A lover of all things history, I was delighted when The Paris Guy invited me to review one of their guided tours in Paris. Obviously, I picked Versailles. The grand palace is dear to my heart and never do I say no to wandering through the magnificent Hall of Mirrors.
To be perfectly honest, I never go on guided tours unless I have no other choice. I usually do my own research and enjoy the freedom of visiting a monument at my own pace. And in this case, I had already been to Versailles so many times before. What could I possibly learn from a guide?
In the background: the Versailles chapel undergoing restoration
Say “au revoir” to a +1-hour wait
One warm Sunday morning, I found myself joining my guide Lucia and an all-American group of 9 at the Eiffel Tower. A short train ride later, we arrived at the palace and its already huge line of visitors. No waiting 1 hour under the sun for my group: we spent 10 minutes in the shade or at the cafeteria while our guide retrieved our earphones, and then headed straight to the groups’ entrance. Though we should have entered straight away, we did wait 30 minutes outside due to delays from the Palace of Versailles. Our guide used this time to start telling us about the history of the place and to show us details of the recently-restored golden gate.
This Swarovski crystal chandelier was installed in 2013.
Fun facts for first-timers and experts alike
What I really liked about this tour is how enjoyable it was for everyone involved. The other people in my group had never been to Versailles, probably knew very little of French history, and thoroughly enjoyed their visit. Clearly passionate about the palace, our guide gave life to the palace by portraying its royal inhabitants and detailing their daily life at court in a fun way.
As for myself, I did learn a lot during the tour and it made me love the palace even more. For example, I had no idea Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was kept at Versailles before being moved to the Louvre in the late 19th century. I am now grateful to Louis XIV’s wife for introducing chocolate in France. Also, our guide pointed out architectural details that I hadn’t paid attention to before. How had I missed these gorgeous rococo ceilings up until now?
Behind this door: what was once the museum of the palace, with paintings including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa
The room where King Louis XV would sleep and where he died
A surprising effect
While I love Versailles, the crowds of tourists can make the palace feel oppressive. Surprisingly, I felt none of that during the guided tour. My mind was more focused on what our guide was saying and on what she pointed out. Also, the earphones made it easier to wander around a room while she was talking. The pace of the visit was just fine. I would have loved to spend a bit more time in the Hall of Mirrors, but then can you ever get enough of this place?
An afternoon to visit the gardens and the rest of the royal domain
When we were finished visiting the palace, our guide took us to the gardens. On our way to l’Orangerie, my other favorite part of Versailles, she explained the principles of the jardin à la française, with man ruling over nature (and in this case, a swamp). Our final stop together was facing the grand perspective. There she showed us on the map the different areas she recommended we stop at, and how to get to more distant monuments such as the Trianon.
Since we were visiting on a weekend, we were able to enjoy the musical fountain shows, which made the visit even more exceptional. With the baroque music playing and water sprouting from the massive fountains, you could easily imagine the courtiers amusing themselves among the countless alleys and groves of Versailles.
The tour ended at the Latona fountain from where we were free to explore the rest of the royal domain for the rest of the day
A great tour if you fancy Versailles on a day trip
Needless to say, I very much enjoyed The Paris Guy tour, a great way to explore Versailles if you are visiting Paris. It is hard to truly appreciate the palace without any historical background, and our guide brought it to life much better than any guidebook or audioguide could. Also, this saves you time as you won’t have to organize the day trip yourself. Make sure you select a date with the musical fountain shows for an extra dose of royal pleasure.
On a practical note, if the weather allows it, I recommend you bring your lunch with you to picnic in the Versailles gardens right after the tour.