The small town of Versailles is famous across the world for its majestic Château de Versailles, which attracts millions of visitors every year. Only a small number of tourists realizes that the town itself is a real gem.
Once a tiny humble village, Versailles changes dramatically when Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, decided to turn into the French court’s headquarters and built the lavish palace. Louis XV and Louis XVI continued expanding the city adding new districts with elegant avenues, large squares and magnificent mansions. Today, Versailles is retains its splendour and is a real pleasure to explore.
The Notre Dame District, Versailles’s oldest, was created by Louis XIV and is a great place to start your tour into the town’s past. The 17th century Church of Notre Dame retains its original façade approved by Louis XIV while the majority of other building were embellished and rebuilt over the later centuries. A short walk from the church, you will find the lively local market, Marché Notre-Dame, considered the region’s finest. Even Parisians come here to stock up on cheese, truffles, meat and snails and other delicacies. Do not miss the former King’s Stables that house the Academy of Equestrian Arts where you can admire the beautiful old building and the horseshoe-shaped courtyard and watch the daily workouts and performances given by the riding school students.
|King's kitchen garden|
In the Saint-Louis District check out the King’s kitchen garden spread over 22 acres. It was created to feed the entire royal court and remains virtually unchanged. Another must-see sites here are the graceful Baroque Saint-Louis Cathedral with stunning paintings and the Carré Saint-Louis, charming 18th century urban complex.
|Church of Notre-Dame|
As any self-respecting French town, Versailles has plenty of excellent restaurants. The elegant Le Valmont located in a 17th century mansion serves mouth-watering traditional fish and meat dishes. In Le Boeuf à la Mode bistrot you will find more rustic French fare such as beef bourguignon, veal kidneys and onion soup.
Photos via Flickr by: Wally Gobetz, Joy Weese Moll, Guillaume Speurt