The Palace of Versailles, the Most Infuriating Place on Earth?

Posted on 23. May, 2012 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

Let’s start off by stating this, loud and clear: I am NOT a people person.

About 7 billion people on this planet, and I can only tolerate 30 of them. And not at the same time. So whenever I know I’ll be in a mingling situation, or an overcrowding one, I really have to put my filters on and work extra hard at being normal and not show that all I really want to do is get the hell out of there.

So my day out in Versailles was not nearly as enjoyable as I thought it would be.

“Too much people” doesn’t even begin to cover how crowded the palace was. A human mass formed at the very beginning, and slowly made its way together through the many rooms in a tight, locked, uncomfortable compound. A very firmly locked compound that I did not care for.

I mean, SERIOUSLY?

It was one of of the most infuriating experiences of my life. I had no willpower of my own. I could barely circulate between the people to get to the promised velvet rope in the hopes of snapping a photo without being almost pushed over. Sweat pearled on my forehead - I desperately wanted to take my coat off, but I didn’t think I could handle the crowds with just one arm available. I needed all the coordination I could get.

At some point I started to think Justin Bieber was probably hiding in one of the secret doors in the corner, because I could not find another rational explanation for the crowd’s behavior.

It was already frustrating enough being stuck there and not enjoying the visit one little bit - but I noticed just how much it sucked when I got back home and started editing my photos.

90% of my shots were ceiling shots.

The ceilings at Versailles are works of art on their own right, mind you - but I would’ve hoped for at least a handful of shots depicting just how grand and ornate the state rooms were. Not a chance. So here’s to Versailles’ ceilings, the only thing you are really going to see on your visit.

It’s a good thing they’re so pretty.

And for good measure, the few good shots I did get throughout the visit. Torrents of pushy visitors not included.

The Queen’s room

I had to actually bend over the velvet rope to get this people free shot. The security lady did not appreciate my artistic outburst.

Jeanne d’Arc

It’s one freaking chance the gardens are so big - I felt like I gained back my little personal space.

It was my second time at Versailles, and that’s probably what’s gotten me so riled up: it was just as worse as the first time. I blamed my first bad experience on the holidays (I visited on December 31st), and figured it would be better if I went back mid-week.

I was there on a Tuesday and people, it did NOT get better.

On the way back to Paris on the RER, I actually came up with a tip (this site IS called Eurotrip Tips after all): visit the gardens first, and beat the crowds. Maybe other smart people thought of this before I did, and to them I say, why didn’t you tell me before?

But since visiting the whole castle grounds will take you at least half a day, if not a whole one, you should probably start with the gardens - and enter the castle when the crowds are through. 

Not that I will go back a third time to test this.

Have you been to the Palace of Versailles? Was it also overcrowded? How do you handle big crowds on your travels?

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56 Responses to “The Palace of Versailles, the Most Infuriating Place on Earth?”

  1. BackpackerBecki

    23. May, 2012

    Oh, this just reminds me of the hideous crowd (non) control at the Vatican. Tell me, did you see many annoying ‘guides’ waving umbrellas? I could rnat about that for an age…

    I would rather have seen the Beebs hiding in the corner!! He’s annoying but not as annoying as flies to shit in tourist hubs.

    Fabulous photos though. I too took many ceiling shots in the Vatican… saves having to look at snap happy crazies in the eye!

    Reply to this comment
    • Terrence Coombes

      24. Feb, 2013

      Spot on! Perfect!

      I’m an avid photographer and being from Cape Town we don’t usually get the opportunities to see these famous places. So when we do, we have to make the most of it. Im glad to see that I’m not the only one who walked out of the Palace with nearly 500 shots on my camera, 475 of them being of the ceilings! My wife and I actually did the Palace first and then rushed down to the Trianons to beat the crowds, while we had to contend with at least 100-150 people in each room and quadruple that in the Hall of Mirrors, absolutely insane!

      I thought we may go again some time when we visit Europe and stay in one of the B&B’s next to the Palace, which will give us a early start for the Trianons, Petite Palace while we build up our steam to do the Palace itself.

