The Château de Versailles Got a Royal Makeover for Its 400th Anniversary
Walk on the women's side of Versailles.
by : Virginie Dolata and Elise Webber- Nov 17th, 2023
CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / D.SAULNIER
This year, the Château de Versailles celebrates its 400th anniversary and reveals its latest makeover in palace interiors, such as Marie Antoinette’s private chambers, and in its gardens, with the Queen’s Hamlet, amongst other treasures. Redirect your gaze and rediscover one of the most visited monuments in France through the eyes of its Queens and favourites.
Over the centuries, Queens, favourites and mistresses have been intertwined in the very fabric of Versailles, leaving behind traces of their refined art de vivre. “The memory of a woman could be found in every room of the Château,” testified a curator. We’ll show you the way, across these 7 exceptional spaces, not to be missed!
MARIE ANTOINETTE’S PRIVATE CHAMBERS
Accessed through a door hidden behind a discrete door in the Queen’s State Chamber, it is through this intimate “refuge” that Marie-Antoinette fled the revolutionaries in 1789 before being arrested. Entirely restored and refurnished after years of research, it can only be visited by reservation!
By cross-referencing plans, suppliers’ briefs, orders and various papers, and thanks to the perseverance of curators, this true haven of refinement was able to be (re)created in its original state. On the first floor, the Méridienne cabinet, one of the most precious spaces, has even been restored to its original textiles, hidden beneath the modern upholstery of the armrests on the chairs. Also worthy of a visit is the adjacent library, with its two-tone gilding and doors concealed by false bindings. On the same level, the “gilded cabinet” features carved woodwork inspired by Egyptomania. On the second floor, there is a dining room, a boudoir, a billiard room (which was very popular at the time) and rooms for the parlor and chamber maids. The entirety of these spaces (walls, doors, curtains and chairs) have been restored using traditional pattern of the famous and original Toile de Jouy (thanks to Maison Pierre Frey).
THE QUEEN’S HAMLET
The Great Lake and the Boudoir de la Reine constructed in line with Marie Antoinette’s fascination with the charm and simplicity of rural life, were completed last summer, ‘polished to a shine.’ The Queen’s Hamlet has continued its renaissance, following the latest restoration work of the Queen’s boudoir, the Laiterie de propreté, the lake, and its banks. Improvements to the hydraulic structures have encouraged the return of rich lake biodiversity. Take the opportunity to stroll through the ephemeral garden, with its flowerbeds populated by a fabulous wildlife. Next, behold the sculpture of L’Abondance in the Pavillon Frais (found by chance at the Angolan Embassy in Paris). Finally, the Estate’s collection of remarkable trees will leave you breathless with their beauty, history and botanical rarity.
View of madame du Barry's restored apartmentCHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / T. GARNIER
THE PETIT TRIANON
This is the “women’s château”, encircled by gardens and freedom. It is located near to the Queen’s Hamlet and the Temple de L’Amour. Madame de Pompadour was its instigator. The King’s architect, Gabriel (who also designed the Place de la Concorde), adopted a cubic shape and very straight lines, in keeping with the new “à la Grecque” style that was in vogue. From its conception, it was built to offer an intimate escape of which Madame Du Barry, and later Marie-Antoinette, took full advantage. Liberated from the duties of the court, Antoinette allowed her “joie de vivre” to reign free (which cost her her head!) You will discover the ground floor, dedicated to service, then the “noble floor” with reception rooms and an attic, comprising of the appartements des seigneurs. Simpler than the rest of Versailles, the Petit Trianon’s decor is not known for its gilding – which is almost non-existent – but for the refinement of the sculptures in this palace entirely devoted to nature.
Madame Du Barry's apartmentCHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / T. GARNIER
MADAME DU BARRY’S APARTMENT
Located on the second floor of the Château, it is right above to the King’s private apartments. As of last year, the countess’ fourteen-room apartment has been restored. Thanks to talented carpenters, gilders, marble workers and many more, the memory of Louis XV’s final chief mistress and the grandeur of her quarters has been reinstated. Madame Du Barry’s apartments are a “quintessential expression of 18th century art de vivre”, with gilded woodwork, a privilege otherwise only bestowed upon members of the Royal Family. Alongside several “objets d’art” commissioned for Madame Du Barry (the corner cabinet chairs, a hardstone table and the blue-ribbon porcelain service), new decorative objects and furnitures have been sourced from the Château’s historical reserves, to give the whole collection a greater coherence.
