I went to Versailles last Friday, 6/22. I got there at 12:30. The “security” (a very quick look in your bag) line was very short, took maybe 5 min. It was a fountain day which I didn’t know. I never saw a fountain running in the 6 hrs I was in the gardens.
halfdozmom, to just do the gardens, as I did, you still have to go through the security line (which you probably already know). I did not buy tickets for the gardens ahead of time. I waited 3 min in line and bought them there.
I’ve been to Versailles probably 25 times in my life (grew up in Paris) and I love it there. Absolutely go.
This is the first time I did not tour the palace, I just went straight to the gardens b/c my most favorites to visit are the Petit Trianon and the Hamlet.
The gardens between the palace and the Grand Canal are beautiful, and the rest of the grounds are as well, in a different way.
I’ve complained about the music blaring on fountain days over a very bad PA system on this forum, but they must have put in a new PA system because this time it was not scratchy and blaring - it actually sounded good.
We usually always rent bikes, and I did this time. They are located right next to the Grand Canal. €20 for any amount of time over 4 hrs. They are a great way to get around, on your own schedule, inexpensive, fun and you can see so much more of the grounds than any other way.
I don’t like the little train. You have to wait for it, often in the sun, they smash you in w too many people, it costs I forget how much, it’s an uncomfortable bumpy ride, and they don’t take you through the pretty gardens. That said, it’s still an option when you’re tired.
You cannot, however, ride a bike to the Hamlet anymore. Used to be a great advantage of renting a bike. They have a back entrance where we rode to and could enter the Hamlet there. That back entrance has been closed for 3 yrs now and I was told permanently closed (I hope not). Now you can only get to the Hamlet by entering the Petit Trianon (cost: €12) and walking there. Bikes still a good idea to get to the Grand and Petit Trianon. Google Maps says the Hamlet is 550 meters and 7 min from the Petit Trianon to the Hamlet. It felt longer and took much longer than that for me and I’m a good walker. It is a beautiful walk.
I love the Petit Trianon and it’s well worth the €12. I’ve always loved the Hamlet, but it has undergone extensive renovation and it felt very “Disney” to me this time. Like it was brand new, built by Disney, didn’t feel real/authentic like it used to. Still worth going though. Be aware there are no bathrooms there (per the woman selling tickets at the PT), I didn’t look for any when I was there so can’t say if she was right.
I did not find the palace gardens too horribly crowded. More people than I would have liked, but you have to expect that in summer months.
I left it up in the air if I would tour the palace towards the end of the day and decided not to. There was not a long line to get in later in the afternoon. I think a good strategy when Versailles is crowded is tour the palace 1 - 1.5 hrs before it closes. Most people tour the palace, then do the gardens/grounds which means the palace is less crowded later in the day.
As to umbrellas, I always carry mine in Paris because it can be sunny/blue skies one minute and pouring rain the next minute. I also use it if I’m in the sun for more than 5 min. I bought a small umbrella at a fantastic umbrella store (Simon) on Blvd St Michel this trip b/c it only weighs an ounce or so. It is as light as a feather. So, carrying it in my purse adds no weight. It is German, just came on the market 2 wks ago, and is very well made.
As to carts, we rented them in 2005 after my son’s open heart surgery and they were great, and a lot of fun despite crazy expensive.
I hope you enjoy your day there. It’s a special place, with so much fascinating history. I hope you can get away from the most crowded parts and enjoy.