The Palace of Versailles is a great place to visit with kids. It’s gorgeous and full of history and has a so many things that kids find fascinating. However, there are five things you need to know before you go to Versailles with kids – and even before you book – in order to ensure that you and your children have an enjoyable visit.
(If you skip straight to the end, you can read our 12 tips for visiting Versailles with kids.)
About the Palace of Versailles and its gardens
Your guidebook will tell you that the Palace of Versailles is the beautiful former royal residences of Louis XIII, XIV and Louis XV, among others. It is located about 20 km west of Paris.
The Palace was initially built by King Louis XIII in 1623 as a hunting lodge on the hill of his favourite hunting ground. A three-phased expansion under Louis XIV between 1661 and 1715 and further changes by Louis XV turned the hunting lodge into a huge, ornate palace with even larger gardens.
In 1682, Louis XIV made Versailles the seat of his court and government. This was continued by his successors until 1789, when it returned to Paris. In 1789, the French revolution saw the the Palace abandoned and emptied of much of its contents, which were later sold at auction in 17,000 lots.
Following his takeover of France, Napoleon Bonaparte used Versailles – more specifically the Grand Trianon – as his summer residence between 1810 and 1814. It was not until the 1830s that repairs were made to the Palace. Shortly after becoming King in 1830, Louis-Philippe made it into a museum dedicated “to the glories of France” and oversaw the construction of the Hall of Battles.
The 800 hectares of the palace, and its gardens, park and the rest of the estate are literally the jewel in the crown of French museums and it is easy to see why. In fact, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, with more than 15 million people visiting it each year (prior to COVID) – and many of those people are visiting Versailles with kids.
In 1979, the Palace and the park were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Getting to Versailles
The easiest way to get to Versailles with kids is by train.
There are three train stations in Versailles: you want Versailles Château Rive Gauche if you can (RER line C). It is about a 10 minute walk, just up a road, to the Palace.
RER line C runs along the left bank of the Seine. The easiest places to catch the train is at Invalides or Museum d’Orsay.
Major track works can affect train lines serving the Palace. In Summer of this year, for example, the lines (and stations) of the RER C were closed for over 5 weeks (and two weekends).
Alternatively, you can take the train from Gare Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers (an 18 minute walk to the Palace, though the station was also closed due to track works this summer) or from Gare St Lazare to Versailles Rive Droite (17 minute walk to the Palace).
You will need a return ticket or a pass (Navigo, Mobilis or Paris Visite) for zones 1 to 4 to take the train. The little white one-trip T+ tickets cannot be used to visit Versailles. Our tickets (one adult and one reduced rate, return) cost around EUR 12. To make sure you get the right ones, purchase them from a booth at your closes metro station. For train times visit the SNCF/Transilien website, which also has information on track closures.
You can also reach the Palace by bus. Bus 171 (RATP) runs between Pont du Sèvres and the Palace of Versailles (stops next to the stables, in front of the main gates).
Alternatively, if you are driving, there are various carparks available, for a fee.
Your guidebook will almost certainly not tell you about the current COVID restrictions and requirements as things are changing too quickly. As with most locations in the world, COVID has impacted on visits to the Palace and Estate of Versailles.
Ticket reservations are compulsory and fewer tickets are available.
In order to enter the Palace or the Estate of Trianon, visitors aged 18 and over will need to present either
- a health pass (proof of full COVID vaccination). This can be in paper form or digital via the TousAntiCovid app;
- a negative PCR or antigenic test, or self test carried out under the supervision of a health profession. The test may not be older than 72 hours; or
- Proof a a positive antigen test showing that the person has recovered from COVID-19. The test must be at least 11 days and less than 6 moths ago).
The health pass is not necessary to visit the musical gardens or fountains night show.
Face masks must also be worn by anyone aged 11 or older in the Honour Courtyard, Palace, Grand and Petit Trianon and the Gardens. Yes, even kids have to wear a face mask.
The COVID rules are subject to change, often at short notice. Make sure you check the website before your visit for any updates.
Make sure you check out on 9 tips on travelling in a post-COVID world!
Visiting Versailles with kids – 5 things you won’t find in the guide book
All of this is great background information, but you can find it in any guidebook – or at least on the website for the Château. However there are five things you really should know, or at least be aware of, if you are planning to visit the Palace and Estate of Versailles with kids.
1. Children visit for free
An easy one: Children under 18 (or under 26 if you live in the EUR) can visit the Palace and the Estate of Trianon for free. However, all visitors must book a time slot to gain entry to the Palace.
