An advance ticket is a sensible thing to have if you visit Versailles in the summer (or spring or autumn) and intend to have a look at the rooms inside the palace. Otherwise you may well find yourself standing in line for a long time to get a ticket, as these folks in my photos are doing.
I took my photos on a Thursday in August, which is not even one of the most crowded days. The palace website says: “During the high season, the Palace of Versailles can get crowded, especially on Tuesdays and on week-ends.”
Currently the palace is closed on Mondays (as of 2017), but they are thinking of changing that.
There are various kinds of advance tickets that you can book on the Château de Versailles website, but you must first choose the date for your visit. The ticket is only valid on the date you choose. The audio-guide for the Palace (available in 11 languages) is included in the ticket price.
Even with an advance ticket you still have to go through security, which can also involve some waiting, but not as long as the line for tickets.
After a long wait in the August sun, these folks are finally getting close to the ticket office. When I came in February I just walked right into the ticket office, with no waiting at all, and found a room with about twenty ticket machines, only one of which was in use. So coming in the dead of winter is a good way to avoid the lines, but even then you will not be alone in the palace, as you may have noticed from some of my February photos. See my post Louis XIV and his Versailles Palace.
In this photo the banner points the way to entrances A and H, but this is only a temporary banner because they sometimes change the entrances around in hopes of reducing waiting times. So don’t be surprised if some websites show a different arrangement of entrances.
Note that entrance A is for “individuals with tickets, pass or annual card”. By “pass” they mean particularly the Paris Museum Pass, which is valid in Versailles for “access to all unguided tours, open according to the season: the ‘Grands Appartements’, the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Bedchamber, the Queen’s Bedchamber, the apartments of ‘Mesdames’ Louis XV’s daughters, exhibitions, the Trianon Castle and the Estate of Marie-Antoinette.” But it does not include “shows, musical water shows, musical gardens, conferences, restaurants and transport services.”
I have bought the Paris Museum Pass twice in recent years, but I did not use it for Versailles either time. To get your money’s worth from the Paris Museum Pass you would have to visit lots of museums or monuments (two or three per day as a rule of thumb), so before buying, take the time to add up prices and see if it will really be advantageous for you. As a general rule, I would say it is not economical to use the Paris Museum Pass for time-consuming excursions to outlying places like Versailles or Fontainebleau.
In addition to (perhaps) saving you some money, the Paris Museum Pass can help you reduce your waiting time, but an advance ticket from the palace website will have the same effect.
Above all, do not let anyone talk you into buying the so-called “Paris Pass”, which is merely the Paris Museum Pass packaged with expensive extras that you won’t have time for, and sold at a huge markup.
If you don’t feel up to walking around the palace gardens, you have the option of taking a mini-train from just behind the north wing of the palace. Be advised, however, that in the summer this may well entail yet another long bout of queuing in the hot sun.
I have never tried this mini-train (which is not the sort of train that runs on tracks, just a string of wagons pulled by a sort of electric tractor), but I learn from the palace website that it departs from the Palace and travels to the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and the Grand Canal before returning to the Palace.
They say visitors can disembark at each stop and board another mini-train later. A return ticket costs €7.50 if you have to pay the full price, or €5.80 if you get a concession aka discount (prices as of 2017).
Another way to get around the gardens without walking is to rent one of these electric vehicles that look sort of like golf carts and have room for up to five people, two facing forwards and three facing backwards. Again, I have never tried these, but on the palace website it says that they are “available for hire for visiting five circuits under your own steam, departing from the North Terrace.” (Hire is a British word for rent, and “under your own steam” means that you have to drive the thing yourself, in fact you have to show your driving license to prove you are capable of doing so.) The minimum cost is €34.00 for the first hour and then €8.50 for every additional 15 minutes. (Prices as of 2017.)
Some websites claim that you have to be disabled to use these electric vehicles, but that is not true. Anyone can rent them, disabled or not, and apparently you can even reserve one at +33 (0)1 39 66 97 66. It is true, though, that six of the vehicles have been adapted for wheelchair users.
There are only five routes that you are allowed to follow with these vehicles, and supposedly the motor turns itself off if you deviate from the prescribed route. I don’t know if this is true, however, and don’t know how you would turn the motor back on if this were to happen.
In front of the fence and front gate of Versailles Palace there is a large square called Place d’Armes, which at some point in the 20th century was turned into a parking lot for motor vehicles. This is in my opinion a blatant mis-allocation of public space, since five hundred car owners are allowed to block this potentially beautiful space that could be put to much better use by the seven million visitors per year (which works out to an average of over 22,000 per day) who come to visit the palace and grounds.
Five hundred car owners represent about 2.3 % of the average daily number of visitors. Even if we assume that three people come in each car and that they all visit the palace, that would still be only 6.8 % of the daily average. In other words, over 93 % of visitors are denied access to this space just so a small minority can park there.
Some websites say there are as many as twelve million visitors per year, which if it were true would work out to an average of over 38,000 per day.
Unfortunately, the shortest way to walk from the train station Versailles Rive Gauche to the palace leads right through this parking lot, so some people actually walk this way, zig-zagging through the parked cars to get to the palace gate. But there are ways to walk around the parking lot, for instance walk up the Rue de la Chancellerie, which even has a row of shade trees, and turn right when you get to the palace fence.
By the way, if you are a motorist and insist on driving to Versailles, your chances of actually getting a space in this parking lot are slim, since the lot usually fills up by mid-morning. If you do get a place, figure on paying up to € 28.00 for a ten-hour day.
But parking is free here at night, from 7:00 pm to 8:00 am. Since performances at the Royal Opera typically start at 8:00 pm, opera goers can park here for free in the evenings.
Obviously, I do not recommend coming to Versailles (or anywhere else) by car, not only because of the parking costs.
Location, aerial view and photos on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2017.