Please sign in to post.

Are Two Palaces One Palace Too Many?

Having spent a LOT of time coming up with an itinerary for our April 2020 visit to Madrid (five nights), Paris (five nights) and England (nine nights in London split by three nights in Wiltshire), we’re now fine-tuning things. One thought that arises is this—are two palaces one palace too many for two “casual” observers? More specifically, can we delete either the Royal Palace in Madrid or just skip Versailles instead? Skipping the palace in Madrid gives us a few extra hours to mosey around the city, while skipping Versailles frees up a whole day for Paris and eliminates the crowd and access issues associated with Versailles.

I guess I hope to be told that seeing the Royal Palace is a sufficient glimpse at the luxury enjoyed by European royalty, but a nagging thought remains—how can one possibly miss the opportunity to see Versailles!? Also, will the gardens at Versailles be so spectacular in early April?

Obviously, this decision is ours alone, but any thoughts y’all have would be most appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
29253 posts

I don't know anything about the Spanish castle, but I can assure you that Versailles is by no means a castle. It is a palace. If you want a palatial castle I'd suggest Windsor Castle or Tower of London, both of which are in England and both are much more castle like.

You get royalty at Windsor too.

Posted by
129 posts

Rats, Nigel. Not sure how I subbed "castle" for "palace"! I've even had my AM coffee, so no excuse there. ;«) I'll fix that pronto!

Posted by
776 posts

You'll get lots of opinions. Here's mine. I've lived part time in Paris for 25 years and made exactly one visit to Versailles, 25 years ago without the crowd issues of today. I have no desire to return as looking at royal splendor constructed at the expense of starving peasants is not my thing. While in Paris, you might enjoy riding to the end of #1 metro to look at the Chateau de Vincennes.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Vincennes

Posted by
5400 posts

The Madrid palace is interesting, but not nearly as over-the-top as Versailles. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to return to either one, but that's me. I balked at the Loire Valley RS tour this year, partly because of all the castles/palaces.

Seeing either would be interesting; it is hard to imagine the splendor of Versailles if you haven't actually seen it, but yes, it is very crowded - shoulder to shoulder when we were there some years ago. And the gardens are nice, but wouldn't draw me back. The only part of Versailles I actually enjoyed was Marie Antoinette's hamlet.

Posted by
7002 posts

The palace in Madrid is not even slightly in the same league with Versailles. If you only have energy for one make it Versailles. It is totally amazing and gives you real insight into the impetus for the French Revolution. It is one of the most historically important royal residences in the world.

Posted by
8671 posts

The answer to your question, for me, is no. Two palaces, or castles, are not too many.

In 58 yrs of living in Paris, and visiting often, i adore Versailles and never tire of it.

We are all different. There is no one answer.

Posted by
3506 posts

I much prefer Madrid to Versailles-the rooms are more beautiful and its not as big. I also liked Palace in Madrid more than I liked Windsor.

Posted by
2651 posts

IMHO, the Royal Palace in Madrid should provide a sufficient glimpse of the luxury enjoyed by European royalty UNLESS, you or one of your traveling companions has a burning desire to see Versailles.

As you pointed out, Versailles will take up an entire Paris day, and you can enjoy the Royal Palace in Madrid in a couple of hours.

Posted by
537 posts

Two palaces are not one too many, especially since they are in completely different locations.

Now, I have only visited the outside of the Madrid palace and it was enough just walking around. The Rick Steves walking tour was very nice for that.

Versailles is something altogether different. It is a palace, but the gardens are also magnificent.

Posted by
4825 posts

With five nights in Madrid you have ample time for the Royal Palace there. With the same amount of time in Paris, Versailles will eat up a day you could use in town. I vote Madrid.

Posted by
4678 posts

Have been to Versailles once and the Royal Palace in Madrid twice, and don’t care if I ever return to either. I enjoyed both, but I’ve seen enough palaces and chateaus to last a lifetime. I don’t think you’d be disappointed seeing both. Madrid’s Palace requires less time to visit and is more centrally located to other sights that are all within walking distance. Your choice on which to visit.

