We are planning a day trip to Versailles with our kids ages 11 and 15. To get the most out of it, should we pay a group like Paris Walks for a guided tour? Or can we have a lot of fun and still learn a lot without a paid tour? I'm afraid my kids won't listen to the Rick Steves audio tours (we can try it - but I can hear the complaints already). Neither my husband or I know French history that well. How can we maximize fun, engagement, and little bit of learning history without a guided tour and two very persnickety pre-teens/teens?
We did Versailles in 2015 and just showed up without booking a tour. Fortunately, admission to the building included an excellent guided tour. We didn't do the gardens.
I took my three boys 16, 17 and 11 to Versailles last spring break and we pre bought tickets for first thing in the morning and when we arrived bought the audio tour that wear around your neck and walked through at our own pace. They liked the independence of stopping and listening to things that caught their attention, walking ahead and then come back to find me, and repeating things they found interesting to me or their brothers. If I thought they missed something really major (hall of mirrors or the room where France decided to join the Americans in their fight for independence etc - I had them come stand with me and play the parts over again. My older son had taken world history in high school already so he was really into it. Their favorite part of Versailles - besides taken selfies in the famous rooms - was renting bikes and riding around the lake/pond on the grounds. It took well us over an hour - but they still talk about it today. We also liked sitting in a little coffee shop and eating macarons and other treats talking about what we just experienced and then afterwards eating macarons at McDonalds afterwards for a 1 euro. LOL Before our trip, I did make my 11 year old read those kid books: "What is Versailles?" "Who was Marie Antoinette?" and "What was the French Revolution?" from our local library. And it made his experience there much more enjoyable too as he made connections when he saw things in person and shared things with me from those little books. Hope you have as much fun as we did.
Well you know you. We loath tours and do them only when we have no other option to see something. So our answer would always be 'no' to this. but what does your family enjoy? Before the trip the family should bone up on French history to the revolution so they have some context for Versailles. Then once there you can get headsets/audios if you like to use that sort of devise. We again don't. We prefer to read up a bit and then look at things rather than be locked to a recording.
Very interested in this thread as I'm taking my sister and two nieces to Paris in June 2023! The girls will be 11 and 15 then. Sounds like an audio tour might be fun for them...
There are certainly a few historical fiction movies about the action at Versailles. Even more fictional, but more fun and more (I thought) insightful was about a provincial chateau forced to entertain the king, "Vatel".
Weather permitting, the grounds and gardens are a must. Who wouldn't want to see where Marie Antoinette played at being a peasant?
Fun at Versailles for 11 and 15 year olds? LOL. Anyway, if you guys bicycle, you might want to try Fat Tire Tours. My children hated Versailles -- they were 5 and 12 when they went for the first time and I still have not been able to get the now 17 year old to go back. Of course, he was almost crushed by a tour group when he was 5 so we understand. The then 12 year old agreed to try it again a few years ago and did a Fat Tire tour and liked the tour a lot but she still lists Versailles as option 1 when asked what to skip during a short trip to Paris.
Thanks for this - but I'm wondering if folks did not understand my original question. My main question has to do with whether we should pay for a guide to walk us through or not - if that will make it more engaging for all of us, and help us take full advantage of being there - or if that's not really necessary.
I don't think a tour is a must-do. Versailles' magnificence needs little explanation, and it is very straightforward to read up on Versailles' history beforehand. And with kids/teens, you might prefer to be free to set your own pace.
What I do not know, is whether a tour helps to deal with the crowds. Maybe others know better, after all I haven't been inside the palace in many years.
A good guide will have stories and anecdotes, should engage the children. If that's what it takes to win them over and make them love travel and exploration, yes, get a guide who can relate to pre-teens and teens. You have one chance to successfully introduce this new experience. Iris Amice does family tours. I don't know if she does Versailles. My last contact for her: email@example.com
She should be able to recommend others.
Or, Fat Tire Tours, where you ride bikes.