Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Versailles
Versailles View slideshowVersailles (pop.
86,400), once the splendid residence of the French kings, is now chief town of the département of Yvelines. The town's main traffic artery is the broad Avenue de Paris, which meets the Avenue de Saint-Cloud and Avenue de Sceaux in the Place d'Armes. To the south of the Place d'Armes is the Salle du Jeu de Paume (the jeu de paume was a ball game similar to tennis), built for the king and the court in 1686, in which the National Assembly met in 1789. Farther south is the 18th century Cathedral of Saint-Louis. West of the Place d'Armes, in Rue de l'Indépendance-Américaine, are the former Grand Commun (by Mansart, 1682), now a military hospital, and the handsome Bibliothèque Municipale. In the northern part of the town are the church of Notre-Dame (by Mansart, 1684-86) and the 18th century Musée Lambinet (furniture, pictures, prints, weapons, etc.). On the east side of the spacious Place d'Armes are Mansart's Ecuries Royales (Royal Stables, 1679-85; now a barracks), which could accommodate 2,500 horses and 200 carriages.The main attraction of Versailles, however, is the Château de Versailles, listed by UNESCO as a world heritage monument, which with its beautiful park and gardens is one of the most fascinating and historic sights in Europe. Its architecture and interior decoration, its park and the whole way of life of the French kings in the 17th and 18th centuries were taken as a model by many royal and princely courts in Europe.
Château de Versailles
Château de Versailles was built for Louis XIV, who turned this once small hunting lodge into a palace. It was later expanded, and in all some 36,000 men were employed in the building of Versailles.
Versailles Park covers over 800 hectares. It was created by André Le Nôtre and is the pinnacle of French landscaping of the 17th C. The gardens feature strong geometric forms, an expression of dominance over nature.
Désert de Rez
Between Paris and Versailles, on the edge of the Forest of Marly, is the Désert de Rez, covering an area of some 40 ha/100 ac. As originally laid out in the latter part of the 18th C this park was the realization of a dream by a certain Monsieur de Monville, who desired to create a philosopher's park in which those walking in it would be stimulated to reflections either cheerful or elegiac. He had his architect, Le Rouge, build up low hills, divert streams and plant rare plants and shade-giving trees, and after six years' work he saw his dream realized in 1780. Since then nature has reclaimed its own, but the Désert de Rez is still a jewel among Paris's parks.
Address: 6 allée Frederic Passy, F-78240 Chambourcy, France
Arboretum de Chevrèloup
Originally the location of Louis XV's deer park, this arboretum now houses a wide variety of hardy trees.
Address: 30, route de Versailles, F-78150 Le Chesnay, France
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