Posted by
129 posts

I appreciate the replies to date, please keep 'em coming. We do realize that Versailles is much more "sumptuous", but with limited time in Paris...well, one can't see everything. And again, the access issue and crowds at Versailles weigh heavily.

Posted by
11459 posts

My honest opinion is , that if you have to ask , skip it .

I mean I love visiting Versailles - and have visited at least a dozen times sine the 70s , but I love the feeling of history there ( the old “ walking in the footsteps of “ feeling ) , but the crowds inside the palace have become a real issue - so if you’re not into taking baby steps with the elbows and backs of hundreds of strangers surrounding you as you mince on a one way flow through the palace rooms , if the actual history doesn’t really interest you , then skip it by all means .

Posted by
2262 posts

What about Fountainebleau instead of Versailles. Similar experience with practically no crowds. I was totally alone this March for example. Could easily be done in half a day.

Posted by
12 posts

Personally with only 4 days in Paris, I’d skip Versailles, see the King’s Apartment in the Decorative Arts wing of the Louvre, it’s a smaller Versailles, cleaner and not crowded. Virtually same decor and time period. History, too. I was very disappointed in Versailles’s gardens, the only amazing part was the size. Villandry, a Loire Valley chateau had the best formal gardens. Or of course Monet’s Giverny garden, which is very different in style, is glorious.

If you like Monet and/or his art, I’d do a day trip to Giverny over Versailles.

Posted by
7002 posts

I myself prefer Vaux le Vicompte to Fontainebleau but frankly they are both ordinary luxury chateaux and neither is in a league with Versailles. Going to Fontainebleau does not give you 'the same experience without the crowds' -- Versailles is leagues ahead in terms of excess. And the gardens are even more magnificent than those at Vaux.

And in Spain -- well the most amazing thing to see there is IMHO the Mesquita. After that the Alhambra and the Alcazar in Seville provide the most amazing and unique experiences. Nothing in Madrid comes close. Of course in Madrid you have the Prado which is terrific but a different kind of experience..

Posted by
22504 posts

My take: Two palaces is two too many. I really dislike most of the furniture I see in such places. The floors and ceilings are often nice, but I've stumbled on some museums housed in former palaces and was able to look at their floors and ceilings along with the museum displays, at no extra cost!

I know many people have different tastes from mine, but I am puzzled that (I think) 100% of the proposed first-time itineraries for Paris posted here include Versailles. Surely not everyone loves that level of excess. And that's without considering the entry fee, the time required, the currently-terrible/overcrowded conditions or all the other fascinating alternatives to see in Paris. I see Versailles on every, single, list of sights, even when folks have only 3 days in Paris! I don't get it.

I found the Royal Palace in Madrid dull, but let's face it: Madrid isn't Paris. If you don't care for art museums, it's not even Lyon (to me). What else are you going to do with 2 or 3 hours in Madrid?

Posted by
2145 posts

I have been to both and here are my thoughts, since you asked. If you are pressed for time, really pressed for time, then yes, two might be one too many and I would probably go along with the majority here are recommend Versailles for the historical perspective. For me, a decision would depend on the timing of my visits (as always, as early as you are comfortable with!). We were lucky with our Versailles visit in July this year-on the 108 degree day. No crowds and the ac was really working! It was a much more pleasant visit than I expected when my granddaughters really wanted to go! However, I found the two sites/sights very different and enjoyed each one for what they offered. It's your choice and you should choose whatever really "speaks" to you at the time. And as I always like to say to myself....it's always ok to "always leave something to come back for..."

Posted by
750 posts

If you are arriving in Madrid from the US, jet lag may make “moseying around” a better alternative to a palace visit. A little more flexibility. By the time you get to Paris you should then be ready for a fuller schedule, which could include a palace, Versailles.

