We have seen the palace - but missed the gardens. We enjoyed being in Versailles (the town) and would like to go back. Are the gardens worth it on their own?
If you decide not to go back to Versailles and would like something different and uncrowded, consider going to the gardens (and chateau) at Vaux-le-Vicomte, during the week there should be no crowds or lines. Magnificent gardens designed by the famous landscape architect Le Notre, about 30 miles south of Paris.
Whether the gardens are "worth it" is probably somewhat a matter of opinion. I thought they were beautiful and quite enjoyed wandering around. However they are HUGE so wandering becomes a bit tiring after awhile. Fortunately there's a mini-train that takes visitors from the lake area back to the Chateau.
I sure thought they were worth it. The first time I was there I toured the palace and then spent only a short time in the gardens. I went back a couple of years ago just to 'do' the gardens and the smaller palaces. Have you been to the trianons and Marie's hamlet? If not then it makes it definitely worth going back. I spent half a day visiting the trianon palaces (totally uncrowded and much more manageable than the main palace), the hamlet and wandering the gardens. I also enjoyed a picnic in the park by the lake after wandering around the gardens.
The gardens are well worth going back to see on their own.
The gardens and grounds around the Versailles are vast - the formal gardens are tucked around the main palace, the Trianons, and the Petite Hameau. Most of the rest is forests, allees of trees, and fields of wheat. There is too much to walk. I don't even like to walk out to the hameau and the trianons - it's so far and takes so much time.
That said, I think it is worth a visit just to experience the gardens and grounds. They are beautiful! A really lovely way to see is to rent bikes down by the Grand Canal. You can use them to get around everywhere except in the gardens directly adjacent to the chateau. The crowds disappear quickly once you get away from the main buildings and it's quite beautiful. You get a sense of what it was like when it was still a residence. Take a picnic and enjoy!
Someone previously suggested Vaux le Vicomte...these gardens are all very formal and walkable. If you don't have at least 1/2 a day and just want to see a good example of formal chateau gardens then this might be a better choice. It is a bit more difficult to get to by public transport but if you have a car it's not difficult at all. They light up the gardens and the chateau by candlelight at night during the summer months which is really something to see if you have the time in your schedule.
In my opinion, the gardens are the better part of Versailles. The Hamlet area is a 'not to miss.'
Another vote for the gardens. I personally like visiting them far more than the palace.
Bike riding, boating on the canal, visiting the Trianons and Hamlet and having a picnic are all great things to do in the gardens. If you visit on a non-fountain day, the crowds are less and all of the gardens are free (you still pay to visit inside the Trianons).