If you take just one trip out of Paris, make it this journey to the home of the Sun King. If the weather is fine, allow a whole day so you can visit the château and make the most of the park.
To keep it manageable for kids, stick to the State Apartments (1), which give a vivid sense of the reign of Louis XIV. The 240-feet-long Hall of Mirrors – with its chandeliers, painted ceiling, and 17 mirrors lined up with 17 windows – is as giltery today when full of tourists as it was when full of courtiers. In the King’s Bedroom, imagine the elaborate ceremonies each day when he awoke and went to bed in public view.
Behind the château lie the formal gardens (2). Visit on a summer weekend when the fountains give an amazing display, with water jets spouting out of gilded statues and tumbling down marble cascades. Leave the gardens by the gate to the right of the Bassin d’Apollon. Before you, the Grand Canal streches across the park, with a jetty (3) where you can rent rowboats. There is space galore for running around or picnicking (stock up beforehand at place du Marché Notre-Dame in town). You’ll find a café and ice-cream stands to the right of the gate.
Take the broad avenue that runs diagonally to the right to reach the Petit Trianon (4), the minipalace where Marie Antoinette escaped formal court life (many scenes in Sofia Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette were shot here), and the Hameau (5), with its thatched dairy and water mill, where she could forget the trials of being a princess.
Metro Station : Versailles-Rive Gauche (Line RER C)