      We did however find this overcrowding a general problem throughout Paris; 3 hour wait to get into the Notre Dame and another 3 hour wait to get to go up the towers of the Notre Dame. I honestly thought that would be the case in high season, we were there in February and it was absolutely insane!

      Chatres was acutally the only place where we visited the church without having to push our way to the front to see anything, but it was definitely not without crowds. There was a crowd of 50-60 people with us on the train going to the same place on a cold snowy day!

      Makes you wonder when is actually a good time to visit?

      Regards
      Terrence & Chantelle Coombes

      Reply to this comment
      • Marie-Eve Vallieres

        08. Mar, 2013

        Glad you can relate Terrence! :) And I’m also happy I wasn’t the only one who ended up with a majority of ceiling shots… :-P I think one of the best times to visit, in terms of crowds, would probably be a random winter weekday. That’s the only option I can see.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Lucie

    24. May, 2012

    I have been when I was younger and I do not remember such crowds. I’d say try during the week, early or late in winter and avoid any holidays. I doubt the May period is great, holidays and bank holidays everywhere…
    Nice celings pix though ;)

    Reply to this comment
  3. Jeff Titelius

    24. May, 2012

    Wow…what an unfortunate experience you had my friend. Despite the harrowing claustrophobia and agoraphobia perhaps ; ) , you managed to capture the ceilings and the room quite spectacularly! When I was there, I was so sick with flu that to look up almost sent me crashing down because of dizzyness…and the Hall of Mirrors was under renovation…half of the room was behind mirrored scaffolding. However, I will go back one day to see it in its glory and will definitely head your advice about seeing the gardens first. Great EuroTip!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Lesley Peterson

    24. May, 2012

    Lovely, lovely pictures! But the crowd looks horrendous, completely unlike when I visited. I remember having the Hall of Mirrors almost to myself. I, too, can’t stand heads getting in my way so I’m a huge fan of the off season everywhere.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Thank you! I wish I had the Hall of Mirrors all to myself. That would’ve been amazing!

      Reply to this comment
  5. Sarah Thériault

    24. May, 2012

    My mother and I went in what is considered low season (early Feb) and it was busier than I was expecting for that time of year. Of course that could have been because we chose to go on a free museum Sunday :) The day we went, we somehow managed to get behind this family with 2 young toddlers who were just running around screaming….it took everything in me to not accidently knock one over as it ran by me repeatedly!
    It was too cold for us to spend time in the gardens so I employed a classic Canadian technique: sharp elbows! Every Canadian who knows anything about hockey knows a well placed nudge or elbow is where it’s at! That and I used my small height to sneak in and around people.
    Then we went to Angelina’s and had some pink champagne and lunch to ease the stress :) But yes, the ceilings are absolutely stunning! It’s so amazing to imagine people actually LIVED there!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Sharp elbows have definitely made my visit easier, although absolutely not enjoyable! :(

      Reply to this comment
  6. Charl

    24. May, 2012

    You’re not much of an experienced traveller ifvyou expected vVersailles to be quiet. Tip for you, read a few guidebooks before you go.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Louise

    24. May, 2012

    Totally agree with you!!!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Alouise

    24. May, 2012

    I’m so glad I didn’t try to see Versaille in the one day I had in Paris. I’d probably be just as frustrated as you were (I’m not a big crowd fan either). At least the ceilings are beautiful, and perhaps the third time will be the charm?

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Yes, if you only have a few days in Paris, skip Versailles and enjoy the city instead.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Alison

    24. May, 2012

    Ah yes, I’ve been there three times with various visiting family members and it has always been the same. Thank goodness for the gardens. Most people only seem to venture to the first fountain so if you head father out than that you can find some peace. We were also mobbed by guys trying to sell Eiffel Tower key chains out front… Not a great place for those of us who enjoy solitude :)

    Reply to this comment
  10. Ele

    24. May, 2012

    My method for handling crowds is “be early”. As early as possible. They open at 9? Be there at 8.45 the latest.

