Versailles Historical Sites Tour (Self Guided), Versailles

The charming town of Versailles is a place where French history can still come alive. Apart from the world-famous royal palace, there are a number of interesting historical sites in the town. Take our tour to see the most interesting historical places in Versailles.
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Versailles Historical Sites Tour Map

Guide Name: Versailles Historical Sites Tour
Guide Location: France » Versailles (See other walking tours in Versailles)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • House of Madame de Pompadour
  • Carré Saint Louis
  • Potager du Roi
  • Petite Ecurie
  • Grandes Ecuries
  • Madame Beatrice Fremy Home
  • Ancien Hôpital Richaud
  • Lycée Hoche
  • Domaine de Madame Elisabeth
House of Madame de Pompadour

1) House of Madame de Pompadour

Madame de Pompadour was King Louis 15th’s mistress and friend for nearly twenty years. She was a lively, intelligent woman who lived in apartments in the Chateau of Versailles, but she also owned l’Ermitage of Fontainebleau, known as the House of Madame de Pompadour.

The house was built in 1753 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel and its square Neo-classical façade, inspired by ancient Greek architecture, became the prototype for the Petit Trianon, which he built nine years later. The house comprises 1.900 square metres of living space and stands in 2.5 hectares of parkland.

Madame de Pompadour lived here during the hunting season from September to March, and as it was a winter residence, each room has its own fireplace. It also has 13 bathrooms – which was unusual for the epoch when bathing wasn’t high on the nobility’s list of ways to entertain itself!

On the ground floor, the entrance hall runs from the courtyard to four reception rooms on the garden side of the building: the Petit Salon, the Grand Salon, the library and the dining room. Also on this side of the house are the kitchen, the butler’s pantry, a powder room, the billiard room and two guest bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms.

On the upper floor the Master suite comprises a large bedroom, two bathrooms, a sitting room and a study. An entresol landing leads to the guest and children’s wing which has a playroom and nine bedrooms – each with its own bathroom. The other wing housed the servants quarters.

On the grounds there is the caretaker’s house, the stables and a two-storey guest house. A recent addition is the five-car garage.

Since 1919, the house has belonged to the powerful Noailles family, who has made little changes to the place, apart from renovating it in the style set by Madame de Pompadour. The house has been on the market for over a year now for the sum of $9 million.
Carré Saint Louis

2) Carré Saint Louis

One of the most charming areas of Versailles is the Carré Saint Louis and you shouldn’t miss visiting this historical district.

In 1737 King Louis 15th gave permission for a group of buildings to be put up around the crossroads of the Rue d’Anjou and the Rue Royale. These buildings were intended to be used for a covered market.

They were laid out in squares on the four sides of the crossroads and named Carré à l’Avoine, Carré à la Fontaine, Carré au Puits and Carré à la Terre.

Unfortunately, the market never got off the ground and the two businessmen who had persuaded the king to grant them permission to build them, had living quarters added above the stalls which became shops in 1755.

The Carrés are quaint and look rather top-heavy as the first floors are built of grey brick and have tall, narrow windows. The sloping roofs are of slate and they have dormer windows set into them, increasing the living space in the attics.

Under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Carrés were condemned to demolition, but the need for lodgings was great, and instead he had them renovated. Today there are still shops, bars and galleries on the ground floors, while the accommodation above them is among the most exclusive – and the most expensive - in the area.
Potager du Roi

3) Potager du Roi

The Potager du Roi isn’t a small kitchen garden, but a 25 acre spread with a pond and a fountain in its centre. It grew fruit and vegetables to feed the Royal Family and members of the Royal Court.

It was laid out between 1678 and 1783, commissioned by King Louis 14th and started by Jean-Baptiste de la Quintinie, who was the director of the Royal Fruit and Vegetable Gardens.

The Grand Carré was surrounded by a high wall and was made up of 16 vegetable plots. A raised terrace around the walls was erected so that the king could watch the gardeners at work.

On the other side of the wall were 29 enclosed gardens with more vegetable plots and fruit trees. A hollowed out garden protected fig-trees from the harsh winter weather.

Gardens were given over to growing asparagus, melons and strawberries, herbs, cucumbers and 50 varieties of peas. There were also 20 different varieties of apples and 16 varieties of lettuce.

Thirty gardeners worked full-time in the gardens and in the greenhouses where coffee plants and pineapples were grown. During the French Revolution the gardens were separated into small plots and given to the people. The exotic plants were removed.

