The Palace at Versailles is on several lists of things you should see before you die. Unfortunately places that end up on everyone’s bucket-list are pretty crowded (people take these bucket-lists seriously.)
I have been to the Palace at Versailles a couple of times: once in a driving rain storm which should have sent everyone home, and once during a lovely warm day which should have sent everyone outside to the gardens, but the problem with Versailles is that almost everyone who arrives there is trapped by the clock and their paid tour. Groups of human blobs clog every hallway, vista, and room. The most annoying groups follow a tour guide who holds up a little flag so his flock of sheep don’t get lost. These groups are under the impression that they are descendants of Louis XVI and therefore can take up 80% of the space where ever they go.
The crowds might be frustrating but it is worth the trip to see the Palace in all its crowded splendor. My suggestion is to make your trip to the Palace secondary and spend your time in the gardens.
For me going to gardens usually ranks right up there with going to a fabric store, but the gardens at Versailles are different. First of all, if you plan your trip correctly you don’t have to pay to see the gardens. The gardens behind the Palace are open to the public (except on Sunday when they have a music and fountain show) and if you are bold enough you can walk up to the palace and take a peek inside if you are dying to see what crowds of people look like.
The gardens themselves are lovely, that’s right, I said “lovely.” (I worked in a cemetery for a couple of summers and I know how hard it is to tame wild hedges and keep things looking nice.) The best part about the gardens is that they are almost free of people.
Since most people are on a tight timeline, many of them never make it down to the garden area, so while the rest of the traveling world is trapped in the Hall of Mirrors for half an hour , you can be strolling through the gardens getting lost.
So if you are thinking of going to Versailles, my suggestion is to save yourself a couple of Euros and spend the day in the garden. Pick up picnic supplies in the center of town (they have a farmer’s market most days), grab a bottle or two of wine and sit down by the fake lake and enjoy life like a King/Queen. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you spend the majority of your time in the gardens, it is one of my favorite places.