Paris Museum Pass Challenge: Day 1 – Versailles

The Paris Museum Pass gives you free access to over forty museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region. We decided to purchase a four day pass, thinking that with our planned visits to the Chateau de Versailles, the Louvre, the Towers of Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe, we would eventually come out ahead after paying the 56 Euros per pass.

Buying the Paris Museum Pass

The first challenge we faced was where to buy the pass. The stall by Notre Dame where I had bought them before was closed, so we wandered over to the Louvre, having read on the Paris Museum Pass website that they could be bought at the attraction’s ticket desks or online. At the Louvre, we were directed to an information office halfway between the inverted pyramid and the information desk at the Louvre. They sold passes as well as memberships to the Louvre, and were very helpful.

To Versailles!

Armed with our Museum Passes, we caught the metro to Gare Montparnasse and then hopped on a suburban train to Versailles-Chantiers. It took about fifteen minutes to get there, and the way from the Versailles-Chantiers train station to the Chateau de Versailles is well signed.

The Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles

The displays at Versailles had been updated since I was last there four years ago. There were audio visual presentations about how the chateau had been extended over the years, which seemed to be new.

Versailles is one extravagant room after another, culminating in the Hall of Mirrors.

The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles
The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

On this visit, we also went in to the Mesdames Apartments, which with their white walls and ceilings, were a good antidote to the wall-to-ceiling paintings of the state apartments (I especially liked Madame Adelaide’s library nook).

The Gardens of Versailles

It was a beautiful day for strolling around the gardens. Blue skies and bright sunshine made me forget it was only 12 degrees!

As we walked through the gardens from the chateau to the Trianons, we had fun getting lost in the maze of terraced gardens. Unfortunately, because we were there in November, the statues all had protective covers over them in preparation for winter, and construction and restoration works were taking place on many of the fountains, so the walk through the gardens and along the Grand Canal lost some of its idyll.

The Petit Trianon and Marie-Antoinette’s Hamlet

I could happily make the Petit Trianon and its grounds my home. The rooms inside are cosy and not too grand. (The theatre was closed while we were there).

The Petit Trianon
The Petit Trianon – I could see myself living here!

This visit I had more time to wander around the hamlet and look at the buildings. My brother asked me what the purpose of it all was. When I told him it was Marie Antoinette’s place to escape and pretend she was someone else, he thought it was made for her when she was a little girl. I corrected him, and when I asked him if he could imagine me at the same age having a place like this, he admitted that he could!

The Grand Trianon

It was 4:30pm by the time we reached the Grand Trianon. The sun was already beginning to set, but the lights hadn’t been turned on in any of the rooms, making them dark. I think that the reason that I struggled to like the Grand Trianon during my last visit was a combination of the rooms being dark, there being no real information about the rooms or their historical significance, and the fact that as the last place you visit during your time at Versailles, you are genuinely tired.

The Cotelle Gallery and the portico were still my favourite parts of the Grand Trianon (and you could walk through the Gallery – the last time I visited it was roped off).

Overall, we were very lucky with the weather and had a near-perfect day to visit Versailles!

Is the Paris Museum Pass worth it?

Cost of Paris Museum Pass: 56 Euros
Cost of entry into Versailles, the Gardens, the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon: 18 Euros

Verdict: 38 Euros out of pocket, three days left


Visiting the Grand Trianon

The portico and gardens of the Grand Trianon
The portico and gardens of the Grand Trianon

It’s a long walk from Versailles to the Grand Trianon. Tucked away at the back corner of the grounds of Versailles, at the end of the Grand Canal, the Grand Trianon is a single-storey palace that looks on to a colourful French garden.

Originally built in 1687 by Jules Hardoiun Mansart for King Louis XIV on the site of an older palace and restored at various times by both Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle, it has housed many royal family members and foreign dignitaries.

The portico of the Grand Trianon
The portico of the Grand Trianon. The black and white tiles are beautiful.

After I had been awed by the grandeur of Versailles, and fallen in love with the cosy Petit Trianon, the Grand Trianon had its work cut out in order to win me over.

And it certainly tried its hardest.

One of the hallways in the Grand Trianon
One of the hallways in the Grand Trianon
The Boudoir of Madame Mère, mother of Napoleon. Is that leopard print carpet?!
The Boudoir of Madame Mère, mother of Napoleon. Is that leopard print carpet?!
The Empress Marie-Louise's bedroom
The Empress Marie-Louise’s bedroom
The Emperor's family drawing room
The Emperor’s family drawing room
The Mirrors Room in the Grand Trianon
The Mirrors Room in the Grand Trianon
The Cotelle Gallery - this would make a beautiful ballroom!
The Cotelle Gallery – this would make a stunning ballroom!

So did the Grand Trianon win me over? Not quite.

While I loved the symmetry of the black and white tiles against the red marble colonnaded portico, and the elegant windows and massive chandeliers of the Cotelle Gallery, I felt as if the Grand Trianon was missing something.

Perhaps it was because I couldn’t associate it with anything. While I could link Versailles to Louis XIV, the Sun King, and the Petit Trianon to the whimsy of Marie Antoinette, I couldn’t connect the Grand Trianon to a historical person or event. It wasn’t as awe-inspiring as Versailles, and it didn’t have the cosy feeling of ‘I could live here’ that I felt at the Petit Trianon. It also came at the end of a long day of exploring the estate – maybe it was just bad timing that I didn’t appreciate the Grand Trianon as much as I did the rest of Versailles.

Have you been to the Chateaux de Trianon? Which did you prefer? Share your opinion in the comments!