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My Secrets to Versailles: the Queen’s Hamlet

hamlet queen versailles

You know what? Versailles really gets on my nerves.

I want to love it. Really, I do.

There is enough history, legend and art there to titilate even the most apathetic of travelers. It’s vast, with sweeping grounds that go on forever with enough tricked out bedrooms and glitzy salons to remind us that the French Revolution, was in fact completely justified. Is that gold inlaid on the bathroom floor while millions of Frenchies couldn’t even afford bread? Oh yes, yes it is.

But what if I told you that the idyllic picture above was taken in an area of Versailles completely devoid of crowds?

As a super tourist myself, nothing drives me more insane than huge crowds of pissy tourists and long lines of even pissier tourists, both of which Versailles has in abundance.

hamlet queen versailles

Too. Many. Tourists. AGH!

It was a chilly April day when M and I caught the local train out to Versailles. We decided to get there early, hoping to not have to wait in a long line. Good joke, France. M bought a Paris Pass since she was just visiting me in Europe for a month, and I was hoping to get in for free on my student visa. Oggling the long lines when our mouths dropped open when we got to the entrance, M went to wait in the security line while I went to the ticket line, thinking I needed a ticket that stated “free admission.” There were literally hundreds of people waiting. Then the heavens opened up and it started to rain. A lot.

Since my boots broke on top of Notre Dame the day before, I was wearing my only other shoes I had brought with me, my TOMS. Within minutes I, along with everyone else, was soaked and frozen to the bone. Squish, squish, squish went my soggy canvas shoes as the line finally began to move. So unpleasant.

Being an opulent 17th century palace, the floors were of course marble. Also being in France with no concept or care for  class action lawsuits, there were no rubber thingys or mats to keep the marble floor from getting slippery in the rain. Combined with hundreds of tourists trying to cram inside out of the rain, the ticket office soon became a muddy slip-n-slide.

hamlet queen versailles

When I finally got to the counter, the attendent glanced at my ID and said I could have just gone straight to the security line. Damnit! As I was rushing to leave, hoping to find M in the long line, I skidded a good 5 feet across the entrance floor. Luckily, I didn’t fall on my ass in front of hundreds of tourists. Unluckily, I did flail my arms about like a wild thing reaching for anything to stop my fall. Being me, my hand encountered the crotch of a nearby security guard. On my knees, I quickly let go and looked up into the eyes of a very unamused French man. Mumbling “excusez-moi” I got back on my feet and bolted out the door. Not amused, Versailles.

I eventually found M and we made our way through security and inside the palace. The next hour was hell on earth. Crawling from room to room, we barely got to take in anything because of the noise and the flocks of clueless daytrippers from Paris. The Hall of Mirrors? More like the Hall of Bourgeois Asian Tourists! I was one push and shove away from starting a girl fight. You would have to pay me to go through that again.

hamlet queen versailles

Do you know how long I waited for this shot? FOREVER!!

M and I made our way to a cafe, ordering overpriced pastries and espressos waiting for the rain to stop so we could escape into the extensive gardens. Eventually the sun came out and the sky was filled with my favorite dark moody clouds (great for photos) and a wind that would blow your glasses clean off! Our shoes were moderately dry and with full tummies we ventured forth into the great unknown that is the gardens of Louis XIV.

Now the gardens at Versailles make up for the mobbed palace twice over! Most tourists don’t go beyond the first section, with the big Apollo fountains, but I’m telling you, the best part of Versailles is a 20 minute walk down from the palace. Deep breath, I am about to give away another big travel secret.

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

My favorite part of Versailles (and from my whole trip to Paris) was the Trianon Palaces and the Queen’s Hamlet located in the back of the gardens. Straight out of a fairytale, this area was the rustic retreat of Marie Antoinette, where she would go to escape the burdens of courtly life and play peasant with her ladies. Meadows, lakes and streams dotted with country cottages, windmills, even with a little farm and mill complete with livestock, the Hameau de la Reine and the Petit Trianon (a mini palace, more like a country house) was idyllic country France at it’s finest.

In other words, the Queen’s Hamlet was a glorified, life-size village built just for Marie Antoinette to go tool around and pretend she was a milkmaid when she got sick of court.

I’m sure you can imagine how much that pissed off the French working class. We all know how that story ends. Off with her head!

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

After the Revolution, the Hamlet fell into disrepair until it was restored in the 90’s and reopened to the public only in 2006. By the time we arrived there, M and I had the place to ourselves. It was heavenly. Filled with purple wisteria, tumbling cottage ruins, and overgrown green lawns, it felt as if we said au revoir to the crowds of Versailles and stepped back 300 years to rural France, minus the plague, rampant starvation, crop failure and whispers of Revolution. Vaguely reminiscent of Hobbiton and the Shire, the Hamlet is a must-see for any romantic girl, or anyone (really) hoping to escape the sea of people at the palace.

And the best part? There was NOBODY around, nobody! I couldn’t believe how empty this area was! Just incredible!

