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Versailles + Loire

We will be in France April 19 - May 1, staying in the 2nd for 7 days before heading out to Versailles and the Loire Valley. Can you help me with some logistical questions?
Am I better off taking the train to Versailles (the town) and spending the night before a full day there, or getting up early for a day trip?
At the palace, a bike tour (Fat Tire, etc...) interests me, but they all seem to have market shopping, a bike tour of the grounds and distant buildings, followed by an afternoon timed entry to the Palace. However, I keep reading that being in the first timed group (or even getting in line an hour before opening) yields a fairly empty Palace - something I'd like. I also want to see the King's Rooms; Versailles has openings for that tour in the morning. Thoughts on just doing Versailles on our own, including renting bikes to see the grounds and the other buildings on property?
Thoughts on staying in Versailles the night before?
We want to be in the Loire Valley Thursday night/Friday morning, for 3 days there. Aside from the chateaus, we would like to visit some wineries. Any favorites or ideas about an itinerary to blend the two? Should we rent the car in Versailles and return it in Tours (taking the train back to Paris), or is it better to handle the car rental some other way?
Finally, should we hotel back in Paris the night before we leave (for one last Pain au Chocolat before leaving France) or get a hotel by CDG? Our flight is Monday, May 1st, at 11:30am and I would like to be as well rested as possible for the long flights back to New Orleans.

Posted by
7702 posts

I have been to Versailles twice, the last time in 2015.
The best way to get there is take the train. No need to spend the night there before visiting. When we did it, we didn't book timed entry. Not sure if you would need to do that.

My sense is that the palace will be busy no matter when you go, but going early is likely a good idea.
Once you have seen the palace, do yo u want to do the gardens? No need to rent bikes.

As for the Loire Valley, we did that some years ago and took the train to Blois, found a great hotel near the river and did Chateaus for a couple of days. You won't need a rental car. Frankly, I don't remember how we got to the Chateaus from the town, but we didn't have a car.

Driving in Paris is a pain, I did that once and never again.
If you get up early, you can take the RER to CDG, no problem.

Posted by
4166 posts

Jennifer, I haven't been, but that Fat Tire Bike tour sounds great. We used Fat Tire in Barcelona and enjoyed it.

Posted by
7394 posts

Do you understand that Versailles isn't that far away? You take the RER, a commuter train one step up from the Metro. There is some value to picking up a car outside Paris, however. We rented in St. Pierre des Corps, after taking the TGV from Paris. Only minus is those rental offices close from 12-2. But there is nothing to see (without a substantial detour off the highway and then a stop after finding parking ... ) on the drive to the Loire.

To me, a bike has nothing to do with Versailles, the palace and gardens. Your report on the bike tour marketing raises the issue of whether you want a professional guide anyway, and whether you think the bikes are a tree hugging alternative to .... [as I said] walking? The gardens are a lot of walking for an old person with bad knees, but there is plenty to see from a walking pace for the young and the middle-aged. A warm winter maybe means some flowering trees and shrubs as early as your visit.

Are you unaware that airlines require a 3-hour check-in? Economy class check-in lines can be long and slow. And that you will have to buy a walk-up retail price fare if you miss your flight? You MUST spend the night before your return flight in Paris. Take a taxi or the RER to the airport. Most people find the flight back west to be less troublesome than the flight to France.

Posted by
6930 posts

Even though for most travellers, visiting Versailles from Paris (staying in Paris) is what makes the most sense, in your case I do lean towards spending the night in Versailles.
That way, you will be able to leave your luggage at your Versailles hotel, visit the palace and the grounds until mid afternoon, then rent a car in Versailles to drive the 2-2.5 hours to the Loire.
Instead of going back to Paris, then only setting off to the Loire the following morning by train or car.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for the responses!

A few things I forgot to mention - we will be walking so much in Paris, that I thought cycling around Versailles would be a fun change of pace. We want to see as much of the property as possible, going beyond the gardens and to Petit and Grand Trianon, along with the Queen's Hamlet. Many say that they don't get to those places because it takes too long to walk or wait for a shuttle. So, I thought of bicycles.

With an 11:30am flight, I plan to arrive at CDG by 7:30am. Thus, I was thinking it a good idea to spend the night at an airport hotel.

Any favorite wineries in the Loire?

Posted by
7394 posts

It's a pretty common reply on this news board to say that it doesn't take that long to get to CDG and it's so nice to spend your last night in Paris that you should try to do that. I suppose it's a factor whether you can afford to pay for a taxi, especially if there turns out to be a Metro/RER construction project or a strike! And you're depending on the hotel desk clerk to do what he promised, to call his brother-in-law's taxi company to pick you up early! But we usually spend the last night in downtown Paris . I admit if you can't afford a taxi and have to take two Metro trains and the RER, it's not so practical.

On-Airport hotels tend to be expensive, and if you're going to end up at an off-airport with a third-party shuttle that isn't even free (?), why not enjoy Paris?

One option is to take one night from your first Paris segment and apply it to the final Paris segment, so that you actually feel like you were just in Paris when you fly home. Seems like a nice feeling to me.

Our Loire stay was only 3 nights, and we didn't visit any wineries. Some of our dinner restaurants had local wines they vouched for. I was sorry to miss any Candlelight events or Son Et Lumiere in the Loire, but you won't find that in April. And the Villandry garden won't be giving away excess produce in April.

Posted by
1 posts

I have a question related to Versailles. I plan to buy timed tickets but am a little unclear about the entry process. Rick's book says to get in line as soon as possible (pg 188 of the France book). If I have a timed ticket, do I still have to wait in line? I understand that if I arrive before my start time, I would have to wait. But hopefully a timed ticket allows me to enter somewhere within the 30-minute range of the ticket. Can someone clarify? Many thanks!

Posted by
610 posts

2015 was the last time I was at Versailles, so I'm not sure how useful my report is, but we did go on the RER early in the morning and get in line an hour before the opening. We were the very first inside and got a completely empty view of the Hall of Mirrors. It was amazing and worth the wait. We didn't find it necessary to spend the night there.

Posted by
6930 posts

7.30 am is overkill for an 11.30 am flight; recommended is 8.30 and 8.00 would be very prudent already. A hotel in Paris will do the trick! There will be absolutely zero traffic on the morning of 1 May, but you'll absolutely need to prebook a taxi (suggestion: use G7 taxi app).

As for biking in Versailles: it is a lovely idea!
I moved a bit further away, but when I lived in the 15th and 16th arrondissements I would regularly bike all the way to Versailles and tour the grounds by bike. They're stunning and very popular with locals and tourists alike. Conversely, I have not been to the gardens beyond the fare gate and the palace proper in many, many years.

Posted by
322 posts

The grounds at Versailles are quite extensive. If you don't want to bike you can also rent a golf cart. We had a family of 4 so the cart made sense. It was fun and much quicker to see the grounds and the Trianon Palace/Domaine de Marie-Antoinette.

We're about to visit the Loire and we're taking a train to and from Amboise and renting a car in that city to visit the Loire chateaus.