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Versailles & musical fountains: Touristy or Magical? Skip it or Don't Miss?

Versailles & musical fountains: Touristy or Magical? Skip it or Don't Miss?

Old Mar 12th, 2015, 01:52 AM
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Versailles & musical fountains: Touristy or Magical? Skip it or Don't Miss?

I'm considering a visit to Versailles during our 1st trip to Paris in July. We have 8 nights in Paris, and we would do a day-trip to Versailles. (After Paris we'll be taking the train to Switzerland.)

With 8 nights in Paris, is Versailles a must see? I dislike crowds, especially indoors, where they can make me feel claustrophobic. But I'm intrigued by the history of Versailles. Also, the fountains only run on weekends in July...and I understand weekends are the most crowded days for Versailles. Should we avoid a weekend visit to Versailles, and just miss the fountains & music show?

So here's what I'm considering:

--buy Museum Pass in advance
--Pre-book the 1.5 hour tour of the royal apartments at palace for 7 euros in order to skip the line at Versailles
--Take train to Versailles and arrive before 9:00am
-- Do the 1.5 hour pre-booked royal apartments tour in the morning (9:30 to 11:00, I think)
--Exit palace at 11:00 and head for Marie's hamlet
--Visit gardens after Marie's hamlet & have lunch
--Re-enter the palace at 4:30 to see the room we missed. (palace closes at 6:30 in July?)

What do you think? Will this plan be enjoyable, and allow us to avoid the worst of the crowds? Should we avoid Versailles on weekends when the fountains are running? Or is that water & music show really worth it? Or is it touristy?

OR we could skip Versailles and do a different day-trip from Paris? To where? Giverny? Fountainbleau? Although I'm fascinated by Versailles, I tend to be happiest if I can plan on avoiding the worst of the crowds, and find a peaceful spot.

Thanks for your thoughts, advice and opinions!
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 04:14 AM
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I really enjoyed the gardens of Versailles and I was there on a holiday when, because entrance to the gardens were free, thousands and thousands and thousands of people were there. The gardens are so vast, there was no sense of crowding in the slightest. You'd need millions of people there for that to happen.

Not so, of course, the interior of the palace, which is everything you fear. I happen to be bored blind by most palaces anyway, and while enjoyed looking out the windows from the hall of mirrors, I otherwise could have skipped it. Heresy to many, but I've since learned to skip most palace interiors everywhere. Just not my style. However, if you are interested, a 1.5 hour tour sounds efficient and yes, not on a weekend.

Inside or out, Versailles is the very definition of a tourist attraction. However, not much is tricked up for tourists (there is recorded music now instead of court musicians). While the fountains were turned on while I was in the gardens, and there was music all around, I didn't actually witness a music and fountain show, and didn't feel deprived-- but I don't think I would have avoided it for fear of crowds if I wanted to see it. For me, part of the fun of being at Versailles with so many other people was the feeling that the louts got the boot and the ordinary people got the palace! Vive la revolution!

If you are fascinated by Versailles, you can find plenty of peace and quiet, certainly if you are willing to hike over to Marie's hameu. Although I wasn't playing close attention, it did appear to me that visitors could rent bikes (as well as rowboats for the lake), and were I going again, I might opt for renting a bike to get around the gardens.

Overall, I was surprised I liked Versailes so much.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 04:30 AM
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you can also get a "petit train" to the Hameau which should save the legs.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 04:30 AM
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If I can add one more thought: Versailles is really not only emblematic of a certain extremely important aspect of French culture and history, and embedded in the national identity, it also served as the model for practically all other super-fabulous royal or state gardens the world over, and later public gardens too -- and I am not sure Versailles has ever been topped for grandeur that still manages to be harmoniously beautiful. If that sort of thing interests you, then Versailles is the mother ship, and reshaped a lot of the man-made world.

As for Giverny as an alternate, be aware that the most important part of the gardens from an historic and aesthetic viewpoint are fairly small, and the gardens attract a great, great many people in summertime. For those who are students and lovers of Monet's work, it is thrilling to see -- but even the most diehard Monet enthusiast would probably have a hard time dealing with the crowds in July.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 01:13 PM
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sandralist: Please do add as many thoughts as you'd like! I enjoy hearing everyone's varied experiences at Versailles. The main reason I like palaces is to imagine the people living there. But being trapped in a tourist sandwich wouldn't achieve this goal. So, I'm leaving towards booking that short 1.5 hour tour of the royal apartments, and skipping the rest of the insides of the palace.