The Queen's theatreCHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / T. GARNIER
THE QUEEN’S THEATRE
Tucked away in the lush greenery of the Petit Trianon gardens, the Queen’s Theatre is considered one of the finest theatres in Europe. With its stage sets miraculously preserved and its historic machinery still in good condition, the theatre comes to life thanks to stagehands operating hemp wires, winches, and pulleys in accordance with techniques and gestures inherited from the 18th century. Since the beginning of the year, the historic stage set has been restored and completed. The painting of La Place Publique, commissioned by Louis-Philippe for the theatre in 1836, has now been added to a collection including L’intérieur rustique, La Forêt and Le Temple de Minerve. Guided tours of the special effects available on reservation
The Tulip trees arbour viewed from aboveCHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / T. GARNIER
THE QUEEN’S GROVE
Two years of dedication and detailed archaeological research facilitated the rediscovery of the botanical richness of this “greenery salon”, with 650 replanted trees (21 species and varieties), 6,000 shrubs and 600 rosebushes. The restoration work, which began in 2019, has revived the original layout.
The Queen’s Grove was originally a labyrinth designed by André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV and later modified for Marie-Antoinette. It is located to the South of the Versailles gardens, continuing on from the Orangerie lawns. At the heart you will find the Salle des Tulipiers. Today thirty-eight varieties of rose line this central square, linking the Trianon Estate and
the Queen’s Grove, symbolizing the Queen’s attachment to both places.
The Perfumer's Garden with pauwlonia treeCHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / D.SAULNIER
THE PERFUMER’S GARDEN
Versailles is also the birthplace of perfumery as a profession, perfumers supplied sachets, perfumes, gloves and scented fans to Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette. The Château de Versailles has recently recreated the Perfumer’s Garden (thanks to Maison Francis Kurkdjian). Located in the Châteauneuf Orangerie, hundreds of fragrant essences, in the spirit of the 17th century gardens of Trianon, have been recovered: historic plants (roses, jasmines, etc.), some with original scents (chocolate, apple, etc.), others with unpleasant odours or “mute” flowers such as hyacinths, peonies and violets. A truly idyllic tour for anyone who wants to discover Versailles in a new, invigorating way. Open your eyes, and nose! Visits and ateliers available on reservation.
The Perfumer's Garden viewed from aboveCHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES / D.SAULNIER
OUR FAVOURITE ADDRESSES IN VERSAILLES
Where to sleep
HOTEL TRIANON PALACE
A 5-star hotel (with a pool and Guerlain Spa) in its historical building, with 4-star accommodation in its modern wing. 1 Boulevard de la Reine
HÔTEL LE LOUIS VERSAILLES CHÂTEAU – MGALLERY
Two steps from the Chateau, a 4-star hotel with Sundukovy Sisters’ interior design. 2 Bis Av. de Paris
Surrounded by the forest, sleep in a ‘trappeur tent’, cabin or a chalet. 31 rue Berthelot
Where to shop
LA BOUTIQUE ROYALE
A collection of perfumes, Toile de Jouy fabrics and other French specialties. 8 rue de la Chancellerie
A boutique-atelier with remastered vintage pieces. 25 rue de la Paroisse
PALACE OF VERSAILLES GIFT SHOP
Much more than a gift shop: accessories, candles, home decor as well as a bookstore. Chateau de Versailles, Place d’Armes
Where to eat
ORE ALAIN DUCASSE
French cuisine with a modern touch, served on a re-edition
of Marie Antoinette’s porcelain. Château De Versailles, Pavillon Dufour
GORDON RAMSAY AU TRIANON
Haute cuisine set in the exquisite Trianon Palace Hotel.
1 boulevard de la Reine
A relaxed vegan and vegetarian restaurant. 9 rue de Satory
A seafood menu, in Versailles’ atypical maisonette district. 52 rue d’Anjou
Where to chill
Cocktail bar, coffee shop and Sunday brunch. 23 rue du Maréchal Foch
THE STRAY BEAN
An “Australian” coffee shop. 6 rue Royale
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