    I liked the way crowd were handled at Buckingham Palace. They have timed tickets. They open at 9, sell tickets until there are about 30-40 people and then the other 30 will be admitted at about 9.45 or so even if they bought their ticket at 9 sharp. It’s also about security because you have to go through scanners. But it was reasonable to handle the sight.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      I think that would indeed be the best solution. Timed tickets would ensure that all visitors have a great experience instead of just being pushed around by crowds.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Laurence

    24. May, 2012

    Versailles. It’s one of those place that is on the list, but has yet to be visited. I’m not fond of crowds, and my partner absolutely reviles them, so it could be a trip to the gardens first and foremost if we do ever go :)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Yes, I strongly suggest to visit the gardens first and then the castle, when the crowds are done. Probably much more enjoyable!

      Reply to this comment
  12. Barbara Kelley

    24. May, 2012

    I agree completely. I have been to the palace several times in several seasons and different times of the day. It’s always the same: massive pushy crowds and surly guards. BUT there’s a solution. Today I drove a friend to Versailles and got off the road at the Porte St. Antoine. For 6 euros we drove through the gate and parked at the Petit Trianon. We leisurely visited both Trianons and they had an iced tea at Angelina’s. No crowds, no pushy tourists, lots of space. Try it! it’ll change your view of Versailles. SKIP THE PALACE!!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Yes, IF I do go again I will definitely skip the palace - too many people to enjoy it anyway.

      Reply to this comment
  13. Alexa Meisler

    24. May, 2012

    Sorry you had a bad time at places that should be enjoyed and awed. Big crowds are always a deal breaker. But you still got pretty good shots I must say!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Thanks very much! I just wish I had more general shots, not just ceiling ones!

      Reply to this comment
  14. Julie McName

    25. May, 2012

    That does look bad. My memories of Versailles are the enormous queues to get in (even if you have a ticket) and lack of toilet facilities. However, I do want to go back to visit Marie Antoinette’s estate again - beautiful less formal gardens and faux-rustic buildings. I found some tips on the best times to visit here http://parisfrance.us/versailles/ - hope they’re of assistance for anyone’s trip.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      Yes, I did enjoy the gardens and the other estates, not so much the palace itself.

      Reply to this comment
  15. Gray

    27. May, 2012

    Oh my God, I’m so with you on the crowds. They make me a little crazy. I have been to Versailles, on a cold, overcast November day, and the crowds weren’t that bad, actually. I’m becoming a fan of museums that use crowd control methods like ticketing by a particular time (not necessarily making a reservation ahead of time, but when you buy your ticket it tells you what time you can go inside). This way, they limit the number of people inside at any given time, which avoids that “smothering crowd” feel. I wish more would do that.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      27. May, 2012

      I totally agree - this ticketing system would make the experience much more enjoyable for everybody. Not sure how they would handle it though - it’s still France after all.

      Reply to this comment
  16. I was in Paris with a friend a couple weeks ago. We only had 4 days, and she wanted to go to Versailles. I opted out assuming I would hate the tourist crowds. Looks like that was a good decision :-)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      28. May, 2012

      Indeed, best decision ever! Versailles is no fun because of the crowds.

      Reply to this comment
  17. Barbara Kelley

    01. Jun, 2012

    I totally agree. And it doesn’t matter when you go: in season, out of season, early or late - the place is always packed. But there is a solution (if you have a car). Drive to the Porte St. Antoine in the afternoon and pay 6 euros to drive past the guard and park in front of the Petit Trianon. You then buy a ticket for the Petit and the Grand Trianons. You tell yourself they’re just like the Grand Palais. Except that there are no crowds!!!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      08. Jun, 2012

      I will definitely skip the palace next time, if there is even one!

      Reply to this comment
  18. Abby

    02. Jun, 2012

    How disappointing! The tourists-free shots you did get are stunning!!

