Six Reasons to Visit Versailles Besides the Chateau

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When one says the word Versailles, the immediate thought is of the opulent royal Palace of Versailles, the most famous chateau in France. The former palace of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and also of Louis XIV and Louis XV, Versailles is a tourist magnet, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Most come for the day to experience the splendor of the palace and the vast formal gardens and then leave, but little do they know is that the town of Versailles is a destination itself with so many options, they could easily spend an extra day or two. Here are six reasons why to extend your stay in Versailles.

Food Markets

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The second largest food market in France, Marche Notre Dame will dazzle even the most jaded foodies. Louis XXIII built the sprawling historical showplace in the early 1600s and today it’s a cornucopia of the best foods France and Europe has to offer. Four symmetrical buildings comprise the indoor market, with vendors such as butchers, fishmongers and prepared food sellers. Outside, it’s an incredible potpourri of stalls boasting seasonal fruits and vegetables, local wines, foie gras and patés, Middle Eastern delicacies, pastries, organic eggs, French cheeses and spices. There are also a number of takeout food stands with food made on the spot including crepes, sandwiches, sausages, paella and burgers. If the market gets your tastes buds going, there are many ethnic restaurants along side the market to enjoy lunch or dinner at.

Market Schedule

Outdoors: Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Indoors: Tuesday – Saturday from 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

A lovely flower and plant market lines the Avenue de Saint Cloud with blooms of the season on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.

Museums

Given the historical significance of Versailles, museums are a natural fit.

The Gallery of Coaches across the street from the palace in the former royal stables, displays a collection of regal antique coaches. The collection is composed of grand ceremonial Berlin Coaches for special occasions including the marriage of Napoléon I, the baptism of the Duke of Bordeaux, the coronation of Charles X and the funeral of Louis XVIII. The decadent and highly ornamental vehicles were made by hand using the best sculptors, embroiderers, cabinetmakers, and metal workers of the time.

The Gallery of Coaches

1 Avenue Rockefeller, 78000

A former private mansion built in 1751 under the reign of Louis XV, has been refurbished and is now the Lambinet Museum. The first owner was businessman Joseph Porchon and in the early 1900s the property was transferred to the Lambinet family, who bequeathed it to the city in 1932. Among the 35 rooms, several still retain the original décor and furniture. There’s an extensive collection of artifacts from the French Revolution plus objets and decorative items such as china, clocks, paintings, and miniatures.  A fine arts department of the museum rotates a collection of 16th to 20th century paintings and sculptures.

Lambinet Museum

54, rue du Boulevard de la Reine, 78000

Restaurants

For a compact city, Versailles has an unusually high volume of restaurants, bistros, and cafes, which range from Michelin-star restaurants to creperies to food trucks.

Le Table du 11, a one-Michelin-star restaurant, is discreetly tucked away in a courtyard, just minutes from the palace. Chef Jean-Baptiste Lavergne-Morazzani invigorates the palate with his artfully presented modern French cooking with inventive dishes such as asparagus with coffee and curry and crab with red lentils and sesame. The dinner menu features a five or seven course tasting menu. Chef Gabriel Gras helms the kitchen at Le Bistrot du 11, the casual, offshoot bistro of Le Table du 11. It offers a reasonably priced three-course lunch for €36.

In the same courtyard as Le Table du 11, the sweetest café and tea salon, Salon du Cour, serves home baked desserts and a light food menu.

A bistrot, an art studio giving painting and drawing lessons, art gallery, and retail home shop are all under one roof at the delightful Esprit d’ Atelier. We enjoyed a quick lunch of spinach and feta quiche, finishing with a delish rhubarb and apple crumble and after perused the gallery and home boutique.

Le Table du 11

La Cour des senteurs, 8 Rue de la Chancellerie, 78000

Le Bistrot du 11

10 rue de Satory, 78000

Salon du Cour

La Cour des senteurs, 8 Rue de la Chancellerie, 78000

Tel. +33 (0)9 83 76 14 14

Esprit d’Atelier

9 rue de la Paroisse, 78000

Entertainment and Music

Did you know that Versailles has a private opera house? King Louis XV commissioned the construction of his own opera house in 1768 by his architect in residence Ange Jacques Gabriel and it was inaugurated in 1770 for the marriage of the Dauphin (soon to be King Louis XVI) and his bride the Archduchess Marie Antoinette. The majestic, small gem of only 702 seats was recently renovated and now open for public performances.

Max Ohayon, the director of development of events and spectacles at Versailles, says there’s a terrific program this summer. He highly recommends attending the list of events below:

  • A new production of Lully’s Phaeton on May 30th (June 1 – 3). This is the baroque music event of the season. Note: The Lully opera hasn’t been performed in France for 25 years.
  • Days of Louis XIV (July 8 and 9) is a unique occasion that follows Louis XIV during his musical day in the most beautiful sites of Versailles, including the Royal Opera and the Royal Chapel, the Hercules Salon, the Hall of Mirrors, small apartments and gardens.
  • A new spectacle about Marie Antoinette is ti ve performed in the gardens of the Orangerie. It’s an open-air show of sound, lights, and fireworks and is fun for the entire family.
  • A divine Masked Ball with the best DJs and dancers of Paris, where you must dress in Baroque clothing and wear a mask, is also sure to be a hit.

See here for full program and schedule of events at Versailles.

Shopping

Chic clothing and home boutiques are plentiful in Versailles with major French brands and individual boutiques lining the streets close to the Rive Droite train station.

Atelier Saveurs, is a trendy, upscale tableware and gourmet boutique featuring mostly French products including olive oils, chocolate, liqueurs, jellies and jams, local made soap, cosmetic and skin care products and a unique flavored jasmine scented macaron, exclusively created for the boutique.

Across the way is Inedite, a very special boutique featuring a line of products using Toile de Jouy prints put on tote bags, lampshades, pillowcases, slippers, teacups and clothing.

Atelier Saveurs & Inedite

8 Rue de la Chancellerie, 78000

Both open 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday

Hotels

Plunking your head down on a comfortable pillow is a must after a fun filled day in Versailles.

A lovely retreat close to the palace, The Trianon Palace Versailles, is a four-star Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It features luxurious rooms and suites, beautifully manicured gardens, two Gordon Ramsay restaurants, Guerlain spa and heated indoor swimming pool.

Just a few minutes ride from Versailles, Les Etangs de Corot is a romantic hideaway inspired by painter Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot. Forty-three rooms are individually designed with a special suite decorated by the fashion house Paul and Joe. Le Corot is a formal one-star Michelin restaurant, with Remi Chambard as the presiding chef. A Caudalie spa offers exclusive treatments such as a Crushed Cabernet Scrub, a Honey and Wine Wrap, and a Winemaker Massage.

Trianon Palace Versailles

1 Boulevard de la Reine, 78000

Les Etangs de Corot

55 rue de Versailles, 92410

Ville-d’Avray, France Versailles is a 35-minute train rides from Paris, by commuter train RER C or by SNCF train from Montparnasse or Saint Lazare stations and by car, it’s approximately 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

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