An easy day trip from Paris, the Palace of Versailles is one of France's finest attractions. The palace had humble beginnings—it was built for Louis XIII in the 1630s as a hunting lodge, but eventually grew into a massive complex. The palace features 2,300 rooms, plus intricate, sprawling gardens. The 800 hectares of gardens are one of the main highlights of Versailles, so the best time to visit is in late spring or early fall, during the Grandes Eaux, when the palace puts on a show by setting the garden fountains to music. Almost everything is in full bloom then, too.
Inside, the palace can be almost overwhelming, as there is so much to see. From the Hall of Mirrors (which holds 357 mirrors to showcase the monarchy's wealth) to the gold-gilded Queen's Grand Apartment, everything is the epitome of excess. But it sure is fun to look at, especially if you love shiny things. (Or history.)
Where is it? About 30 minutes from the center of Paris.
Where to stay? If you can wait until early to mid-2012, you can actually stay at Versailles, when the Grand Hotel de l'Orangerie will open. The hotel will be constructed in a renovated former historic mansion located not far from the Chateau de Versailles, and rooms will reportedly cost a very royal sum of over $600 a night. Until then, you'll have to settle for the Trianon Palace, a five-star hotel located just a mile from the palace grounds.
What else should I know? Save money by visiting on the first Sunday of the month from November through March when admission is free for tours!
Who's it for? Historians, art-lovers, people who like shiny things.
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