On my first trip to Versailles 15 years ago, I didn’t get a chance to explore the gardens as much as I wanted to. I think this is true for a lot of people. They visit the palace, walk down to the Fountain of Latona, maybe going as far as the Fountain of Apollo, and then head out to their next destination. I get it- there’s only so much time on vacation. But by rushing off, people are missing out on some of the best parts of Versailles.
Truth is, Versailles is so much more than just the main palace. It’s a vast estate of quiet paths, colourful gardens, and impressive fountains, temples and sculptures neatly tucked away behind the greenery. There’s even an entire hamlet of country cottages, built especially for Marie-Antoinette.
After touring the Palace of Versailles, it was refreshing, even a relief, to escape the crowds and stifling formality of the palace. Even the royals were looking to break free from time to time! So in 1668, King Louis XIV bought a village named Trianon, had it destroyed and then annexed the land to the Versailles Estate. Soon the Trianon palaces were built, becoming the perfect place for the King and Queen to flee the strict etiquette of royal life.
The Grand Trianon
The Grand Trianon is a small residence in comparison to the main palace at Versailles, but elegant none the less. It was designed in 1687 by Jules Mansart who described it as “A little pink marble and porphyry palace with delightful gardens.”
I enjoyed the less formal feel of the Grand Trianon. The bold, bright decor and large windows gave the palace an airy, relaxed, somewhat playful feel to it, even though it still was quite fancy.
The Grand Trianon was used mainly for hosting family visitors, but the King and his maîtresse-en-titre (“official mistress”) would sometimes stay here. The palace was continuously inhabited (apart from the Revolution) welcoming everyone from Peter the Great of Russia to Stanislas Leszczynski, former king of Poland. However, The Grand Trianon’s most notable resident was Napoleon and most of installations you see today were commissioned by him.
In 1963, President Charles de Gaulle ordered renovations so that it could be used as a guesthouse for French Presidents and foreign officials. The northern wing of the palace is still used today for presidential functions.
The Petit Trianon
The Petit Trianon was a gift to Marie-Antoinette from Louis XVI when he became King. Marie-Antoinette soon transformed the gardens to reflect the English style of small brooks and picturesque lawns.
The Petit Trianon is very small and doesn’t take long to visit. By the time we got here, we were tired of looking at palaces. We did a quick tour of the inside and then hurried to the gardens to enjoy the sunny day.
Exploring the English Garden
Marie-Antoinette much preferred the natural landscapes of English gardens over the restrictive symmetry and flowerbeds of French gardens. While my preferences are for French gardens, I still really enjoyed talking a relaxing walk through the English garden at the Petite Trianon.
Tips for Visiting the Trianon Palaces
- The Passport ticket gives you admission to the Palace of Versailles, the Trianon palaces and the Queen’s Hamlet. Here is a trusted site where you can buy digital tickets and have them immediately delivered to your smartphone:
- If you don’t want to visit the main palace, a separate ticket can be bought for the Trianons and the Queen’s Hamlet. You can buy this at the entrance to any of the Trianon palaces.
- The Trianons are open every day from 12:00 pm- 5:30 pm (closed on Mondays). The ticket office closes at 4:50 pm and last entrance is at 5:00 pm.
- You can enter the Trianon palaces either by going first through the main Palace via the Grille d’Honneur gate, or directly via the Queen’s gate or the Saint Antoine gate.
- For a fee, there is a shuttle “train” that will take you to the Trianons. You can board it beside the main palace, at the North Parterre. Make sure you ask when the last shuttle will be picking people up from the Trianons, so you don’t have to walk all the way back to the palace at the end of the day. Trust us, it’s a long walk and your feet will hate you!
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Accommodations in Versailles
For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Versailles. Please consider booking your Versailles accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!
Continue on to Part Three of our post about Versailles, The Queen’s Hamlet.