If you have experience visiting large, historical European residences which are open to the public, then you are bound to expect clear signs of love and passion put in to running them as tourist attractions (e.g. Hampton Court Palace), perfect management of ticketing and strictly timed entry (the Alhambra or Buckingham Palace), and the peace of mind and calmness to enjoy your surroundings and to take in everything you see (Scönbrunn Palace, etc.) The Château de Versailles has none, I repeat NONE, of these features.
If you decide to visit Versailles, be prepared to spend a large number of hours queuing. At low season, expect to queue 1.5 hours for a ticket and at least another 2 hours to gain entry to the palace. At high season, God help you. There is no covered or heated area in winter/spring for those waiting; visitors are left to fend for themselves whatever the weather, and are even expected to form their own queuing system across the cobbles of the huge courtyard outside the palace gates. I was thoroughly angered to see poor, unsuspecting parents with their small children gradually getting more and more tired and upset in the cold.
Once inside the palace, be prepared for a lot of pushing, shoving and short tempers. The interior of the château is nothing short of disappointing. There is some beautiful marble work on the walls, but the majority of rooms have been refurbished in a modern style to display mediocre paintings and amateurish, projected videos about people who have visited the castle. You become a herd of cattle. Far too many people are let in at once. There are no alternative routes or off-cuts; everybody has to follow the same path, there is no breathing space, and you risk beginning to feel extremely trapped. Once I realized that it would be like that the entire way around, I simply could not enjoy the visit. I was desperate to get out. The palace essentially takes you hostage. The supposed majesty of the Hall of Mirrors is lost amidst the hideous concoction of graffitied mirrors in need of a good polish, cheap substitute chandeliers and throngs of loud people. There is not one room completely furnished in the style of those who once lived there. The entire place is devoid of atmosphere or wonder.
The gardens and Marie Antoinette’s shepherdess cottage are delightful, but really only superb in the summer months. At least entrance to the gardens is free, so there are no insufferable queues and your children will not get bored to tears.
The Château de Versailles is a huge money-maker for the French tourist industry, and the certainty of this is clearly what has led them to lose all respect for visitors and for the history they should be proud to preserve. They should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
I am young and able-bodied, and still found my trip to Versailles exhausting. I shudder to think what it must be like for young ones, elderly people or the disabled. If you must see it, just enjoy the gardens and the view of the buildings from the outside. Don’t lose your money and your sanity to the palace’s infernal interior.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.