In my experience, the number of Versailles visitors in early April is not as high as in July and August. You will be there at one of the better times of year. And the gardeners will not disappoint. You will also see the trees and bosquets leafing out.

With advance timed entry tickets, and by adding a private apartments tour, you can avoid the general admission lines. (Plenty of advice about that on this forum.)

Posted by
2262 posts

Just me but I found the experience of Versailles be highly overrated outside of the gardens. I don’t ever have to go back.

No it doesn’t compare Other places. 50% of your fellow guests are that particular palace are there because it’s on some checklist of things you should do in Europe, IMHO It’s overrated and overrun. And I would go someplace else It’s much easier to actually imagine what life was like because you aren’t being run through with 5000 other tourists . I’m sure the hall of mirrors be nice if you could ask experience it the way it supposed to be experienced but It’s not what you’re going to get

I will say that while I love Madrid the royal palace was not one of my favorite things there.

Posted by
4125 posts

You are hereby allowed to skip BOTH castles. If they do not call to you, I suggest doing exactly that. It's your trip!

If you ever develop an interest in Renaissance chateaux, you can go back.

Posted by
15328 posts

Another side of the issue . . . .

Whatever you choose to see anywhere means not seeing something else that is also great. Both palaces have been standing for centuries, they'll both be there on your next trip too.

Rick rates the top 3 palaces of Europe (FWIW), Versailles, then Schonbrunn (Vienna), then Madrid. Versailles has the huge, opulent palace, extensive gardens and other beautiful, charming sights on the grounds like Marie Antoinette's Hamlet and the Petit Trianon. The Madrid palace lacks the gardens, has a couple interesting small museums.

I'm not sure the Versailles gardens are ever "spectacular" but they'll probably be nicer in April than summer. At least Paris was - all the trees and bushes were in bloom, pastel explosions of color everywhere and fragrant lilacs. If you aren't there right around Easter break and don't go on the weekend, Versailles shouldn't be very crowded in April.

Just realized you wrote early April. Trees may only begin to bloom then, but the orange trees at Versailles should be blooming and very fragrant.

Posted by
1762 posts

Once in Madrid you don’t need much time to go to the Royal Palace, with a bit of luck it’s at walking distance from your hotel. So you can easily decide there if you want spending a few hours for a visit or not, so to my idea you don’t have to worry about it now.

Versailles is a different story as you will need way more travelling time (train journey alone 45 min. in each direction from Paris) and as it is so unbelievably huge (buildings and park) you will need several visits to have an idea what it really represents. So it can easily eat up the major part of a day, so in this case a visit needs to be planned. For going inside the main building book tickets online (media retailer FNAC sells them too) and go as early or late as possible to skip the lines and avoid the crowds.

If you like Versailles or not remains always personal and you only can say that (ofcourse) once having visited it. But to my opinion it’s worth a visit even a “short one” and hard to imagine it will not impress one way or another.

Posted by
12006 posts

Skip the Royal Palace in Madrid. It isn't even a glimmer of Versailles, from either a history, variety of things to see (main palace, little palace, gardens, fantasy rural village) or "palace" feel. Madrid is the newest capital in Europe. It was a tiny town before the Hapsburgs moved the capital there in the 1500's. Both the palace and the cathedral across from it are probably the least interesting in Europe.

In fact, if I wanted to visit a palace in Spain. I'd go to Aranjuez.

Personally I much prefer historical places so IMO the Alacazar in Seville or the Alhambra in Grenada are much better sights.

Posted by
1919 posts

If you had a full two weeks in Paris, I would suggest considering doing the trip to Versailles. But since you have only four days and a trip to Versailles would eat up one, I suggest you save it for another trip.

You'll be pushed to appreciate Paris in just four days. I also suggest you carefully budget your time. Don't spend hours in line to see the "biggies". Also, set aside plenty of time for just "being" in Paris, such as wandering around Montmartre, visiting Pere La Chaise cemetery and environs and just strolling along the Seine.