What a day! I don’t know what you’ve heard about Chateau de Versailles, but that place be huuuuge.
Versailles was the home of the Louis kings of France back in the 1600-1700. Located 20km south west of Paris, here you’ll find a freaking huge chateau, surrounded by fountains, gardens and a plethora of other beautiful luxuries. Being so large, full of history and popular with the tourists, the absolute best way to see Versailles is with a guide, and the easiest way to see it all in one day is on a bike. Enter Fat Tire Bike Tours.
Now call me bias, but I think Fat Tire Tours are amazing. I first discovered them on our first trip to Paris via Viator, and then booked with them again on the same trip when we got to Berlin. When we returned to Europe a second time, I was sure to sign up for the Barcelona tour. It just such a fun way to get the layout of a new city, the history of the area is easily digestible in an enjoyable way, and you get to ride a sweet bike with fun names (my Versailles bike was called “Spice up your Life”).
Fat Tire Tours make life so easy. The group met up outside a metro station, Jack our guide handed us some tickets, offered us some sunscreen (it was gonna be a scorcher) and off we went. A 20min train ride later, we were in Versailles. We stopped at the shop to pick up our bikes (shotgun one with a basket), given a lesson on road etiquette (own the road) and we were off again, heading to the open air market. Supplies for lunch were purchased there. Matt and I chose a traditional French spread of cured meats, cheese, baguette and strawberries.
Finally, we rode into Versailles. Our first stop, after riding through the impressive entrance and up the driveway to the Chateau, was the musical fountain (check out the link, only open certain days). The fountain dances in time with orchestral music, and was lovely to sit in watch a couple of the songs through to completion. Apparently the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas were inspired by these fountains.
Next up was a ride through the grounds, around the grand canal, to find a beautiful spot for lunch. Jack was constantly stopping for some history lessons and fun facts so the ride was never tiring or challenging. Just an easy cruise… which was lucky because it sure was hot! Pro tip: make sure you take some water. You can fill up your bottles at various points throughout the trip.
Once lunch was done and dusted (fun fact, the bees here eat chicken), we rode to the Petit Trianon – the house built for Marie Antoinette. So unhappy was she being in the constant limelight, not only did her husband King Louis build her a house, but also a garden and Vienna style hamlet to go with it.
The final part of the tour involved ditching the bikes and entering the Palace. Included in this tour was a sneaky peak at King Louis XVI’s private apartments – an area not available to the general public. Here we were guided by an official Palace employee who knew the ins and outs, as well as all the history of the Palace.
Once the tour was over, we were let loose to explore the rest of the Palace and the gardens. You could spend days here exploring every nook and cranny. The place is huge!
Overall, Fat Tire Bike Tours gets another thumbs up from me. I’d love to go back in the spring time when the weather wasn’t so blistering and the grounds were flower central.