Visiting Paris: Versailles or no Versailles?

So we’ll be in Paris in late April - a quick trip, only 4 days before heading to Belgium - and I’m trying to decide if I want to spend one of those days at Versailles. We’ve been to Paris before, and skipped Versailles, so it was one of those sites that was high on my list for this trip… until I started looking into it.

It seems like at least half the reviews I read talk about how damned crowded it is. I read a whole page about how one woman really disliked it, and how all her pictures were of the ceiling because it was so crowded she couldn’t get a shot of anything else. That doesn’t sound like much fun to me, especially since I’m in bloody PARIS and there’s any number of other things I could be doing.

On the other hand, it’s Versailles… I like the idea of going to a really nifty palace, and Versailles is recognized as THE niftiest of all the nifty palaces. I’ve never been before. And at least some people say the non-actual-palace parts (like the gardens and the Petite Trianon) are not as crowded.

So have you been? Was it horrible? Should I go, or just give in and spend yet another day wandering around Paris, drinking wine, eating smelly cheese, and stumbling into whatever museum happens to be closest?

Well, I haven’t been (I was in France for too short a time, and it was very out of the way), so take my advice with a whole shaker’s worth of salt, but if you want to avoid crowds, there are a few things I’ve heard from various sources that are useful.
Go as early as you can - try to get there right when it opens. Even a few hours after opening time, the queue can get insanely long. Go on a weekday, and pre-purchase your tickets online. Also, bring your own food, as surrounding eateries are very expensive (and aimed at tourists).
Personally, if you only have four days, I wouldn’t go - there’s just so much to experience in Paris (Musee d’Orsay, anyone?). Versailles is the kind of place where you could go for a week and still have only scratched the surface.

There’s a “copy” in Bavaria somewhere that isn’t crowded and better preserved. I’ve been to both. I was disappointed in Versailles. It was whole day on one building and a nice garden. It didn’t help that the piss boy looked like the king.

I haven’t been since 1993, but it was not crowded and well worth it then.

I’ve been twice: first around 2002 or ‘03, then again 2012. They have changed how the tours work, and it appears you can now only do these self-guided tours (with the listening device). This has alleviated most of the crowding that I encountered on my first visit. I did a mixed guided tour and self-tour (per the suggestion in Rick Steves’ book), but still ran into big crowds when we caught up to other tours.

Some of the rooms will get crowded, and these tend to be the first rooms: people are overwhelmed and in awe of what they see. But after a couple rooms, ornate marble fireplaces and more gold than “you can eat” :wink: gets “familiar” so you move more quickly.
Until…the hall of mirrors, where it seems everyone needs to take a picture, and Marie Antoinette’s bedroom. But overall the crowds and movement through the palace was much better on my last visit.
Once outside, the gardens are so vast, you don’t need to worry about crowds out there.

Is it worth seeing ? I say “yes”. If nothing else, it gives you a real sense of how the “1%” lived back in the day, and just why there was a french revolution ! The rooms and decor are spectacular, and they’ve gone to great lengths to return what was pillaged back to the original rooms. So it is like going back in time to see the palace how it was in its heyday.

I, too, only had 4 days in Paris on my first trip, and it was definitely worth including on that trip. You can spend all day, but I managed to only spend about 2/3 of the day there, and did something else that afternoon-evening.

We were there in 2001. It was in May, the crowds weren’t too bad. Have heard it’s worse now, and the summer is worse as well. If you have four days, it’s a 50-50 thing in my opinion. Particularly if you are going in April when you don’t have the advantage of long days and warm evenings for strolling.

Versailles is extremely worth it, but it does pretty much take the whole day. With only four days to work with, I’d advise you to stay in Paris. There is more than enough stuff there that is also extremely worth it.

I would vote yes. Versailles is one of my favorite things that I have ever seen. It takes a while to get there and back but it doesn’t have to take the whole day. A half day would be plenty if you just wanted to get there, see it and head back to Paris.

I also vote yes. We were in Paris last August for just three days (following a 7-night Mediterranean cruise). We spent one full day at Versailles, and thought it was the highlight of our time in Paris.

I second the advice to get there as early as possible. We already had admission tickets, but waited nearly two hours in the security line that snaked up and down the whole courtyard in front of the main gates.

If (when) we go back to Paris, I would actually want to visit again, because we didn’t have time to properly tour the gardens.

I visited in 1995, so can’t comment on the current touring logistics, but my visit did take place in April…a little too early in the year for the gardens to be at their best.

Since you’ve been to Paris before, maybe let us know what else is on your list of things to visit for the first time, or revisit. People might be able to help you rank your possibilities.

Versailles on a first visit to Paris might be differently weighted than on a subsequent visit when you have more of the must-sees under your belt.

Me? I’ve never been to France, so I can’t weigh in personally, but I am always gathering data for future trips!