Access to the gardens and park is free for everyone, except on Fountain Show and Musical Gardens Days. These typically take place from the end of March until the end of October on weekends and most days in July and August. Children aged 5 and under do not need a ticket.
Generally, if you want to visit the Palace and the gardens of Versailles with kids in the main season (i.e. school holidays), you will want the Passport ticket.
I’m not sure whether it was simply Miss M’s age or whether it was because she could access the Palace for free, but she was not allowed to have her own audio guide for the Palace. I ended up giving her mine, which she happily used until around the Hall of Mirrors, when she lost interest and the audio guide stopped starting the next commentary automatically.
There is an app, which I had downloaded. Unfortunately, for some reason it was being glitchy on the day and would not play most of the commentary. As a result, I only have the information that I skim read for most of the Palace.
By the way, the Palace and Estate are closed on Mondays.
2. The Palace is huge
Do not underestimate how large the Palace is.
It’s not a palace, it’s an entire city. Superb in its size, superb in its matter.CHARLES PERRAULT, LE SIÈCLE DE LOUIS LE GRAND, 1687
It took us two hours to (almost) complete the tour of the Palace. TWO hours. Let that sink in, especially if you are planning to visit Versailles with kids.
We actually entered the Palace a little before our allotted time slot. We used the facilities (they are few and far between: go early) and had a brief look at the shop (between 5 and 10 minutes). And we paused in the courtyard to take photos and leave a bit of space.
We then followed the tour (it was mostly one way), moving quicker as we got towards the end as Miss M’s interest dwindled after the Queen’s bedroom. We could have spent much longer in the Hall of Mirrors – one of the absolute highlights – and Hall of Battles than we did. The Chapel and Theatre were also closed to the general public and could only be viewed through a doorway.
Why do I say almost complete the tour? As we were nearing the end, there was a fire (I think in one of the kitchens) and we were forced to evacuate together with other visitors.
The question is really one about timing and your best plan of attack. Do you want to enter the Palace early in the morning while you kids (and you) are still fresh? While it sounds good in theory, it is likely to mean travelling across and through Paris at peak times.
Or do you go later and risk your children being grouchy and hungry before you finish the tour of the Palace? Miss M was really hitting her limits…
It might be a question of how much your children know about or appreciate French history. Miss M’s knowledge was fairly basic:
- France used to have a king
- His name was Louis
- He lived at Versailles until France decided they didn’t want to have a king anymore.
- His dad’s name was Louis too.
- His grandpa was called Louis too.
We moved reasonably quickly and did not ponder every piece of art or listen to all of the audio guide.
If you are visiting Versailles with kids, adjust your approach to your children.
Normally, strollers are not allowed in the Palace, and it is not really equipped to take them (this seems to be one area where COVID has helped lift the restrictions). Contemplate two hours on tired little legs or carrying a child…
3. There is no eating or drinking in the Palace
As you might expect, with the exception of the cafés and restaurants, there is no eating or drinking allowed in the Palace. Unfortunately, these are few and far between.
Remember: 2 hours.
The first time we really had an opportunity to get something to eat was at the cafe. It was near the end of our tour and we were evacuated before we could order.
Did I mention how grumpy Miss M was getting by the end of the tour? She did have a reasonable breakfast on the way to Versailles, too.
4. The food is expensive
Angeliques looked lovely. Miss M was really looking forward to one of the raspberry tarts. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to see if it tasted as good as it looked.
Orleans Cafe was much simpler. It had some pre-made rolls, bottled drinks, standard ice creams, a limited selection of pastries (that looked like they were either defrosted that day or baked yesterday) and coffee.
The kiosks in the garden offer simple fare – waffles, ice creams, coffee and drinks, quiche or even simple cake.
Almost everything had the tourist trap mark up – 50% to 100% or more than you would normally pay at a bakery in a popular area – except that the Palace of Versailles is far from a tourist trap. Expect to pay more than you expect for food when visiting Versailles with kids.
To give you an idea: for a ham and cheese baguette, a bottle of water, a coffee, an ice cream and three small beignets (doughnuts – the cheapest of our purchases), we paid nearly EUR 30.
On the upside, although it was basic, Miss M really enjoyed the chocolate-filled beignets.
Also: Most of the food options close relatively early: they closed before the Palace and the rest of the park and garden was not closing for another few hours.