The gardens and Marie's hamlet sounds very enjoyable. I don't actually care about the music & fountain show, but it would be nice to see the fountains running though. However that's only possible on weekends in July.

I'm leaning towards going on a weekday in July when the fountains aren't running. Just unsure if that's the best choice for us.

Also good to know that Giverny would also be crowded in July. Then we won't do both Giverny and Versailles.

annhig: Thanks, I'll look up more info about the petit train to the Hameau. Is the Hameau Marie's Hamlet?
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 01:25 PM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hameau_de_la_Reine

If seeing the special weekend fountain diplays is not a 'must' for you, then a better plan is probably weekdays. Never having been there in July, I don't know really know how much of an advantage that is. I think you do need to set your psyche on zen-for-crowds, and let your imagination take you into a different dimension.

But once you are out of the interiors, I don't think you will feel the gardens are "crowded". There are entire international airfields smaller than the grounds of Versailles. Walking around the gardens, you will also be able to feel how it was to live there. You will also probably understand why Marie Antoinette wanted someplace that was cosy, homey and private -- away from non-stop show-off nature of the court and its constant parade of parties.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 03:59 PM
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Mrs. Peabody and I did an unconventional visit to Versailles. We had previously toured the palace, so we skipped it. We walked the grounds and gardens, toured the Trianons Grand and Petit, and visited the Hamlet. We sat by the fountains while they tested them for a night show. We walked about 5 miles (pedometer!) and had a wonderful day. Nothing even resembled a crowd.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 04:52 PM
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The first time I went to Versailles was a rainy, cold, overcast Thursday in September and it was still packed with people. The castle is going to be crowded, no matter when you go. I can't even imagine how it would be in July. I was happy to see the inside but it's not something I would do again and while I don't think I'm as bothered by tourists as other people, I really didn't enjoy how crowded that was. Still I think the very early 1.5 hour tour sounds pretty good. You still get to see the palace and we didn't do a tour but we took around that much time anyway.

But really, the gardens are the highlight. I've never seen the magical fountains and definitely wouldn't pay extra for that but honestly, the gardens will be impressive whether you see that or not. The grounds are MASSIVE. I went and wandered around in the gardens on a free Tuesday in spring and I still didn't make it to Marie Antoinette's hamlet because it's just so darn far. But it is SO beautiful and I'm sure it will be spectacular and lovely that time of year. I actually loved walking around the gardens and seeing all these people, French and tourists, lolling about and enjoying the grounds because in the age of royalty, none of us would have even gotten beyond the gates. I felt very fortunate to be able to enjoy those gardens now and for free! Even though there will be a lot of people, it's so big that it's unlikely to feel crowded. And you can even rent a boat and go boating on the Grand Canal. Have fun.
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Old Mar 12th, 2015, 05:22 PM
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To be honest, the interior of the palace with be VERY crowded in July. I think the palace is a bit underwhelming because it was ransacked after the revolution but the gardens, farm and outlying buildings are spectacular. If you go, remember that once you get through the palace you will have plenty of space in the gardens. They are worth it.
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Old Mar 13th, 2015, 12:10 AM
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are there any night-time visits available when you will be there?

that might be an idea to miss most of the crowds.
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Old Mar 13th, 2015, 11:23 AM
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Thanks for all the ideas! annhig, I can see if Versailles is open at night during our visit in July. But since they have night-time shows, I'm guessing those could be crowded as well?
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Old Mar 13th, 2015, 12:11 PM
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This thread is very old so things might have changed, but if they haven't, the amount of detail about the nighttime events at Versailles is useful

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...de_France.html
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Old Feb 21st, 2017, 03:20 AM
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Versailles is an awesome place to relax and enjoy your holiday. 100% recommended! The musical fountain especially is worth looking.
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Old Feb 21st, 2017, 03:25 AM
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I think if you skip Versailles you'll regret it. Now, given your statement: "I dislike crowds, especially indoors, where they can make me feel claustrophobic." let's talk about another palace, in fact the largest one in Europe: The Louvre.

Don't like crowds? I suggest you figure out a way, NOW, to negotiate the place.
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Old Feb 21st, 2017, 07:47 PM
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This thread is 2 years old...likely the OP has been and gone.
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