By Ashley Daley
One of the very first “touristy” places we visited when we moved to Paris was the beautiful gardens of the Chateau de Versailles. It was August and the gardens were stunning. It was a wonderful way to introduce us to France. Since then, we’ve returned to the chateau many times and even got an annual pass.
When you think about a chateau, at first you might not think it’s a great place to visit with children. While the chateau itself is far from stroller friendly and can be crowded during high tourist season, the gardens and other smaller buildings on the grounds can be the perfect place to enjoy French culture while allowing your kids some space to run around (and not get lost among all the people).
Below are some of my favourite places and activities to take our two girls at Chateau de Versailles:
Gardens in le domaine de Marie-Antoinette
This is located all the way in the back of the properties, past the main gardens and is part of the Petit Trianon. While it can be a pleasant walk from the main palace, it can take about 20 minutes to get there. There’s also separate parking closer to the Petit Trianon if you’re only interested in visiting this area.
This is my all time favorite place in Versailles. There’s a chateau that you can tour that was Marie Antoinette’s personal domain, but the real treasure is the garden out back, along with her hamlet where she used to dress up as a peasant. It’s the perfect place for a picnic and for allowing children to run around. In the summer there are wild daisies and beautiful red poppies everywhere.
The hamlet itself almost appears to be a scene out of Disneyland with its thatched-roof buildings, watermill, and lake (complete with swans). The best part is the small, working farm with goats, sheep, rabbits, pigs, and more that families can come see. We’ve spent several afternoons admiring all the animals.
Grand Trianon and Gardens
Right next to Marie Antoinette’s personal palace is the Grand Trianon, the King’s “home away from home”. It’s a much smaller chateau than the main palace and has always been far less crowded. Families can easily and quickly tour the estate. There’s even a beautiful Mirror Room where the King would hold councils. Parents will appreciate how gorgeous it is while children can have fun looking into all the mirrors. After touring the chateau, there is a lovely private garden out back that is stroller friendly and a great place for kids to run around (and smell all the beautiful flowers!).
Musical Fountains Show
During the summer and beginning of fall, the estate offers the opportunity to watch their musical fountains show. It’s a great way to explore the main gardens while watching the fountains play to period music. Maps are given out showing where all the different fountains are along with ideas for walking paths in order to enjoy the show to its fullest. We’ve only managed to attend once (shows are during certain dates and times – check the chateau’s calendar for details), but our girls loved it and were captivated by the water moving along with the music. The gardens are beautiful all on their own, but exploring them with the period music and fountains make it a little more special.
We love exploring Versailles with our two little ones and I hope that these suggestions can help make a trip to the chateau a little more special for your family too!
Chateau de Versailles is only a 50-minute train ride from the magical city of Paris. For some tips and insights into visiting here with kids, we love these posts from Ashley Daley, WanderlustCrew, Wyldfamilytravel and GlobetrottingGrommets