Gardens of Versailles history
The enchanting Gardens of Versailles were founded by the French King Louis the 13th in year 1632. However, many say that the real founder was his son, Louis 14th, as he was the one who laid the real foundation for the grand garden that stands today.
In 1661, Louis 14th hired the best architects, painters, and landscape-designers to work on what would become his life project; the Château de Versailles and its magnificent gardens.
In 1682, Louis 14th had his court moved from Paris to Versailles, making it the official royal palace of France. From this point on, Louis began an embellishment and expansion program at Versailles that would occupy his time and worries for the remainder of his reign. At this time, the expansion of the Gardens of Versailles followed the expansions of the château and each step was carefully managed under the directions of the king.
The Sun King
At some stages, Louis even put more focus on the Gardens of Versailles than on the château itself. Throughout the gardens, Louis had a clear theme with focus on the sun god, Apollo, and other solar imagery. This was due to the fact that Louis XIV related himself with the sun and was commonly known as the “Sun King”. With this, the Gardens of Versailles assumed the topographical and iconological design that would remain in force until the 18th century.
Post Sun King-era
The “Sun King’s” successor, Louis 15th, did not engage in the same costly building project as the prior ruler. The Gardens of Versailles only saw minor additions during his 60 years at the throne.
However, during the reign of the following king, Louis 16th, the gardens underwent a major transformation, as he also had a passion for spending money on Château de Versailles and its gardens. Several tree formations dating back to the era of the “Sun King” were changed and trees were felled and uprooted. This wasn’t done of ill will, but rather a necessary step as many of the trees were diseased or over-grown and needed to be replaced.
Also, as the 17th century garden had fallen out of fashion, this replantation sought to establish a more up to date style in the gardens, a style that would also be less expensive to maintain. The majority of the Gardens of Versailles of today dates back to this era, even though minor re-plantations has taken place after the rule of Louis 16th, mainly due natural wear and tear caused for example by storms and erosions.
After the following French Revolution, some of the trees in the gardens were felled on order from the reigning National Convention. Sensing the potential threat to Versailles, as it has strong links to the monarchy the revolution sought to destroy, some prominent people convinced the National Convention to open the gardens for the public instead of destroying it. The suggestion was accepted, which likely saved the Gardens of Versailles from destruction.
Post revolution gardens
During the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte in early 19th century, Château de Versailles and its gardens were to a large extent ignored. Napoleon had more important things to worry about and cared little about architecture and gardening. Today however, the gardens are everything but ignored.
Why visit the Gardens of Versailles ?
The royal Gardens of Versailles is considered one of the most famous gardens in the world. The gardens cover a mighty 800 hectares of land. The majority of the land is covered by finely landscaped woodland areas and several magnificent gardens with classic French Garden style.
A popular destination
The Gardens of Versailles and its palace is one of the most visited sites in France, with several million visitors each year. Both tourists and locals come to the gardens to experience the serenity and enchanting beauty it offers.
World heritage site
The Gardens of Versailles along with the chateau were inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 1979 and is today seen as one of the icons of France.
Inside the gardens, visitors can admire more than 50 fountains, several statues of bronze and marble and a multitude of beautiful tree formations. Or why not take a walk along the Grand Canal, reaching more than 1.5 km into vast gardens. Either way, the Gardens of Versailles are full of surprises and is a must see for anyone who enjoys beauty.
Gardens of Versailles location
The Gardens of Versailles is situated in the outskirts of Versailles; the small city located around 15km south west of Paris. While this may seem a like a long distance to travel for a single site, it really isn’t.
It is easy to travel from Paris to Versailles in order to access the gardens. Several trains connect the two cities and the palace is within walking distance of the arriving station. It is also accessible by car; simply take the A13 motorway and take the exit “Versailles Château”.
For the Gardens of Versailles’s exact location, check out the location Map to the right.