Lifestyle & Culture

Molly Wilkinson: How to go to the front of the line at Versailles and other tips

(Editor’s note: France is the No. 1 tourist destination in the world and anything in or near Paris, such as the Château de Versailles, is going to be packed. In early August, the Louvre instituted a reservations-required policy to deal with the crowds.)

ALL PHOTOS BY MOLLY WILKINSON

Château de Versailles is one of the most visited palaces in France, and a celebrated work of the 17th century. Its history began when the Sun King, Louis XIV, decided to turn his father’s hunting lodge into France’s new royal seat of power.

There it remained until the French Revolution, when it became the Museum of the History of France. There are more than 2,300 rooms in the chateau, and 800 hectares of gardens and park to discover.

Visiting the Versailles château has always been an event. It’s a bit different though from King Louis the XIV’s time where curtsies, a welcome party, and horns announced a royal arrival. Now you can expect to wait in line for upwards of two hours.

While the Sun King might be looking at the queue with a big smile on his face, those in line quickly lose the thrill of visiting. Not to worry though as there are ways to make your trip to Versailles more enjoyable, gold filled, and stress-free!

How to skip the line during your visit to Versailles:

  • Buy your tickets online up to three months before your visit and purchase a “Passport with timed entry.” With this you will select the time of your visit. Fly past the line to the middle entry point of the public entrance, marked with an “A,” show your passport either on your phone or printed out and effectively skip the line.
  • Buy a guided tour of the King’s Private Apartments. Probably one of the lesser known ways of visiting the chateau, and my preferred way. Be whisked behind the scenes with a small group to see rooms not open to the public. In each room you visit, your group is the only group there- making this a crowd-free, stress-free way to see Versailles.

Oh, and did we mention, with this ticket, again you skip the long entry line because you head to a different entry on the right wing of the chateau? After the tour, you are released into the public section. But after you see the crowds, you might change your mind and head to the gardens instead.

Other tips:

THE GARDENS OF VERSAILLES
  • The busiest days at the Château are Tuesdays and Saturdays. Low season is January to April.
  • New at the Château, a free phone charging area! It’s located at the left of the public entrance which leads to the Alain Ducasse restaurant. There are multiple boxes: choose one, plug in your phone, close the box and take the key. It’s as simple as that!
  • The gardens are free every day except the “Musical Fountain” show days which are on the weekends April-October, and on Tuesdays in May and June.
  • You can picnic in the park, but only in certain areas. They’re pretty easy to spot on the map as they are the areas not outlined in yellow, which are part of the main estate. The easiest? Head to the grand canal where the row boats are and picnic alongside.
  • The closest train station is Chateau Versailles Rive Gauche. On exiting the train station, go against the flow of the crowd and turn left, then right walking down a tree lined boulevard (way less populated than the one on the right of the train station). Soon you’ll see the Chateau come into view.
  • Allow yourself time to walk around the city of Versailles, particularly the Notre Dame and Saint Louis neighborhoods.
  • Looking for something fun to do after your visit to the Chateau? Take a pastry class with MollyJWilk and learn how to make French macarons, tarts, or other masterpieces in a classic Versailles apartment.

About Molly Wilkinson:

Ever attracted to all things sweet, Molly left her marketing career in Texas to become a certified pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 2013. She worked for several pastry shops in Texas including Bisous Bisous Patisserie, voted best bakery in Dallas in 2015, before returning to France.

Since then she has helped open a Mexican restaurant (her other love) and worked at Chateau de Gudanes.

Currently, she is living in Versailles, working freelance, writing, teaching pastry, and baking up a storm. You can follow her musings on being an expat in France and catch a recipe or two at her Molly J. Wilk blog here.

She also posts her recipes on Facebook, which you can see here.

Molly has regular baking classes, and you can register here.

You can see her Dispatches post here on how she got the Profession Libéral visa in France.

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