We had intended to get some food and have a picnic lunch in the garden. After our lunch was delayed due to the evacuation, we decided to eat out Orleans Cafe as Miss M was STARVING (and oh so grumpy at that time). Lucky we did because it poured with rain while we were eating.
Anyway: We did not see anyone having a picnic in the garden later. I’m not sure if it is forbidden (I did not see any signs), or if it is “just not done”…
5. The estate is huge
I repeat: The estate is huge. Eight hundred hectares. Do not expect to see it all when you are visiting Versailles with kids.
Wear comfortable shoes. And take bandaids for blisters, just in case.
The Palace to the Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Estate is about 1.5 km and takes about 25 minutes on foot. The Palace to the far end of the Grand Canal takes about an hour (3.5 km). That normally would not seem like too much, but you still have to look around AND make the return trip. Your child’s legs will probably already be tired from touring the Palace (did I mention it is huge?), the walk from the station and from the day before spent walking around Paris when Versailles was closed. And they want to have fresh legs for your day at Disneyland tomorrow. Or at least you want them to have fresh legs.
Also: Many of the paths are covered in gravel. Navigating with a stroller is not always easy work.
Perhaps understandably, we only saw a small area, restricted mostly to the garden and not the park or Trianon Estate.
There is a small electric train (hop-on, hop-off style) that takes a short tour of the estate, from the Palace to the the farther corners – the Grand Canal, the Petit and Grand Trianon and back to the Palace. Tickets cost EUR 8.50 and EUR 6.50 for under 18s. Children aged 12 and under can ride for free. If you make it to the Trianon on foot but need a ride back, tickets cost EUR 4.60.
The train ride has an audio guide in eight languages: French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese.
The train can accommodate one or two wheelchairs. However, we would not recommend the train for anyone who is pregnant or has back pains. The cobblestone roads and road grates make for a VERY bumpy, quite rough ride. It’s like riding roller coaster, without the sudden changes in direction.
There are also small electric vehicles available to hire. They come complete with an audio guide, also in eight languages and seat 4 people. Six of the vehicles can also accommodate a wheelchair. Drivers must be at least 24 years old and must leave their drivers licence as a “deposit”.
We didn’t try the cars as there were only two of us. They cost EUR 36 per hour (minimum hire) and EUR 9 every additional 15 minutes. You can one from the South Terrace (next to the Palace) and at the bike hire in Little Venice.
There are bicycles for hire and you can take a boat out on the Grand Canal, too.
Not only are the gardens huge, but they are gorgeous, with lots of hidden highlights to find.
Miss M had the map and was in total control of where we were going – she was in her element and danced from one spot to the next. However, this did mean that we missed a couple of things and that went around in circles a few times.
Our favourite parts of the garden were the Orangerie, Colonades Grove and the Mirror Fountain, which serenaded us just as we were walking past. Miss M pretended that it was by design and she knew it would happen. At least it was partly true the second time.
At the risk of being repetitive: the gardens and park are huge. Treat it almost like a hike. Take at least a bottle of water and be prepared to walk a lot when you are visiting Versailles with kids.
And if you do make it to Marie Antoinette’s hamlet: You can’t enter the buildings, but do take some bread (from breakfast or save some from the baguette from lunch). There are numerous eager ducks to feed!
To make it easy for you:
13 tips for visiting the Palace and Gardens of Versailles with kids
- Book your tickets online and reserve your time slot (currently compulsory)
- Choose a time that suits your family’s rhythms (if you have no preference, try to go early)
- Decide how you will get there in advance (take travel into consideration when booking tickets)
- Check the current Corona restrictions the day before (these change frequently)
- Do not underestimate the size of the Palace and the Estate
- Wear comfortable shoes (and take bandaids for blisters)
- Use the facilities before you start the tour
- Prepare some food: pack at least a bottle of water and some small snacks to ward off grumpiness
- Plan to spend time in and enjoy the gardens
- Try some fun transport when seeing the gardens – train, row boat, bicycle or golf cart
- Don’t expect to see it all – little feet get tired (so do adult feet)
- Give your child the map to the gardens and let them lead the way
- If you are going to Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet, save some bread to feed the ducks.
Are you heading to Versailles with kids?
Versailles is a wonderful place to visit with children. There is much for them to learn and appreciate. However, your guidebooks won’t tell you everything you really should know before you visit Versailles with kids. At least not the things you really want to know as a parent and that will help ensure your visit is enjoyable. With our list of five things you need to know, you can manage expectations and be prepared for your time at Versailles with your kids.