presidential residence to host foreign officials.
Petit Trianon. Housed within the park of the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon was created almost a century after the Grand Trianon for one of the King’s noble mistresses, Madame de Pompadour. Later in history it became the refuge of Marie Antoinette. The Petit Trianon, surrounded by classical gardens, is beautifully decorated with elegant woodwork, rich embellishments and grand marble columns.
Norte-Dame de Versailles. The Church of Norte-Dame de Versailles, situated only a few minutes’ walk from the central market and the Gardens of Versailles, exhibits beautiful neo-classical architecture with its elaborate floor and ceiling designs.
Markets. In addition to the royal palaces and gardens, it is worth visiting Versailles’ bustling markets and street stalls. During market days, don’t miss the Marche de Notre Dame, which features stalls offering a range of fresh French food from pastries to caviar. There’s also the Jussieu-Montreuil market, the best place to buy organic produce in the city.
Where to Stay
Trianon Palace Versailles. The Trianon Palace Versailles, a Waldorf Astoria hotel, is a luxury hotel set among centuries-old trees and verdant, rolling gardens which border the royal estate and gardens. The service is warm and professional and hotel’s concierge staff is excellent. For the best experience, we recommend booking a suite in the original palace building with views overlooking the park. The hotel offers two excellent restaurants, the sophisticated Pavillion restaurant and the Michelin one-star restaurant, Gordon Ramsey au Trianon. 1 boulevard de la Reine, website
Where to Eat
Le Sept. One of our favorite restaurants in Versailles is Le Sept, a cozy bistro located in the center of town. This small rustic bistro offers classic French dishes and over 200 wines, most of them biodynamic. Some of the classic dishes may include navarin d’agneau (lamb stewed with vegetables), blanquette de veau (veal in cream sauce) and cassoulet, as well as steaks and roast chicken. The hosts, Florent and Sophie Pavillard, are warm and welcoming and very passionate about what they do. Note that reservations are essential as it is an extremely popular spot. 7 rue de Montreuil; website
La Table du 11. Our other favorite restaurant in Versailles is La Table du 11, a stylish modern bistro with a market-driven menu helmed by Jean-François Lavergne Morazzani. After working with Yannick Alléno and Philippe Belissent in Paris, Morazzani returned to his hometown and opened this excellent modern bistro (and the slightly more casual Bistro du 11 down the block). The restaurant includes a light and airy interior with an open kitchen offering very creative market-driven dishes and an excellent wine list. Some recent favorites included a light appetizer of French beans with hazelnuts (haricots noisettes), scallops with black onions (coquilles Sant Jacques oignon noix) and, for dessert, strawberries with verbena (Fraise, verveine). 11, rue Saint-Honoré, website
Bistro de 11. The more casual sibling of La Table du 11, Bistro de 11 is small modern bistro offering excellent modern French dishes. Here you will find the same creativity from Jean-François Lavergne Morazzani offered in a more casual setting. The menu is market driven and the dishes change with the seasons. Some recent favorites included a beautiful Cod served on a bed of New Zealand spinach and roasted Hake with a bed cabbage. 10 rue de Satory, website
Ore. Super-star chef Alain Ducasse opened this sophisticated restaurant within the gates of Château de Versailles. Open to the public for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea (with evenings reserved for special events), this warm restaurant serves sophisticated dishes, including for lunch, duck foie gras, baked sea bream, celeriac and lovage (dorade cuite au plat, céleri rave et livèche), seared sea scallops served with tender squash (noix de saint-Jacques dorées, courge et sucs acidulés) and delicious soufflés. Since the restaurant is situated within the gates of the Palace, we suggest booking a table before exploring the Palace since you will be able to by-pass the often rather long lines. website
Le Boeuf a la Mode. Located near the Market of Notre Dame, this authentic bistro serves traditional French dishes in a 1930’s setting. The service is very friendly, and the food is excellent. Some of the classic French dishes include excellent home-made foie gras, traditional sausages from Lyon (Saucisson de Lyon), a traditional beef stew (Pot au feu) and Chicken Blanquette (Blanquette de volaille). For dessert, don’t miss their rice pudding or Floating Island (Ile flottante). 4 rue au Pain, website
Le Limousin. Located not far from the Palace, Le Limousin is a traditional bistro that serves classic French dishes. Popular with locals and tourists alike, the restaurant serves all classic French dishes, tough is particularly known for its roasted leg of lamb (gigot d’agneau) carved from gleaming silver serving trolleys. 1 rue de Satory, website