    Reply to this comment
  19. Please, for your own sake, avoid the Vatican

    Reply to this comment
  20. Melissa

    12. Jun, 2012

    You have summed up exactly how I feel when I am in crowds. It’s like humans lose their sense of decency when a of them get together. That being said, I went to Versailles on a Saturday in June last year with my mum and besides the giant line to get in it wasn’t that bad inside the palace. Yes it was difficult to get tourist free shots but that’s standard. I’ve now tried to use tourists in composition of my photos. I’ve also gone to the Vatican for mass and I was unsure how I would get on since again I’m not a fan of crowds. I was actually impressed at how efficient everyone was at getting us in and seated. I agree with the above poster who said to go early but might I add the suggestion to also go late. I was able to avoid the crowds at Trevi fountain by seeing it in the evening.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      21. Jun, 2012

      I really hate having tourists in my travel photos, so that’s why I ended up with ceiling shots, haha.

      Reply to this comment
  21. Turtle

    14. Jun, 2012

    It’s annoying but I guess crowds are just part of tourist attractions - particularly in Europe. I got such a shock in my travels when I went from South America, where sometimes I was the only person at a tourist site, to Europe where you were always having to fight with these crowds. It did kind of ruin the mood.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Gilda

    30. Jun, 2012

    Yes, totally crowded. We were there pretty early so we caught glimpses of things “below” but all of our pictures show tons of people…we didn’t finish the gardens though we were so tired and hot and crabby. Not sure we’d go back though….maybe when we’re done with all that is to see in Paris and other areas….

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie

      01. Jul, 2012

      I don’t think there is such a thing as seeing it all in Paris ;)

      Reply to this comment
  23. This was funny. I travel quite often and live in NYC and hate crowds just like you (traveling and NYC do not help this). I hope I can avoid the crowds on my trip and I will definitely visit the gardens first. Thanks! :D

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      01. Jul, 2013

      Glad to see I’m not the only one with that problem! ;)

      Reply to this comment
  24. Terrence Coombes

    18. Aug, 2013

    @Attorneys… We were in Paris in Feb, it was busy, very busy everywhere we went. Two hour wait to enter the Notre Dame and another 3 hours in the queue to go up the towers. Versailles was just as bad, entering the Palace and the grounds is very quick, but working your way through there is a total different scenario. Maybe we just decided to go at the wrong time of the year, but it was definitely very busy everywhere we went.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      20. Aug, 2013

      Yes, February is one of the busiest months b/c most French children are on yet another holiday. Hence the long queues everywhere!

      Reply to this comment
  25. Anthony

    30. Nov, 2013

    I have never been to Versailles but I had the very same experience at the Vatican Museums recently. I however did find a reprieve in the Etruscan galleries. Hardly anyone was in there. I suppose that gallery was my Garden of Versailles. The Sistine Chapel was my Hall of Mirrors. It was frightfully over crowded.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      03. Dec, 2013

      I did have the same experience at Vatican. SO crowded. I would rather wait outside and visit a less crowded attraction only when it is my turn, rather than being in there with 349039 other people!

      Reply to this comment
  26. Raj

    10. Jan, 2014

    If we gathered everyone who commented on this post we could make a full day crowd. Anyone, i hate people too and am going on a friday this april. Some of the online advice has been to skip Versailles and go to Chateau de Fountainebleau instead

    Reply to this comment
  27. Jean R.

    15. Jun, 2014

    Just got back from Paris a week ago. My experience mirrored yours - the only relief we found was in the Hall of Battles (not sure the official name )- no competition there. We arrived early afternoon and on recommendation of a guide did the gardens first, entering the Palace after 3:00. No problem with lines until we got inside. The worst was the tours - too many individuals on each tour and too many tour groups. Love my ceiling pictures.

    Reply to this comment
  28. A

    30. Sep, 2014

    I just came back from Versailles today. It was infuriating and the worst experience ever. I googled “Versailles sucks” to see if by any chance anyone else thought the same and I found this hilariously accurate blog post! I too have all ceiling photos. The crowds plus the heat and lack of air was very upsetting. Crawling from room to room was utter torture, as was walking the mile of lumpy cobblestones with my flats that nearly gave me sprained ankles several times. Not to mention that our tour bus left without us and we got stranded in Versailles! She told us to wait at the gate at Five Two Five (5:25) and when we arrived early at 5:10, we later realized it wasn’t Five Two Five, it was Five TO Five (4:55).

    Versailles sucks, period.

    Reply to this comment

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