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Versailles Advice

Hello, my husband and I are traveling with his 75 yr old father this June to France. Versailles is very high on his list of "must sees". My husband and have been there before and are well aware of the massive crowd situation in the summer season. I am seeking advice on what everyone thinks would be the easiest way for him to see Versailles. He is in good health.

1) do a motorcoach tour (which doesn't seem to get good reviews) just because there would be ease of getting to and from and able to skip the line
2) maybe hire transport to and from and do either tour on our own or scheduled a guided tour there (does this allow you to skip the line?)
3) has anyone done what the website suggests (high season, go to gardens first, then Trianon Palces/Domaine de Marie-Antoinette), then the Chateau. I know Rick recommends the reverse.

Thanks in advance

Posted by
16834 posts

On item 3, I'd say yes, get there as early as possible to rent one of the golf carts. I recall they only seat 2, but they are set at a low speed so one person can tag along without too much trouble. Can't really remember since there was only 2 of us. A lot of people stuck out their thumbs when we drove by.

Posted by
11450 posts

My 79 yr old father is not frail.. so for me its hard to know how much extra you need to do for your dad.. I would never take the motorcoach tour,, you are herded around and only get 4 hours there.. which is not enough time to see all the other parts of the Estate.. Marie Antionettes hamlet, the Grand and Petit Triannons etc.
I would still just take the RER there, its like 5 min walk to palace.. there are however buses ( I have not taken one but maybe someone can help you there) that wait outside train station too.
Yes, renting a golf cart is a good idea ,but they are first come first served and seem to go fast. There is also a little tram /bus that takes you around the grounds so if you don't get a golf cart its easy to hop one of them.
I have been to Versailles at least 8 or 9 times now.. and yes. its always insane in the palace.. but one year.. I had my dd with me and we slept in.. and didn't arrive at Versailles till 1 in afternoon at least.. it was our last chance to see it as we were leaving so I was very upset we had slept in and arrived so late.. but you know.. it was a bit less crowded inside.. still lots of people, but way better then say anything in the morning.. so yes.. I do wonder if going on purpose later in day may work,, or if going early but doing the outer grounds first ( when you can get a golf cart too) and then saving the palace itself for after lunch may not be the best way to do it.

Posted by
5697 posts

Well, I went to Versailles last October with my 70-year-old self. By using a Paris Museum Pass there was no ticket-buying line, only the line for security, and I don't think there's any way to skip that one.

RS recommends the early start at the chateau, BUT he also suggests the alternative (for late risers) of starting at noon at the Trianon/.Domaine and moving up to the gardens and the Chateau after the crowds thin out.

I would vote for just taking the RER to and from Versailles rather than a motorcoach tour just for the flexibility of scheduling your own arrival and deparure times and sitting/snack breaks. (But I am not a fan of big-bus touring.)

Posted by
1770 posts

Yes, we visited in May and did what you suggest in number 3. I believe Rick recommends a bus to get from the RER directly to the Trianon area. You might consider that, then make your way back through the gardens and to the chateau. Admittedly, we have visited other palaces in Europe, but for me the Domaine and the gardens were the highlights.

Posted by
3336 posts

I'm not sure if this is an option for you but if you might have a car there is a very easy way to get around the grounds of Versailles. A few summers ago when we were staying in a town near Versailles for 5 weeks, we discovered that you can drive right onto the grounds of the palace at a small, north entrance. You simply pay a reasonable admission fee and drive right in! It was such a treat to be able to go, drive onto the grounds, and just experience different parts of the gardens, wheat fields, lakes, and small forests.

There are multiple car parks on the grounds by the Petite Trianon, the Petite Hameau, the Grand Canal, and other more remote places in the palace grounds. You can just drive from place to place at your leisure. The car park by the Grand Canal, hidden in the trees to the north of it, is a relatively short walk from the back of the chateau up through the beautiful fountain gardens. Maybe see the places in the grounds first, then park by the canal and see the chateau in the afternoon when it is sometimes a little less crowded? It's something to consider...

