The Château de Versailles is the most visited castle in France, with nearly 7 million visits each year, excluding Covid. Located in the Yvelines, west of the capital, the monument is a true symbol of French savoir vivre, favoured by many kings who have marked history. The castle has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 1979, « for its influence on the development of architecture and landscape design […] and its representation of a masterpiece of human creative genius ». This justifies the size and fame of the castle.
A few words of history…
The Château de Versailles as we know it today has evolved since the time of Louis XIII. The latter, who had been fond of hunting parties since his childhood, decided to build a first château on this marshy area as early as 1623, with enlargement work a few years later, in 1631.
Years after the death of King Louis XIII, his son King Louis XIV took over the estate and the hunting lodge to build a true royal residence which was constantly transformed under the reigns of successive sovereigns until the eve of the French Revolution in 1789.
Today, the Château de Versailles is an integral part of France’s cultural and historical heritage, just like the famous Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower and Pompidou Centre.
The centrepiece: The Hall of Mirrors
Among the vast 800 hectares and 2,300 rooms that make up the Château de Versailles, some masterpieces stand out for their decoration and function. Probably the most famous is the Hall of Mirrors with its 357 mirrors. Originally an inconvenient open terrace, this part of the château was entirely reinterpreted by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708), who turned it into a majestic 73-metre long gallery, synonymous with the power of the king and French craftsmanship. It was then used as a meeting place, a place of passage and, much more rarely, as a space for ceremonies.
Louis XIV’s First Painter, Charles le Brun (1619-1690), was the master builder of the Hall of Mirrors and responded to the King’s request by decorating the room with paintings recalling the first seventeen years of the Sun King’s reign. The military and civil exploits of the sovereign will be highlighted, along with works of art inspired by Antiquity (Greek god Apollo, busts of emperors, ancient statues, etc.) exhibited in the room.
Did you know? It was in the Hall of Mirrors that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June 1919, officially ending the First World War.
Exhibition: Drawings for Versailles
To complete and enrich its offer, the Château de Versailles provides the general public with a complete discovery of the works and highlights of the estate by organising frequent temporary exhibitions.
From 1 June to 3 October 2021, the exhibition « Drawings for Versailles, Twenty Years of Acquisitions » reveals a selection of works spanning the period from the 16th to the 20th century. The programme includes gouaches, watercolours, pencil and red chalk drawings, some of which have never been seen before and some of which are being shown for the first time. These works depict members of the royal family, caricatures, sketches of the château’s decor and architecture, etc. The exhibition offers an immersion in the art of yesteryear with a privileged approach to the techniques and materials used by numerous artists, including Charles Le Brun, François Lemoyne, Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer and Augustin Pajou.
Open air exhibition: The Lalannes at Trianon
Animals and imaginary creations dotted around the green spaces of the Château de Versailles.
This is what the exhibition « Les Lalanne à Trianon » proposes to discover from 19 June to 10 October 2021, in partnership with the Parisian gallery Galerie Mitterrand.
These extravagant and mischievous beasts are the creations of the Lalanne couple with Claude (1925-2019) and her husband François-Xavier (1927-2008). Both worked hand in hand from 1952 onwards and produced sculptures combining the skills and worlds of each. Their sculptures, presented in private and public collections throughout the world, have delighted and amused the public, while at the same time returning sculpture to a more practical, even more everyday function.
Between the Petit Trianon, the Queen’s Hamlet and the Jardin Anglais, the exhibition blends into the landscape and the setting where the animals of a farm lived side by side and where it was good to walk around, like a small haven of peace.
Programming: Les Jardins de Versailles
How to end your visit in style? Through the Gardens, those green spaces emblematic of the Château de Versailles!
43 kilometres of paths to be walked to discover all the gardens, groves, fountains, ponds and statues in this vast green space.
The gardens of Versailles were designed according to the model of the French garden: a normally disorderly nature is controlled and turned into one that is controlled by man. Symmetry and geometry are the main features, and the axis of perspective is drawn. It was the landscape gardener André Le Nôtre (1613-1700) who supervised and oversaw the development of these gardens, with work lasting 40 years.
The Gardens and their fountains will be honoured every day in July and August 2021 (except Mondays) on the occasion of the Grandes Eaux Musicales and the Jardins Musicaux. This musical setting of the gardens continues in the evening from 12 June to 25 September 2021 (14 July and 15 August 2021 included) for a colourful show with fountain games, all set to the rhythm of classics by great composers (Lully, Gluck, Rameau…).
Nota-bene: Don’t forget to book your ticket online, even for those who are entitled to a free ticket.