Take a picnic of bread (or cake!), cheese, fruit, and wine. Head for the Petit Trianon, wander by the canal, explore the gardens, and head back to the chateau late in the afternoon when it won’t be so crowded. Since Easter is the 20th, everything in and near Paris will be crowded in late April, a relaxing day hanging out in the gardens at Versailles will be worth it.

I was there in, oh, around 2008 or so, I think it was. My experience was miserable as you described - crowded beyond belief, shabby, grouchy workers, unable to see huge swathes of it. There are any of a half-dozen castles/palaces/stately homes in the UK I’d rather go see again.

I saw it when I was 17. Had spent the previous 2 weeks checking out architecture in England, Denmark, Germany, and Paris. I’d finally managed to get my head around the amazing feats these very old and huge buildings represented and was at last cool enough to not gasp at everything I saw.

And then we got to Versailles. It was like getting hit in the face with a shovel. The enormity. The wealth. Opulence doesn’t quite describe it. I’m not sure words could ever do it proper dignity, unless those words are: Just go to Versailles. Sounds like crowds have become an issue relatively recently, though.

We were there last in 2006, and we did the basics - Eiffel Tower, Louvre, a bit of Luxembourg, Arc de Triomphe, Tuileries, lots of just walking around, gawking, and eating/drinking.

This time, we’ll skip the Eiffel Tower, almost certainly do the Louvre again (we’re far from done with it), and check out Musee d’Orsay and the Rodin Museum. I’d also like to wander through Luxembourg again. And Montmartre - we haven’t been there. And, of course, more walking around, gawking, eating/drinking. That’s our favorite part of all vacations. :smiley:

We have 3 full days, and 3 half days (day we fly in counts as a half day, as do the days we head in/out to Belgium).

Just typing it out it almost seems like we really don’t have time for Versailles. We are absolutely NOT the type to rush through things - I want a leisurely vacation, not rushing around on a schedule all the time. If we miss something, we’ll come back again.

We are luckily missing the Easter weekend (by luck alone! Originally we hadn’t realized when Easter was, and were booking our tickets on dates that would put us in Paris on Easter Sunday. Someone was looking out for us and the flights were too full, so we rescheduled and then realized we dodged a bullet!)

I went in very late December, so it wasn’t crowded at all. It was snowing, though. And the gardens were bare. And the fountains weren’t on. And the hall of mirrors weren’t on display because it was being refurbished.

And I still thought it was pretty cool - but I’m easy that way. There was also wine and cheese to be had nearby, too.

Don’t mean to hijack this into a “what to do in Paris” thread, but now that you’ve mentioned what you’ve seen:

  • Definitely include Versailles. (2 trips to Paris without seeing it just will not do)
  • Skip the Louvre, and
  • Do the Musee D’Orsay (the impressionist collection will blow you away) and the Rodin museum, and then
  • visit Montmartre to see where the impressionists used to live and hang out !

Be sure to allocate a good couple hours for the D’Orsay - there’s a lot to see and enjoy. And Montmartre is a great place to just gawk and wander. One of my favorite places.

I loved it when I was there a few years ago. It’s so huge and incredibly impressive. It’s also such an easy trip by train from Paris. I would vote yes. Especially during April when the weather is so nice outside so you’re just happy being there during that time. You have to see it IMO. Right up there with the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay I think on the list of Paris must-sees.

Do go see it. Go bleeding first thing in the morning as in spend the night locally and get there the dot it opens.

Ignore the louvre. I would personally be just fine with all the non-3d artwork being photographed at some insane high DPS and popped online so I could see it at my leisure. All 4 times I have been it has been slammed with tourists, even being in line before it opens. The Mona Lisa is behind glass, and you are cordoned off at a distance from it, so you might as well look at a picture online. [I will say that there are some surprising things there if you are not looking at the usual tourist stuff - there is a lovely woman reclining in an alcove that when you walk around to see her front it is an hermaphrodite :eek::p]

[not safe for work]

[as I was with a group of US Catholic school kids complete with nuns, this was an interesting discovery. About as fun as when the movie theater that was supposed to be showing Silver Streak put in the first reel of something called Bilitis Sings … :eek::p]

I would vote yes, despite having few interest in Versailles myself (I don’t particularly like the architecture of this era and I essentialy abhor the over the top baroque style. I don’t even like classical French-style gardens.), given that you’ve already been to paris a few times and that Versailles is quite a reference.

I went to Versailles for the last time many years ago (6 years? 10 years? I couldn’t tell) so maybe things have changed. The crowds weren’t really bad but it was during winter. As already stated several times, get there early. In part to avoid the crowds, and in part because there’s quite a lot to see. If you don’t like being rushed, you’ll need the whole day, anyway. Or if you’re like me and are non-plused, you’ll cross it on your “to do” list, leave early and have time left for some walking around and gawking back in Paris.
By the way,vaux-le-vicomte, designed by the same architect, same painter and same landscape architect as Versailles is sometimes considered as an alternative to the latter, and less crowded. Though impressive, it doesn’t have its opulence, however.