Located in Versailles, France, about 12 miles west of Paris, is the former royal residence known as the Palace of Versailles. The Public Establishment of the Palace, Museum, and National Estate of Versailles has been overseen managing the palace since 1995, under the supervision of the French Ministry of Culture. The palace is owned by the French Republic. The Palace, Park, or Gardens of Versailles receives 15,000,000 visitors annually, making it one of the most well-liked tourist destinations on the planet. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were only two million paying guests at the Château in 2020 as opposed to eight million in 2019. Foreign visitors, who make up 80% of paying visitors, saw a particularly sharp decline. Additionally, find out why Paris is called the city of light here.
On the site of the Palace of Versailles, Louis XIII first constructed a modest hunting lodge in 1623, and then in 1631–1644, he replaced it with a modest château. From 1661 to 1715, Louis XIV transformed the château into a palace over several stages. It was a favorite residence for both kings, and in 1682 Louis XIV made Versailles the de facto capital of France by relocating his court and government there. Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI kept things this way, mainly making interior changes to the palace, but in 1789 the royal family and the French capital moved back to Paris. The Palace of Versailles was largely deserted and depopulated for the remainder of the French Revolution, which also saw a sharp decline in the population of the neighborhood.
After seizing control of France, Napoleon Bonaparte used Versailles as a summer retreat from 1810 to 1814, but he did not restore it. Meaningful repairs to the palace were not made until the 1830s because when the French Monarchy was restored, it remained in Paris. The apartments of the southern wing were removed and replaced with a museum of French history.
Due to the palace’s significance as the epicenter of French power, the arts, and science in the 17th and 18th centuries, UNESCO named the palace and park a World Heritage Site in 1979. The palace, its gardens, and some of its ancillary buildings have all been added to the French Ministry of Culture’s list of historically significant monuments.
The town of Versailles only consisted of a few houses south of the current Place d’Armes before Louis XIV’s reign. But the lords of the court received land, and new structures appeared, mostly in the north quarter. On May 6, 1682, the Palace of Versailles was designated as the official royal residence of France. However, it was abandoned following the death of Louis XIV in 1715. But it was given back to the monarchy as a royal residence in 1722. During the reigns of Louis XV (1715–74) and Louis XVI (1774–92), additional augmentations were made. After the French Revolution, the building was almost destroyed.
Napoleon largely ignored Versailles, and Louis XVIII and Charles X merely maintained it, except for improvements to the Trianons. However, Louis-Philippe made significant changes, in part thanks to American customers. The Museum of French History, which was founded by him and dedicated “to all the glories of France” on June 10, 1837, during the first celebration at Versailles following the Revolution, was perhaps his most significant contribution to the palace.
A portion of the museum’s 6,000 paintings and 3,000 sculptures are on display throughout the palace, though the majority are not accessible to the public. The German army besieging Paris occupied Versailles in 1870 and 1871, and on January 18, 1871, William I of Prussia have crowned German Emperor in the Hall of Mirrors.
Versailles served as the location of the French National Assembly following the signing of the peace treaty with Germany and during the triumphant Paris Commune. Up until 1879, it served as the location for the parliament’s two chambers, and Versailles served as France’s capital during that time. On June 28, 1919, the treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed following World War I in the Hall of Mirrors. On June 4, 1920, in the Cotelle Gallery of the Grand Trianon, the Treaty of Trianon, which put an end to the war between the Allies and Hungary, was signed. The palace’s main purpose after World War II was tourism, though it was occasionally used for French parliament plenary congresses or to house visiting heads of state.
The palace and its gardens were listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1979. In addition, read more about amazing castles in France here. In 1989, a severe winter storm decimated more than 1,000 trees on the palace grounds, prompting the French government to launch a massive project of restoration and repair. Around 10,000 trees, including some that Marie Antoinette and Napoleon had planted, were lost in a severe windstorm in 1999. The château also sustained damage. The Grand Versailles project, an extensive restoration, and renovation program were introduced in 2003. The plan was hailed as the largest expansion of the palace facilities since Louis-reign, Philippe’s with a 17-year schedule and a budget that exceeded €500 million.
Palace of Versailles Attractions
The unforgettable, dazzling, over-the-top magnificent Hall of Mirrors is by far the most well-known top sight inside the Palace of Versailles (Galeries des Glaces). Pictures can’t capture it justice. Standing in Hall’s expansive space and observing light reflections, enormous quantities of gold and crystal, and endlessly multiplying images in the silvery mirrors everywhere you look is an unforgettable experience.
The King’s State Apartment will probably be on your tour of Versailles. Following in the footsteps of countless officials and sovereigns from all over Europe during the era when Louis XIV hosted visitors here, you explore the collection of seven opulent rooms. Each lavish room practically drips with crimson and gold Italianate furniture, priceless artwork, and crystal chandeliers, all of which are meant to impress.
The Royal Chapel that you see today is Chateau’s fifth chapel to be constructed. More than 110 sculptors and other artists contributed to the ornate sculptures, paintings, and ornamentation, which took more than 20 years to complete in 1710. The renowned pipe organ in the Chapel was built by master organ builder Clicquot.
The Chapel is the tallest structure in the palace, standing 144 feet high. It has two levels, just like Sainte-Chapelle and other French palace chapels. On the upper level, where the royal family attended mass, they would have had a fantastic up-close view of the magnificent painted ceilings and domes. However, as was customary at the time, the public and other court members observed from the ground floor.