Whilst many think of Versailles as a palace in Paris, it's actually a city in its own right about ten miles outside of central Paris. The city was developed around the Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles) by Louis XIV, the then King of France, to ensure that the surrounding grounds matched the grandeur of his Palace. Octagonal squares, wide avenues, aristocratic mansions, and an impressive church were all built in the area, creating an impressively grand 'city' in the suburbs.
Today, Versailles is a popular day trip destination from the capital, with most visitors flocking to the famous Palace and gardens. However, a stroll around the city itself is also fascinating, offering a glimpse into 17th-century royal life.
Originally a hunting lodge, the Palace was transformed into a grand, royal building by Louis XIV, and later became a museum which today has a whole range of points of interest.
The epicentre of the Palace is the Galerie des Glaces - more commonly known as the Hall of Mirrors. This impressive hall is lined with over 350 mirrors, a true sign of opulence during the 17th century, when were considered as precious as diamonds. Plus, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in this room, so important history was made here.
You can also visit Marie Antoinette's bedroom, where 19 royal children were born, an impressive art collection depicting key events in French history, and the Grand Chapel - a Gothic-meets-Baroque structure with a beautiful painted ceiling and vast pillars.
Looking out of the central window of the Galerie des Glaces at the view known as Le grand perspective, the expansive Gardens of Versailles seem to go on forever.
Access to the gardens is free of charge, leaving you to explore to your heart's content. Look out for the garden groves, or outdoor 'rooms', the mile-long lake which forms the central feature of the symmetrical gardens, the impressive fountains, and manicured lawns.
In addition to the grounds, there are also various events which bring the fountains of the gardens to life. From March to October a musical fountain show happens every weekend, with additional shows added from July to September. There is also a nighttime show during the summer, where the fountains are beautifully illuminated, and a musical garden event which sets the outdoor sculpture museum to traditional Baroque music. Although the gardens are free, these events are all ticketed.
It's easy to get to Versailles from the capital; just hop on the RER local train from central Paris, which will drop you just five minutes away from the Palace (a single trip costs €3.65). Alternatively, lines N, L, and U all run from various locations in the Paris to within walking distance of the Palace. You can also get the number 171 RATP bus all the way to the Palace, which costs €1.90.
It is also possible to visit Versailles from Marseille and Lyon on the TGV train service if you decide to do a day trip from a city other than Paris.