Versailles shines year-round, but never quite as brightly as it does during the summer months. Perhaps it’s all that gold glinting in the sunshine, or the atmosphere brought about by various special events, or the good weather putting all the history-hungry travelers who go there in a cheery mood. Whatever the reason, we think the Sun King’s palatial complex dazzles most when the sky is clear. If you’re planning a trip here during the summer months, here are just a few ideas of what you can expect to encounter.
The meticulously manicured Gardens of Versailles are famous for their elaborate water features. The exquisite Baroque fountains, which run dry in winter, are at their best during summer weekends, when more than 30 of them come to life during the fountain show. At the time of their construction, the fountains, which used a cutting-edge hydraulic system, were seen as an impressive display of royal power. These days, lucky visitors can see the jets spouting from the mouths of Versailles’ sculpted fountain figures on Saturdays and Sundays from April 1 to October 29, and on Tuesdays between May 23 and June 27, as well as on a handful of additional dates. On Tuesdays between April 4 to May 16, and from July 4 to October 31, as well as Fridays from March 31 to October 27, you can catch the Musical Gardens, during which classical music is broadcasted from inconspicuously placed speakers dotted around the grounds. For the ultimate spectacle, attend the Fountain Night Show on summer Saturdays (from June 17 to September 16) when lasers, lighting and fireworks are added to the mix.
Arrive early for the Saturday Fountain Night Show and you may manage to catch the Royal Serenade in the Hall of Mirrors, during which dancers and musicians in full Marie Antoinette-inspired costume perform sketches from the Royal Apartments to the Hall of Mirrors, re-enacting the courtly customs and swanky soirees of the 17th century.
Summer is also the season when the Louis XIV, the Fire King fireworks show takes place in the gardens of the Orangery and when guests to the palace don Baroque-style get-up for a fancy dress evening among Versailles’ most beautiful rooms during the Fêtes Galantes, a festival that culminates in a magnificent grand masked ball. And that’s not all, either. Versailles also hosts operas, recitals and gala evenings at the Royal Chapel, the Royal Opera and the Petit Théâtre de la Reine at the Petit Trianon, as well as outdoor concerts at the Orangery during summer.
Picnics in the Gardens
There is one other big advantage to visiting Versailles in summer: you can picnic in the gardens. On a fine summer’s day, the Sun King’s backyard is a magnet for hungry sightseers who come to dine under a clear blue sky among the vast expanse of statue, fountain and flora-dotted greenery. Because the gardens are so large, you can usually find a peaceful nook or niche upon which to lay out your rug. Many picnickers congregate on the banks of the Grand Canal nearest to the palace. The further west (i.e. away from the palace) you go, the more likely you are to find an empty space. Pack a picnic of French essentials – think baguettes, cured meats, cheeses, cornichons and Champagne – and enjoy!
Want to tour Versailles’ gardens and catch a fountains show? Try our Versailles tour from Paris or – if you’ve got kids in tow – our Versailles family tour. For an even more in-depth exploration of the estate, take our Versailles full-day tour, which includes a visit to Marie-Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, the queen’s private mini-palace and faux rustic retreat, as well as free time midway through so you can enjoy an al fresco lunch in the glorious gardens.