I heartily recommend visiting the Hamlet and the Petit Trianon of Versailles as a day trip from Paris. It’s so beautiful and relatively unknown and peaceful, it was definitely the highlight of my trip. You can even rent bicycles and golf-carts to explore the extensive grounds. Versailles is so much more than the main palace and a quick peek at the gardens. Make sure you give yourself enough time to take it all in, especially the Hamlet. Wear boots and plan accordingly, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles


The closest station to the palace in Versailles is Versailles Rive Gauche station, only 5 minutes away and there is a Starbucks bang in front of it. Vive le France! You can take the RER C line, buy a “Paris – Versailles Rive Gauche” ticket coming from the Saint-Michel and Champ de Mars metro stations in Paris.

Otherwise you can take a SNCF train arriving at Versailles Chantiers station from Paris Montparnasse or arriving at Versailles Rive Droite station from Paris Saint Lazare or La Defense stations, both about a 15 minute walk from the palace.

Versailles has two absurdly long lines at its entrance: one to buy tickets and one to pass through security. Everyone has to go through security, so don’t be silly and wait in two lines. Buy your tickets in advance, either with the Paris Pass or online. Here’s a second BIG hint (auxiliares de conversación or study abroad kids, I’m talking to you), if you are under 26 years old and studying in Europe and have a EU residence card, for study or otherwise, you get in for FREE and you can go straight to the security line, flash your ID and waltz on in.

We arrived well before the opening time at 9am and still had to wait for a very long time. I have a feeling the lines are probably less mid-afternoon towards closing time and on weekdays. The Versailles website even has some spectacular graphs on the best time to visit.

There are 3 entrances to Versailles, little-known fact, and if you just want to visit the Trianon palaces and Queen’s Hamlet, you can enter those directly and buy your tickets at the smaller entrances. Here is a great map with the other entrances marked.

Entrance to Versailles is free on the first Sunday of every month from November to March (low season).

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

hamlet queen versailles

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32 Responses to My Secrets to Versailles: the Queen’s Hamlet

  1. amelie88 December 30, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

    I’ve always wanted to visit Marie Antoinette’s retreat. I’ve known about it forever because my mom studied abroad in France in college and she told me her favorite part of Versailles was her little cottage. I’ve been to Versailles twice–as a kid and as a college student and I remember not caring much for the palace both times. The crowds don’t help, but I just don’t think Versailles is that nice looking on the inside. Most of the rooms are empty–the only rooms that have furniture are Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s room. All the other rooms just have paintings of noble people. I just remember being incredibly bored while I was inside.

    However the gardens are an entirely different matter. The second time I was there, I wanted to see Marie Antoinette’s retreat but we got there on the later side so we ran out of time. Next time I go to Paris, I will go to Versailles just to see the cottage and nothing else like you suggested. Great pictures. 😀

    • Liz December 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

      Definitely check it out next time you go! It’s so lovely 🙂

    • Joyce Garza March 21, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

      I lived in Germany, my husband was stationed there, and got to the Petit Trianon three times. It is my favorite place. I loved the hamlet as well. I went last in 1996. The hamlet was So peaceful. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

  2. Marco Fiori December 31, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Liz, I love your writing – it’s so full of energy and honesty. I’ve still to make it to Versailles, but I’m sure to one day (and judging by your post, aim for an offseason weekday).

    And now, thanks to you, I’ll know exactly where to head in its grounds. Looks beautiful.

    • Liz December 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      Thank you!

  3. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 31, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    I’ve visited Versailles twice. My mother bought a gorgeous coffee table book on her first visit, so I think I was pribably ambivalous to the crowds! The gardens are a must, and I spent nearly all my time there on both visits.

    Sending abrazos and well wishes for 2013!!

    • Liz December 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      Besos Cat!!

  4. expatriate insurance January 2, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    Versailles, I always associated this city with the majestic palace and the importance this palace has in history. But descriptions and photographs of Queen’s Hamlet has changed my priorities, now I wish to visit the hamlet more than the palace, would love to roam around entire day in this idyllic heaven.

    • Liz January 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

      It’s definitely worth it and you can skip the long lines at the palace and go straight to the hamlet

  5. Kota Kinabalu Travel January 2, 2013 at 7:18 am #

    Thanks for the warnings, that’s the problem with popular tourists sites. Honestly, I wouldn’t have guessed the hassle looking at your pretty smiling face in the photos. And you’re right, the Queen’s Hamlet really look like the village in the fairy tales, you took such lovely photos! Happy New Year!

    • Liz January 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm #

      Thank you! Happy New Years!

  6. Liz January 2, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    I love Versailles! And, like you, my favorite part of it are Marie’s hangouts. I was also surprised how not-crowded her palace and gardens were. It made for a great escape. Last time I went I skipped the main palace and just explored the gardens. I need to go in warmer weather though, both times I was there it was freezing!

    • Liz January 3, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

      Yeah this was spring but very chilly and windy because of the rain. This place rocks! I can’t believe more people don’t know about it!

