Versailles in Ile-de-France is the home of one of France's most famous and spectacular monuments - the Palace of Versailles.
Known for being the residence of the French monarchy before the Revolution, Versailles was first recorded in the 11th century as a small village crossed by trade routes. However, Merovingian tombs have recently been discovered suggesting that the area has a longer history of settlers than was previously thought. The village of Versailles passed hands from lords to a Huguenot before being confiscated during the St Bargolomew Massacre and given to Albert de Gondi whose son eventually sold it to Louis XIII in 1632. Here begins Versailles association with the opulence of the monarchy as Louis XIII, and most especially his son Louis XIV, built the renowned palace as well as enlarging Versailles itself to a city with several administrative buildings. Versailles was the home of the French court and the government until the French Revolution in 1789. After the Revolution, the Grand Trianon of the palace, which was built as a home for Louis XIV and his family away from the royal court, became a favourite place for Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife, Empress Marie-Louise, who restored it and brought new furnishings after the royal furnishings were sold at auction.
One of the world's best-known buildings, the Palace of Versailles is a lavish statement of wealth and decadence. However much of this huge palace you decide to visit, make sure you do not miss the remarkable Hall of Mirrors where the beautiful arches facing the windows are decorated with 357 mirrors, and the sumptuous Grand Apartments of the king and queen. Outside, you can spend hours roaming the incredible formal gardens - pools, fountains, groves, an orangerie and even an open-air ballroom can be found along the gardens' geometrically designed paths. From April to October, the grand musical fountain shows are performed regularly throughout the day so make sure you put time into your schedule to see one. However, there is more to discover in Versailles as well as the palace! Enjoy the history of perfumery at the Osmothèque, the only place of its kind in the world where its founders have actively sought to conserve perfumes from the past and played a large role in recreating Marie-Antoinette's perfume. There is also a coach museum containing a collection of carriages from the Ancien Régime and the Empire including Louis XIII's funeral coach and the carriage used at Charles X's coronation. More wonderful architecture can be found in the city with many churches and hotels, the cathedral, the Montpansier Theatre and the Prefecture in the old districts that are worth spending an afternoon to explore.
The city is surrounded by the forests of Versailles that are perfect for hikers and cyclists and became an 18km complete circuit in 2013, allowing for a great tour of the city. There is also more green space to explore in Versailles with the King's kitchen garden that stretches across 9 hectares and still maintains its original subdivisions. Try Versailles' well-known markets for some shopping and sample some gourmet cuisine in the city's restaurants including Gordon Ramsay's gastronomic restaurant, Gordon Ramsay au Trianon, which is located just outside of the palace grounds and has been awarded 2 Michelin stars.
Region: Ile de France
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