Château de Versailles
A small hunting lodge in Versailles, originally built for Louis XIII by Philibert Le Roy in 1631-34, was transformed by Louis XIV into the present huge and magnificent palace between 1661 and 1710. First Louis Le Vau (d. 1670) extended the original building by adding two wings on the east side, enclosing the Cour de Marbre. Then Jules Hardouin-Mansart, appointed court architect in 1676, added an additional story to Le Vau's wings and built the Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) and the long north and south wings on the garden front.
Chateau de Versailles Map
Official site: www.chateauversailles.fr
Address: RP 384, F-78008 Versailles, France
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Oct 31: 9am-6:30pm; Closed: Mon
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5:30pm; Closed: Mon
Nov 1 to Mar 31: 9am-5:30pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €13.50, Concession or reduced rate €10.00, Child 18 & under FREE
Useful tips: The chateau grounds are free admission. The garden are open every day, including Mondays. Opera House is closed for about 20 months from April 2007 for major restoration work. The Petit Trianon is closed until June 2008 for major restoration work.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Facilities: Restaurant or food service
Chateau de Versailles Highlights
The exterior view of the Château of Versailles from the town is immensely impressive. Three broad avenues meet in the Place d'Armes at the entrance to the forecourt. Flanking the central avenue, the Avenue de Paris, are the former Royal Stables (Ecuries Royales; Mansart, 1679-85). The forecourt is entered through an iron gate. On the far side, at the entrance to the Royal Courtyard (Cour Royale), is an equestrian statue of Louis XIV (1835). At the far end of the Cour Royale, which could be used only by the royal family, is the narrower Marble Courtyard (Cour de Marbre), which until 1830 was on a slightly higher level and had colored marble paving. The entrance to the Château, which also gives access to the park, is on the right-hand side of the Cour Royale.The parts of the building enclosing the Cour de Marbre are the oldest in the Château, dating back to Louis XIII's hunting lodge. Here, on the first floor, are the royal private apartments. Along the two sides of the hunting lodge Le Vau built on another range of rooms for the state apartments (Grands Appartements, on the first floor) and the apartments of the heir to the throne on the ground floor. Mansart linked these two suites of rooms by building the Hall of Mirrors (Galerie des Glaces) along the park front of the building and added the north and south wings. Then with the Chapel (by Mansart and Cotte) and the Opera (by Jacques-Ange Gabriel) the Château was complete in the form in which we see it today. The park front, with its projecting central section, is 680m/2,230ft long.
Gallery of Battles
In the Gallery of Battles (120m/395ft long, 13m/45ft wide) at Versailles, which extends for almost the whole length of the south wing, 14 centuries of French history are depicted in the paintings. Along the walls and the Corinthian columns in the center of the gallery are 82 busts of famous military leaders.
The Coronation Room at Versailles takes its name from the painting by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) of the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine. In the time of Louis XIV this was a chapel.
The magnificent Queen's Staircase of multi- colored marble, with gilded bronze reliefs on the ceiling fillet and over the doors, leads into the queen's state and private apartments at Versailles. In a recess on the first floor landing is the king's coat of arms.
Hall of the Queen's Guard
The ceiling paintings and marble walls in the Salles des Gardes de la Reine in Versailles date from the time of Louis XIV; the paintings (1676-81) are by Noël Coypel (1628-1707). The octagonal picture in the center depicts Jupiter in a silver chariot drawn by two eagles. The four pictures in the arches represent divine virtues in examples from antiquity.
In this antechamber at Versailles visitors waited to be presented to the queen in the audience chamber or in her bedroom. The ceiling paintings, which date from the time of Louis XIV, depict celebrated women of antiquity (by Claude Vignon, 1673). The four tapestries are of the same period.
