Versailles at Christmas

My plans are well underway for a trip to Spain and France at the end of December. I know this is not a great time of year to visit, weather-wise, but this is a matter of seizing the day; we are meeting our study-abroad college senior at the end of her semester because her life is already planned out after graduation in the spring. Has anyone visited Versailles during Christmas week? We would love to go there if we can. I am a bit frustrated because although RS's book sings the virtues of visiting sights in Europe in the winter when the tourists are gone, it hints that Paris is crowded with tourists during Christmas week. The otherwise detailed supply of information in the guide is pretty sketchy about the holidaysabout how crowded, and about how to plan. Should we use the summer tourist season as a rule of thumb? We would like to visit Versailles while we are there, but are uncertain if it will be crowded the Wednesday after Christmas, as it usually in summer, or if it will be dead because it is the day after Christmas.
Also, will there be places to eat on the grounds?It might be too cold to trek into town mid-day for a meal, then trek back to visit some of the gardens. I assume it will be too cold to picnic. Do you know if the shuttles or bikes or little golf carts will be operating to get to the Trianon, etc?

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3207 posts

Virginia, I haven't been there at Christmas. But Conor's post is helpful in that regard. I do think the bikes are worthwhile though. It's a long way from the Grand Canal where you rent bikes to Marie Antoinette's Hamlet (don't miss it) and a fair distance from the bike rental to the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon (also very worthwhile). If you like to ride a bike it's a very fun way to see everything, ride through the forest (part of the grounds), around the Grand canal... and even into town to get something to eat (better choices/quality than what you'll find on the grounds) then back. I love Versailles and I hope you really enjoy it there!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

Versailles will be crowded. When I was there over the holidays a few years there was a blanket of snow on the grounds and there was no sign of life outside of the chateau. I didn't see the little train running and no one was out in the snow covered gardens. I don't recall there being anywhere in the chateau to buy food.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3207 posts

Only thing I can add, sort of, is that there was a place to get food in the palace when we were there in '08. Didn't look for it when we were there in '10. Don't know if it's still there or not, but it was to the far right if you're looking towards the front.

Posted by Virginia
St. Louis, MO, USA
7 posts

Susan did it seem as crowded as you would have expected it to be in summer? Was there a big line to get in?

Posted by Conor
Marlborough, MA, USA
144 posts

I was there at Christmas in '11. The ticket line wasempty but I also went at the beginning of the day. I would advise buying your ticket online and brign the papaerwork with and you are good to go. Was it "crowded"? yes but not summer crowded, just a normal tourist place with people going there. The day I went was Wednesday and it rained so it was cold and wet, but not as cold as you would think since like new england last winter there was barely a frigid day. I did the whole tour and walked it from the palace, to the gardens and the minipalaces/marie's place. It was a whole day filled and quite enjoyable if you are a person who doesn't mind the elements. As for the bikes and golf carts, they are there but the golf carts are pricey though I was alone so maybe that was just me, and the bikes are quite a bit of a walk to get to so you might as well walk. I did not wait for any shuttles because byt the time you wait you could have walked to where you want to go. Also the food huts are open and the restarant at the lake is open as well.

Posted by Virginia
St. Louis, MO, USA
7 posts

Thanks, everyone this is really helpful. I guess it depends on how frigid it is, and we'll have to play that by ear.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4877 posts

The weather can be variable. Where Conor found the temps less than frigid, at the same time of year two years before he was there we didn't find temps above freezing during our two week trip. You won't know until the time comes. Since you have some freedom to choose which day to go, you may want to plan around the weather.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

I've been to Versailles in December, but not in Christmas. On the weekends, the tram runs and the golf carts are available for rent. (I don't know if that's true if it snows, though.) Just be aware that the statues are covered up, the Hamlet is closed (but the Trianons are open) and there may be other changes/closures for winter as well. But I thought the trade off was worth it to have smaller crowds.

Posted by donna
roswell, ga, usa
1012 posts

Virginia, as Nike says,Just Do It! See Versailles! I was there in April last year and it was unseasonably warm, shoulder to shoulder people.......but would I have missed it?! NO!!! Don't worry about the weather, can't control it, but it will never be as cold in December as New York, Chicago, etc., and I've enjoyed both of those cities in the winter! Even if you win the lottery, probably can't afford to close the place down for a private tour. Will you ever have a chance to see it again? If so, when would be the "optimum" time?

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

I doubt bike rental will be open at Xmas. We were there at Easter and the bike rentals were all closed up.

Posted by Virginia
St. Louis, MO, USA
7 posts

I fully intend to go, snow or no, but it helps to know what to expect!