The Château de Versailles (Palace of Versailles) is Versailles’ main attraction. It is the world’s grandest palace, decorated by tons of gold, multicolor marbles, baroque murals, and miles of Charles Le Brun-painted ceilings. Visitors passing through the palace’s colossal state rooms and its vast gardens will immediately understand the sheer immensity of this endless estate. These were the same corridors, rooms, and gardens roamed by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
The palace was built in the Baroque era with ambitions to dwarf all rival châteaus and manors. The confines were built to grand and lavish specifications – beautiful to look at but less cozy to live in. As time passed and Baroque grandeur was less fashionable, the Château became out of touch. Louis XVI spent most of his time in the Grand Trianon deep in the Versailles’ gardens while Queen Marie Antoinette created a farm and village, Hameau, to play out her fantasy of living a life as an idyll peasant.
The main entrance to the palace, the gilt-iron gates of Place d’Armes, is at the top of the courtyard to the right. The main rooms are on the first floor. Around the Marble Courtyard are the king and queen’s private apartments (Apartement du Roi and Grand Apartement de la Reine). Visitors can see the king’s bedroom where Louis XIV died in 1715. The Grand Apartement de la Reine served as the residence of Marie Antoinette – her stunningly opulent bedchambers and its hidden escape door which leads into a secret passageway to the king’s chamber are a must-see.
The real highlight of Château de Versailles is the sparkling Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors) with its 17 great mirrors reflecting the light from tall arched windows. It was at the Hall of Mirrors where Otto von Bismarck proclaimed the unified German Empire in 1871 after France’s capitulation and where the Treaty of Versailles was signed later in 1919, ending WWI and assigning the war’s blame on Germany.
Flanking the Hall of Mirrors is the Grands Apartements (State Apartments), baroquely decorated with marble sculptures, gilt stucco, and painted ceilings, and where you’ll find the extravagant Salon d’Apollon, which was the king’s throne room. The Petits Apartements (Private Apartments), in contrast, was much more intimate and secluded – used by the royal family and friends.
In the north wing of the palace, you’ll find the solemn white and gold Chapelle with its five chapels, the Opera House, an oval-shaped Hall built entirely from wood painted to look like marble, and the 17th century Galeries, which has exhibits retracing the palace’s history. In the south wing, you’ll find the Galeries des Batailles (Hall of Battles), lined with paintings depicting French military glory.