Outrageous Opulence, Absolute Power
Home of the most flamboyant court since the collapse of ancient Rome, and indisputably France’s most-visited château, Versailles was built by the French monarchy at the height of its glory—a century-long heyday lasting from 1682, when Louis XIV brought his court and entourage of 20,000 here from Paris until 1789 when Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were notified that revolutionary mobs were arriving.
In 1662, on the site of his father’s old hunting lodge, Louis XIV began construction of France’s new seat of government, which became a symbol of royal excess. Its most memorable room is the restored 236-foot-long Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), whose seventeen large arched windows are matched by as many sparkling beveled mirrors, which have witnessed many elaborate balls, Louis XVI marrying Marie Antoinette, and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The elaborately Baroque Grands Appartements (State Apartments) are equally extraordinary.
After exploring the palace’s interior, take a stroll through Versailles’s famous 250-acre park; the formal gardens were designed by the well- known Andre Le Notre, and on Sundays the fountains are in full flow. Better yet, check into the neighboring turn-of-the-century Trianon Palace hotel for some royal pampering once reserved for guests of the Sun King. Woolly descendants of Marie Antoinette’s sheep still graze in front of the château hotel.