In 1795 the Convention declared the garden a National Institute and it was restored to its former splendor. Today the garden is managed by the Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage; it produces 50 tons of fruit and 30 tons of vegetables that are sold in the Versailles Market.
Petite Ecurie

4) Petite Ecurie (must see)

The Petite Ecurie is another historical site of Versailles. Built between 1679 and 1682, it housed the horses of the royal family as well as coaches and carriages reserved for their use. Even if you cannot go inside, the building’s architecture and sculptural decoration are rewarding sights in themselves.
Grandes Ecuries

5) Grandes Ecuries (must see)

The Royal stables at Versailles once housed the equerries, the stablemen, musicians, page boys and 600 horses. Today the Grande Ecurie is a museum.

The stables were built in 1683 by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The twin buildings were lavishly decorated and enclosed the Place des Armes, which was a military practice area. The Petite Ecurie was the same size as the Grande, but it was in the latter that the Grand Equerry lived and was in charge of the horses. These animals, the finest in France, were trained for war, but were mainly used for hunting. Only the king and the princes were allowed to ride them.

Today the horses are gone and the stable is the home of the Musée des Carrosses. In 1842 when King Louis-Philippe decided to have Versailles transformed into a huge museum, he installed the Musée des Carrosses in Trianon, but it was moved to the stable building in 1985.

It is a fascinating museum to visit with its wonderful collection of 17th to 19th century carriages. You will see the carriage that carried King Charles 10th to his coronation, the funeral carriage of King Louis 18th, the baptism coach of the Duke of Bordeaux and the wedding coach of Napoleon Bonaparte.

There is also a fine collection of richly decorated Sedan chairs and several sleds that were once used in races on the frozen waters of the Grand Canal.
Madame Beatrice Fremy Home

6) Madame Beatrice Fremy Home

This fine historic home once belonged to a musician of King Louis XVI’s court. This heritage site is superbly maintained by its current noble owner, Madame Beatrice Fremy.
Ancien Hôpital Richaud

7) Ancien Hôpital Richaud

The Ancien Hôpital Richaud is the former site of the Royal Hospital of Versailles. This historical edifice dates back to the 18th Century. Abandoned for many years, it is in the process of being revived as part of a restoration project led by architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
Lycée Hoche

8) Lycée Hoche

The Lycée Hoche is a prestigious public secondary school, incorporating both middle school and high school education.

It was commissioned as a nunnery – the Convent of the Queen – by Queen Marie, the wife of King Louis 15th. It was begun in 1767 by Richard Mique and the nuns of the Order of the Canonesses of Saint Augustine were charged with the education of the female children of the Royal household’s officers and servants.

The queen used her own money from her inheritance and her husband gave her 11 acres of the former domain of Madame de Montespan. Mique’s plan was for a chapel with a parlor for the nuns to the right of the chapel with their cells above it and a teaching room on the left with dormitories for the pupils above. The queen died in 1768 and it was her daughter Adelaide who oversaw the completion of the building.

The nuns left the convent in 1792 and from then until 1795 it was used as a military hospital. The hospital closed down and the building became a grain store until 1800, when it was again transformed into a military hospital.

Between 1804 and 1807 the building was renovated and it opened as a high school. It was later expanded to receive middle school pupils. It was named in 1888 after the General Lazare Hoche.
Domaine de Madame Elisabeth

9) Domaine de Madame Elisabeth

The Domaine de Madame Elizabeth is owned by the Conseil Général des Yvelines and is only open to the public on rare occasions, but its beautiful 8-hectare park and orangery can be visited.

The rectangular two storey building with its pavilions on each end and its six-columned portico was built in 1770 by Alexandre Louis Etable de la Brière. It was commissioned by the Prince and Princess Rohan-Guéméné as a summer residence.

When the prince went bankrupt in 1783 King Louis 16th bought the domain for his young sister Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a sweet child and very fond of her brother, the king and his wife Marie Antoinette and she never married so that she could live with them.

She was only 19 when she was given the domain. It was Marie-Antoinette who surprised her with the domain while they were out on a carriage ride together. She wasn’t allowed to sleep in the house because she was underage and had to wait until she was twenty-five before she could spend a night there.

However, she returned there most days and entertained her friends there. She had one room on the ground floor turned into a dispensary for the poor and for the servants of the Royal household.

During the Revolution the house was turned into a factory, but was restored to its former beauty in the late 19th century.

Walking Tours in Versailles, France

Create Your Own Walk in Versailles

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Versailles Historic Churches

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 Km or 4.5 Miles
Versailles Introduction Walking Tour

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Versailles Garden Fountains Tour

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Le Domaine de Marie-Antoinette Tour

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Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
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Versailles Gardens Tour

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Viroflay Village Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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