  7. Linda @EcoTraveller January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    I haven’t been to Versailles since a school trip many moons ago, and even then had no idea about the hidden Hamlet. Love it! Must definitely go next time. Great pics of it, too 🙂

    • Liz January 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

      Thanks! It’s definitely the best part of Versailles, at least for me 😀

  8. Cassandra January 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Eeeek, I know how miserable it is to have wet feet while trying to channel an adventurous spirit. Crummy weather certainly colors my view of a trip.

    I have never been to Versailles but I have a feeling that I would also prefer the gardens over the palace. Thanks for the tips about the entrance fee + lines!!

    • Liz January 6, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

      Wet feet are the worst! The gardens are seriously awesome, definitely check them out if you go!

  9. Alina January 6, 2013 at 7:06 pm #

    Liz, sorry u had quite a bad experience in the begining. We’ve been there in july 2011, the weather was amazing, with picture perfect blue skies. The gardens were my fave also, my mom still always talks about Petit Trianon whenever someone talks about visiting Paris. Actually there’s seperate entrance from the road to Gardens directly from the back end, as we’ve seen many french families driving up there and leaving cars, just to spend a summer day with kids there.

  10. Trevor Huxham January 7, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    Aaaaaa I was just at Versailles last week and completely missed Marie Antoinette’s hamlet! It looks like such a charming, quiet place to linger at away from both the crowds at Versailles and Paris. I did, however, manage to see the Petit and Grand Trianon palaces and much preferred them to the main Versailles palace, like you recommended.

    And I totally lol’ed at your moniker for the Hall of Mirrors—it may not be PC but it’s definitely the truth!

  11. Vickie November 26, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    I’m totally late to this party, but just had to comment because I could have written this post myself! Everything you said (except it didn’t rain for us) was exactly the same as our experience in early August 2011. We saw all the people and didn’t even want to go into the Palace but some so and so rude guide told us we had to to through the palace to get to the gardens. I knew about the Petit Trianon and the Hamlet and I wanted to go directly there, so he lied. I nearly had a panic attack inside the palace because I was totally surrounded by people pressing in on me on all sides and we couldn’t even stop and look at anything … we didn’t have a choice but to move along with the crowd and it was so hot and being so short I didn’t see a thing. The only thing I will say is going in early August was great because in the Hamlet they had a million (not exaggerating) little flower pots going up all the stairs and on the balconies of all the little cottages. It was so incredibly beautiful. I found your post because I was trying to see if we can go directly to the Hamlet without having to pay for the palace when we go back next year. Your post made me laugh because I always say now it was only worth going to Versaille because we went to the Petit Trianon and the Hamlet. Our experiences there are total carbon copies!

  12. Olivia Welch January 11, 2015 at 8:40 am #

    I am going to Versailles next September, and I’m so glad I read this! Yes, I will probably still go through the palace, but the queens hamlet is what is exciting me the most!

  13. Avery January 25, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    I wish I’d know about the Queen’s Hamlet when I was at Versailles. I’m a complete and utter history nut, so I loved every second of Versailles, and I knew better than to expect anything less than hundreds of people there. But I had no idea that the Hamlet was there. If I had, I would have definitely checked it out. Looks like I just found my reason to go back!

  14. Maria March 7, 2015 at 9:45 am #

    Marie Antoinette spent most of her time in the Petit Trianon and the Hamlet to escape the crowds in the palace. Nothing has changed really, the palace was always crowded, if I recall the palace was open to the public during Marie Antoinette’s time as long as the visitor was properly dressed (they had rent-able robes and swords).

    I would love to visit the Hamlet and the Petit Trianon.

  15. Alexandria D. August 9, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks for the Versailles tips, Liz! ^_^

  16. Sephora September 22, 2015 at 11:46 pm #

    The Hameau was most definitely open prior to 2006. I spent the afternoon there in 1998 :-). There were very few people visiting it even then, so I’m pleased to hear it’s still being largely ignored. The gardens around the Trianons and the Hameau are stunning.

  17. ANNE May 9, 2016 at 10:58 am #

    I wouldn’t travel there thinking any criticism about lifestyles and all that. There’s a magic from the past and a magic regarding the beauty…. and it would help to read deeply about the history of the palace and to try to capture something from the past while you’re there – even with all the distractions. Why think anything critical about the gold in the floors and so on ? Incredibly historic sight that saw much beauty and much tragedy. One book I’d recommend, aside from various biographies about M. Antoinete, are the memoirs of Madame De La Tour Du Pin. You won’t have common, mundane modern thoughts in your head while touring Versailles if you read a lot of history before you go. A book has been written about M. Antoinette’s perfume maker, and the flowers grown a Versailles. Also M. Antoinette’s daughter survived the Revolution and there are books about her as well.

  18. Barbara January 8, 2017 at 5:04 am #

    I went to see Versailles a VERY long time ago. I am going back in May and taking my adult daughters. One thing I remember about my first trip was Marie Antoinette’s hamlet (and the Hall of Mirrors!). I am DEFINITELY going to be taking my daughters to see the Hamlet as well! It was lovely!


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