We will be in Paris during peak season in July. We want to see Giverny and Versailles in a single day. What is the best way to accomplish this? Should we hire a car and driver? We want maximum time at each venue with minimum cost and crowding. We would just as soon pack a lunch. Don't need a guide per se. Any suggestions?
It's not physically impossible but it's not a good idea either.
Sorry to say but there is no way this is a good idea. I believe Pat can line out for you how it's physically possible, but it's certainly not advisable.
I don't know the logistics, but I know they are not close to each other, and that a proper visit to Versailles will take up the better part of a day. It takes a while to see the palace itself, and then there are the grounds, which are must-see, and the other houses such as the Grand and Petit Trianons. Those are skippable but still interesting if you are into history.
I've done the two in one day before, but it was in September. July might night be the ideal time to do it. I took a tour from www.paris-trip.com and it was fabulous. Lunch was included and fantastic. They do get you to the front of the line. It's pricey, but it's not a guided tour. It depends on how much time and money you want to spend. For me it was perfect. http://www.paris-trip.com/16/giverny-and-versailles-small-group-day-trip-from-paris.asp
I won't opine on whether or not it is a good idea to combine both. If you want to do it, pack a lunch and then rent a car in Paris and drive to Giverny on a Wednesday morning and arrive before 9:30. The trip takes about 1.5 hours. Buy your tickets ahead of time on line may not be the cheapest way to get your ticket, but something has to give to get you through both places in one day. Spend no more than 3 hours in Giverny and then drive from Giverny to Versailles in about 1 hour. Check out Rick Steves' France for information on parking and other aspects of visiting Versailles and to help you figure out what parts you want to skip. I think that everything closes at 6:30 so you will have had 4.5 hours in Versailles and 3 hours in Giverny. You could of course go to Versailles first and then Giverny but I usually go to the place that is further away first so I have the shorter drive "home" at the end of the day. I am pretty sure that buying the tickets helps you to skip the ticket buying line but does not help you with the security line, which when I went to Versailles in July 2010 was insanely long. You can hire a car and driver, which will cost a lot more than renting a car. We used www.eurojs.com when we need a car and driver while in Paris and they are great and very honest (brought a purse that was left in the car to our apartment the next day when they found it) but expensive.
"I think that everything closes at 6:30" The palace and the trianons close at 6:30 but the gardens/park are open until 8:30 so conceivably you could do Giverny early in the day as noted above and when you get to Versailles, go to the palace first then if you have time go to the trianons and save the gardens for when the buildings close. It would be a very, very long day and I don't think I'd do it but it's possible. Hiring a car and driver would be expensive indeed. If you could find a decently priced one-day rental car and drove yourself it might be less but still pricey (when gas, tolls, and parking are figured in). There's really no easy, inexpensive way to do both in one day.
The only way I would recommend it, and I don't, is to take a tour that goes to both. You leave the driving to others, they arrange for tickets and entry and you just have to follow along. Do not try doing this yourself. Everyone is different, but most people spend at least a half day (4 hours) at Versailles and it is easy to spend up to 6 hours there. Especially on a nice day when strolling the gardens is pleasant. That doesn't include transit there and back.
Versailles deserves at least 6 hours with commute I am not sure how you can accommodate both the places. Either get a tour that will take you to both places or just do Versailles, in July on a sunny day walking around the gardens can be exhausting keep that in mind wear a hat and take some water
Everyones answers are pretty good and point out a few options, the reality is it won't be easy or cheap and you won't get to really see or enjoy everything. I wouldn't personally even consider doing both in one day, but if for some reason I absolutely HAD to I guess I would take a bus tour, you can book directly with Cityrama, it will be pricey and you do get only limited time at Versailles.
I don't care when you go to Versailles or Giverny in July, it will be crowded and busy. As noted, at Versailles even with ticket or pass in hand , unless you arrive very early ( 1/2 hr before it opens) you will wait in a long security line, unavoidable. Security lines may be a little less long if you go later in day, but for me I wouldn't want to cut it too close to being able to spend the time I want to see the palace and outer buildings and Marie Antionettes hamlet . Monets Gardens are small ( relatively speaking considering the numbers of people going through it ) so its going to be crowded. My recommendation is to not try to do them both on same day, choose the one that interests you the most and enjoy it. For me it would be Versailles just because there's so much to see and do there. If you choose Monets Gardens you will be eating your packed lunch outside the gardens. If you choose Versailles you can visit the palace, enjoy a lovely picnic by the canal, then head down to see MA hamlet, the Grand Trianon ( do look at garden behind GT, the view of the Palace up the canal is memorable). I could never afford to rent a car with a driver for the day so can't even conceive how pricey that would be, thinking it would cost hundreds of euros.. not quite fitting with your request for "minimum cost".
"the other houses such as the Grand and Petit Trianons. Those are skippable" I really disagree - they, and the Hamlet, are the best part imo. Especially if you know the history, they are fascinating and a must see.
I totally agree with Susan. I missed those my first time to Versailles, as it was winter and the grounds were covered with snow. I went back in the fall one year and enjoyed those areas more than the palace itself.
Oh missed that part about Trianons being skippable, to me they are highlights, ( the view of the palace from garden behind the Grand Trianon is amazing) .. I do think the visit to many sites is altogether is going to be better if one has a little bit of knowledge of the history of most sites, and for Versailles is doubly true.
The security line at Versailles was very, very slow when I went and it happened to be extremely hot that day. So much so that after the line and visiting the Palace and the Gardens, I could not not convince my family to see anything else even though we had loads of time before closing. So, please keep in mind how the slow movement of crowds and summer heat might affect your group.
I don't think that for me the Tianons would be skippable, but rather if you HAD to limit your time at Versailles, I would skip those rater than the grounds unless you have a particular interest in Marie Antoinette. YMMV, of course. I for one never would have skipped them, but then I was not trying to do Giverny or anything else major in the same day. It's all about prioritizing.
In other words, my advice to skip those is ONLY in the context of this particular question.
Monet's gardens at Giverny are easily doable in just an hour or two but to get there takes some time. Versailles on the same day? No way...if you just want to do a rushed run-around of the chateaux that'll be about all you'll see and you may not get in. Tickets sell out for the day early. These two things are NOT close together...and there is no way to do both cheaply. The grounds at Versailles are HUGE and it takes a good deal of time to just walk to all the places such as the Petite Hameau and the two Trianons. You will have crowds in July no matter when you go. We spent about 5 weeks near Versailles a few summers ago and we would get there early in the morning to walk the grounds without the crowds. But there are hoards of people there to tour the chateau from the first minute they open. I would take two days to do these two things...