Queen's Audience Chamber
Only the ceiling paintings at the Salon de la Reine in Versailles (allegories of the arts and sciences; by Michel Corneille, 1671) date from the time of Queen Maria Theresa of Austria (Louis XIV's wife: not to be confused with the Austrian Empress of that name), since the room was altered by Marie-Antoinette in 1785. The large Gobelins portrait of Louis XV (1770) was the work of P.F. Cozette after a design by Michel van Loos.
In the Queen's Bedroom at Versailles, created in 1671-80 for Queen Maria Theresa, 19 princes and princesses were born. The queen also gave private audiences in this room.The Roccoco ceiling is later (1729-35); it has four grisaille paintings by François Boucher (1703-70), from designs by Robert de Cotte, depicting the four virtues of a queen (compassion, generosity, wisdom, fidelity). The Gobelins medallions with portraits of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, the Emperor Joseph II and Louis XVI date from the time of Marie-Antoinette. The little jewellery cabinet (by Schwerdtfeger, 1787) to the left of the bed was a gift to Marie-Antoinette from the city of Paris two years before the Revolution.
Queen's Private Apartments
The queen's private apartments at Versailles, in the style of Marie-Antoinette's time (1770-81), can be reached from her bedroom.
Hall of Peace
The Salon de la Paix at Versailles was created in 1680-86 as a counterpart to the Salon de la Guerre at the other end of the Hall of Mirrors. The ceiling painting is by Le Brun, the portrait of Louis XVI over the chimney by Lemoyne.
Hall of Mirrors
After the annexation of Lorraine Louis XIV also acquired the dukedom of Burgundy under the Peace of Nijmegen in 1678, thus consolidating France's supremacy in Europe. In the same year he resolved to build a gallery which, with the Salon de la Guerre and Salon de la Paix at each end, should add to the magnificence of the palace and glorify the king, in a series of allegorical representations, as lord of both war and peace.The world-famed Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (73m/246ft long, 10m/33ft wide and 12m/40ft high) was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708); the interior decoration was by Charles Le Brun (1619- 90). Like similar galleries in the châteaux and mansions of the time, the Hall of Mirrors served as a passage between the king's and the queen's apartments, and it was here that the courtiers waited upon the king and queen. It was rarely used for great ceremonies or entertainments. The room gets its name from the 17 arched mirrors (each made up of 18 segments - i.e. a total of 306 segments), corresponding to the 17 round- headed windows in the outer wall. In this historic room the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 and the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. Since the restoration work which was completed in 1980 it has been fitted out with genuine or reproduction period furniture, statuary and chandeliers (much of all this in gilded plastic material). The paintings on the barrel-vaulted ceiling, which add up to the most monumental ceiling painting in France, tell the story of Louis XIV's reign down to the Peace of Nijmegen.
This room (1701) at Versailles, named after the oval "ox-eye" window over the fireplace, originally contained pictures by Veronese, later replaced by portraits of the royal family. A notable feature is the 53m/174ft long frieze of children's games, which, like the group of putti in the park, reflects the ageing king's desire for "more youth and less seriousness".
Louis XIV's bedroom (1701) at Versailles, in which he died on September 1 1715, was the principal room in Louis XIII's hunting lodge. It was here that the famous ceremonies of the "Lever du Roi" in the morning and the "Coucher du Roi" in the evening took place, when the king granted audiences. After long and costly work the room was restored to its original state in 1980.
During the reigns of Louis XV and XVI all important State decisions were taken in this room - the Cabinet du Conseil at Versailles. The decoration (by Jacques-Ange Gabriel, 1755) is a masterpiece of French Roccoco.
King's Private Apartments
The king's private apartments at Versailles are reached from the Council Chamber. They were decorated in Roccoco style by J.-A. Gabriel (1755 onwards) for Louis XV, who liked to relax here, away from the ceremonial etiquette of the court. Louis died in the first room (the bedroom) in 1774.
