Hops and Skips

Day Trip to Versailles (With a Toddler in Tow!)

When I wrote about Giverny, I mentioned we had two ventures outside of Paris planned for this trip. One was Giverny; the other was Versailles, a destination I hadn’t visited during either of my previous trips to Paris – and the location of a scene from Midnight in Paris that we quote on the reg. [“Versailles. Versailles.”]

One of the most important things life with a kid has taught me is that preparation is key. And when you’re travelling with a toddler, doing your homework ahead of time can prevent a potential nightmare. Prior to our day trip, I Google-searched “Versailles with toddler” to figure out basic trip logistics like train stops, time commitments, stroller rules, etc. What I also found were lots of TripAdvisor comments that said things like “DON’T BOTHER, it will be miserable!” That’s a very disheartening sentiment, one that will almost make you second-think your decisions!

Any outing or experience has potential for unexpected snags, delays, or meltdowns, but as long as you know what you’re getting into and you think ahead of time about what you’ll need to make it through, you can make a great day of most anything, even with a volatile tiny human accompanying you. This time, we didn’t take the TripAdvisor advice, and I hope that other parents don’t either. So to help with that pre-planning and maybe quell some hesitations, I decided I’d share our experience as a guide for other travelling families out there.

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Getting There

Getting to Versailles from Paris was much easier than getting to Giverny. You’ll want to take the RER-C train, which heads into the Paris suburbs. It’s different than the city-center Metro, so a Zone 1 ticket will not cover the whole trip. The RER-C does, however, connect to many Metro stops within Zone 1, so you can simply buy a ticket at your local Metro stop and choose “Versailles Chateau” as your final destination. That ticket will then allow you through all necessary transfers. Here’s a RER-C line map for reference. We took the RER-C to Versailles from Invalides, and it was about 30 minutes from there. Once you arrive at the Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche stop (which is easy to figure out; it’s the end of the line), it’s about a 10 minutes walk to the castle.

Getting Tickets

My biggest piece of advice: if planning to visit the chateau, buy tickets online ahead of time – and get the Passport with Timed Entry! With the timed entry, you’ll get to use a door separate from general admission (a good visual guide available here). Also follow the cliché rule about getting out early to beat the crowds. Get the 9:00am entry, arrive at least 15 minutes early, and you will be pleased with how short your entry line will be. You can also visit the park and gardens only for free, and here is a good guide on entry points. Note that certain days in the summer (the ones with Musical Fountain Shows) do require a paid ticket, even if just visiting the gardens.

Audioguide or No?

This one’s up to you, but just consider that waiting for an audioguide is more time waiting to get to the good stuff – and if you’ve got little ones, time is valuable! Also, if you’ve gotten in line early and are one of the first to enter the chateau so you can get that awesome photo of the Hall of Mirrors with minimal people in your shot, you won’t want to delay. We opted, instead of the audioguide, to download a Rick Steves podcast tour of Versailles. We just went through the Apple Podcast app, but you can also access it here (along with some other Paris locales). It just under an hour, which was actually the PERFECT length for both adult and toddler attention spans!

Getting Around

If you’re thinking of visiting Versailles with an infant, toddler, or kiddo in tow, this may be the most helpful section! Two important things: 1) Strollers are not allowed in the chateau, and you will have to check yours before entering. Baby carriers/slings, however, are fine, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND using this method to cart around your kiddo while inside. I wore bébé on my front, and she even enjoyed sharing my earbuds to hear Rick Steves’ tour! 2) The park and gardens of Versailles are HUGE, so definitely don’t leave that stroller at home! Most of the grounds are not smoothly paved; it’s either packed sand/dirt or cobblestone. Our gb Pockit stroller, while probably not always the most comfortable ride due to rough terrain, managed just fine. (And hey, if you’ve already been navigating a stroller through Paris streets, you’re already used to these challenges!) You can also rent golf carts and bicycles to navigate through the park and gardens.

Beyond the Chateau

Most likely, your visit with start in the chateau, leaving you to venture outside once finished with the tour. (Be sure to pick up your stroller from the baggage claim before heading into the park and gardens!) Like any tourist attraction, all parts of Versailles will get busier and busier as the day progresses, so an early stroll through the manicured gardens will be less crowded and, perhaps, more pleasant. Once you leave the garden area, though, the park area is HUGE, and you may often find yourself walking without another person in sight. There many spots throughout the park to take a rest and picnic. It’s pretty amazing to see how the whole property is in a constant state of maintenance. We’d pass a row of trees, half of which had been trimmed, and you can see what a difference the grooming makes! Seriously, I think the landscaping crew must finish and then have to start all over again.

If you’ve committed a full day to Versailles, I recommend making your way to the Trianon Palaces and the Queen’s Hamlet. Think of these as country houses – places for the royal family to escape, while still on the same estate. We didn’t go into either Grand or Petit Trianon, but we did explore the Queen’s Hamlet. It’s a very strange and amusing juxtaposition – rural architecture and farm life, just down the road from one of history’s grandest palaces. Just think of the journeys taken to these locales, probably by horseback or carriage, and the slew of maids and footmen that probably accompanied, just for a respite from the chaos of Versailles. Marie Antoinette is another film favorite, and it was constantly in my mind as we explored the whole property.

Amenities

Though huge, Versailles actually has pretty accessible amenities throughout. This interactive map is super helpful with exact locations of restrooms, restaurants, food stands, and shops, no matter which section of the property you are in (Chateau, Gardens, Trianon Palaces, Park). There are also maps on display throughout the park and gardens for a quick, visual check-in. I do, however, recommend bringing snacks and drinks for your ventures through the grounds, especially if you’ve got kids accompanying!

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Our total journey to Versailles lasted at least 8 hours, and baby girl napped for less than an hour of it. I think she was taking it all in as much as we were; she’s such a curious adventurer. Bottom line: it’s a totally doable day trip with kids of any age; just arm yourself with information and preparation!

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