Posted by
1976 posts

I was there for a day in September 2012 and the "worst" part was inside the palace because of crowds. You could hardly see the objects in some of the rooms. If your dad can stand and walk for long periods of time, then Versailles in general shouldn't be a problem. It's an easy walk from the train station to the grounds, and if you can skip the ticket line then that will save additional sightseeing energy. We visited the palace first and then went out to the grounds, which, along with being gorgeous and unbelievably vast, was a relief because we finally got away from the herd. :)

Posted by
8296 posts

I often read posts that say it's an easy walk from the train station to the palace but I think it's pretty far if you have any issues with walking and the very long stretch of cobblestones leading up to the entrance can be difficult. Just sayin...
We had to rent a golf cart once and it easily sat 4 people.

Posted by
3769 posts

You might try entering thru the St. Antoine Gate, there is bus line that runs from the station and drops you about a block from there. See the Hamlet first and work your way back thru the Gardens.
The tram runs from the entrance of the Hamlet to the Chateau back and forth all day. Price when last there 6,50E
The golf carts run about 30E per hour and seat 4. They are "path specific" if you go off the path they may shut down. Pick up at the Orangerie.
So start at the Hamlet, do the Gardens, then the Chateau. Use the cart to see more after the Chateau.

Posted by
8296 posts

As someone else said, the carts go very fast as soon as they open and are first come first served. You may not get one later in the day.

Posted by
158 posts

Another option would be to hire a private guide to take you. We didn't want to wait in lines with the children last summer. We hired a private guide through Toursbylocals.com. She was wonderful! She met us at our hotel, we traveled by RER to Versailles, we skipped teh ticket line and security line (there's a side entrance we used). She brought us through the chateau, then we had a picnic lunch and wandered teh gardens, with her showing the way to the fountains that she thought we'd enjoy most. We visited the Trianon and Marie's hamlet. It took the full day. Cost about 350euros and was worth every cent (for us).

Posted by
11450 posts

Joanne that does sound like an awesome tour.. really.. but 500 dollars is alot of money for many folks.. I do agree it sounded very good though..

Posted by
36 posts

Thank you all. I agree the 500 dollars is alot but I may consider it since this is important to my father in law and I want to make it as comfortable as possible. Joanne, do you remember the name of the tour guide you used?

Posted by
11450 posts

Stephanie.. you know when I think about it a bit.. I think there is no price limit on helping your dad to be able to check off something off his "bucket list".

I think it could be money well spent if it works out as well as previous poster made it sound.. I think I would google for a few more reviews of this tour company.. maybe post on tripadvisor.com Paris forums and check it out.. but really.. 500 dollars for something priceless..yes.. I can understand making it a priority in your case ( I would think two 20 yr olds taking such a tour was frivolous..lol )

Good luck and let us know how it goes if you take the tour .. thanks..

Posted by
158 posts

Hi Stephanie. The company toursbylocals.com is actually based in Canada (BC I believe). The tour guide we hired was Eugenie. We also did her Louvre half day tour (another I would HIGHLY recommend). I tried to do a review on Tripadvisors but it was refused. I couldn't review her specifically and I was told that toursbylocals wasn't the type of tour company that I was allowed to review there. I believe it had something to do with teh fact that they don't have a brick and mortar presence. It explains why I couldn't find any reviews prior to booking her myself. Toursbylocals.com actually has their own reviews on their website though.

The companyw as great to deal with as I had initially paid in US dollars by mistake so I contacted them. they amended my online order so that I could pay in CDN dollars and not have the exchange rate on my credit card.

There's the ability to send messages to the potential guide in advance. Eugenie was wonderful at responding to all of my questions before I even booked her as a guide. She was great with teh children (ages 5, 7 and 10). Very calm and patient. She never had a 'hurry up and go' mentality. She's has a background in art history so really knew her stuff but also had an ability to 'dumb' it down for us as we have no art history background at all.

Any other questions, just ask.

Pat, I agree it was expensive and its certainly not something that everyone would be able to do. We're fortunate. We really wanted to visit Versailles but I wasn't up to putting the children through the lines there. I also knew that with them with us, having an audioguide on our ears wouldn't make for the best experience. Our hotel was booked on points so we made a judgment call and splurged (same reasons for the Louvre). Everywhere else we explored on our own and we all had a wonderful time, including the kids :-)

Posted by
123 posts

You say he is in good health, but is he able to stand and walk for long periods of time? If your father has a handicap and you have proof - say a handicap placard for a car you can skip the line. Read up on their site about the entrance for handicap visitors. As far as touring, I think they rent the guides you carry and hold up to your ear. I saw some tour guides with groups but it was so loud and crowded I really don't know how the people could hear them.