Hall of War
From this room - the Salon de Guerre at Versailles - there are extraordinary views in one direction along the Hall of Mirrors to the Salon de la Paix at the other end (which dates from the same period), and in the other through the long suite of the Grands Appartements. On the west wall is a large oval stucco relief by Antoine Coysevox (1640-1720) glorifying Louis XIV.
The Apollo Salon in Versailles, its walls hung with valuable tapestries, was originally the Throne Room. The ceiling painting of "Apollo in the Chariot of the Sun accompanied by the Seasons" by Charles de la Fosse, a pupil of Le Brun's, expresses the central allegorical theme from which Louis XIV's style of the "Roi Soleil" ("Sun King") was derived. Over the fireplace is the well-known portrait of the king in a robe trimmed with ermine.
Of the original appointments (1670-80) of the Salons d'Apollon, de Mercure and de Mars at Versailles only the ceiling paintings in their magnificent frames remain: the marble has been replaced by wood and the walls covered with fabric. The Grands Appartements were the state apartments in which the king held court from 6 to 10 every morning. The names of the rooms and the representations of classical deities were designed to relate Louis XIV's reign to the history of the western world.
In Versailles, the Salon de Mars, has a ceiling painting by Audran, was formerly the Guard Room. In it is the famous painting of Marie-Antoinette and her three children (1787) by Madame Vigée-Lebrun.
The ceiling painting of Diana at Versailles with her attributes is by Gabriel Blanchard, the bust of Louis XIV (1665) by Bernini.
The Salon de Vénus at Versailles, like the Salon de Diane, has preserved the austere, cold marble decor of the 1660s. Originally all seven of the Grands Appartements were in this style, which reflected the young Louis XIV's striving for power, glory and a great name to leave to posterity - always with the model of antiquity in mind. This is seen in the marble walls and columns, the statues in the antique style, including one of Louis XIV as a Roman Emperor, and the ceiling paintings with their representations of Titus and Berenice, Anthony and Cleopatra, Jason and Medea, Theseus and Ariadne, Europa and Jupiter, Amphitrite and Poseidon.
Hall of Abundance
The ceiling painting of the goddess of abundance with her cornucopia at Versailles is by R.-A. Houasse, a pupil of Le Brun. In this room supper was served at receptions.
The ceiling painting, "The Triumph of Hercules" (1733-36) at Versailles, is by François Lemoyne. The two paintings by Veronese, "Eliezer and Rebecca" (over the fireplace) and "The Meal with Simon the Pharisee", were gifts to Louis XIV from the Venetian Republic.
The Chapel at Versailles was begun by Jules Hardouin- Mansart in 1699 and completed by his brother-in- law Robert de Cotte in 1710. Mass is celebrated here at 5.30 p.m. on the first Sunday in the month, Easter Day, Pentecost and November 1. The gallery reserved for the royal family, with a tall Corinthian colonnade, was on a level with the royal apartments. Every Tuesday at 5.30 p.m. there are concerts in the chapel by the Center for Research in Baroque Music, which was installed in Versailles in 1988.
Museum of History of France
The Museum on the History of France at Versailles displays pictures and sculpture illustrating French history from the Crusades to the 19th C. The works by Laurent de la Hyre, Philippe de Champaigne and Noël Hallé (16th and 17th C.) are of particular interest.
Address: Château de Versailles, F-78000 Versailles, France
Opening hours: 9am-5:30pm; Closed: Mon
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: Documentation available in foreign languages.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Facilities: Gift shop, Restaurant or food service
Royal Opera House
The Royal Opera House at Versailles (seen only on conducted tours) was built by Jacques-Ange Gabriel for Louis XV. It was completed in 1770, after only two years' work, in time for the marriage of the future Louis XVI with Marie- Antoinette. Like the palace chapel and the east front of the Louvre, it has a colonnade of Ionic columns. Its elegant decoration, using gilded bronze, marble and mirrors, matches the rest of the Château.
More Chateau de Versailles Pictures
Map of Versailles Attractions