While the Chateau and adjoining formal gardens at Versailles are very well known, written about and probably the most popular part of the estate, there are two other areas you can visit if you have the time. One is the Trianon Palaces known as the Grand and Petit Trianon. The second is Marie Antoinette’s farm and hamlet.
To start, the Grand Trianon was built for Louis XIV (often referred to as the Sun King) as an oasis away from the rigors of formal court and a (probably not so) secret place to cavort with his mistresses. For the most part, however, relatives of Louis XIV lived at the Grand Trianon. Later, Napoleon Bonaparte would use the Grand Trianon as his residence with his second wife having the place restored from the damage done during the French Revolution.
Personally, I wasn’t overly impressed by the Grand Trianon. The same furnishings and decor you see at the Napoleon III’s apartments at the Louvre and of course at the Versailles Chateau itself. All three different time periods but for me, they were all basically the same over the top gilding and ornamentation. So why do I love the Chateau so much then? History. I just wasn’t all that excited to see where the relatives of history makers lived compared to where the actual history makers live.
The one really great thing about the Grand Trianon (and to a degree the Petit Trianon), it is definitely not as packed with visitors like the Chateau. Also the formal French gardens at the Grand Trianon are just as stunning as the Chateau’s.
Just a short walk away is the Petit Trianon which was a gift from the ill fated Louis XVI to his wife Marie Antoinette. Now this place I enjoyed immensely, in part because I read so much about it, the farm and the hamlet (collectively know as the Marie Antoinette estate) from Antonia Fraser’s book “Marie Antoinette: The Journey*.” (affiliate link)
Marie Antoinette was very much a forward and free thinker in fashion, the arts, life at court and to a degree in politics. The Petit Trianon really shows her eclectic style and had some unique features specifically requested by her. The moving wall is one. When she wanted total privacy, the wall would be hoisted up to cover the window. There was also an indoor “toilet.” You could just imagine her haunting the halls of her exclusive palace.
Marie Antoinette’s farm and hamlet
Another short walk from the Petit Trianon is Marie Antoinette’s farm and hamlet. This is where Marie Antoinette played a very gentrified version of peasant life.
The hamlet and still working farm is only reachable by foot and is a very pleasant walk. In fact, it is one of my favorite parts of the entire estate. The area is almost like stepping into a real life fairy tale with quaint little houses and an idyllic pond. Unfortunately, you can not go inside the hamlet buildings but that doesn’t take away from the enjoyable visit.
If I had to choose between the Grand Trianon or the Marie Antoinette’s Estate, I would choose Marie Antoinette’s estate. It is part of the Versailles Estate that should not be missed and gives another dimension to the very enigmatic Queen.
Overall, I am a big proponent to seeing it all! Be sure to check out how to use the tram shuttle to help you.
Pro tip: I love traveling off season which usually means prices are great but the weather not so much. When I was exploring Versailles, it was cold and rainy but my toes and fingers were toasty warm because I had Hand Warmers* (affiliate link) with me. I put them in my coat pockets, my shoes and even under my hat. Toasty warm. Load up on them before you leave.
Also part of the monthly #AllAboutFrance hosted by Phoebe of Lou Messugo.
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