Patty and I just returned from a trip to Europe which included several days in the Paris area. We devoted one full day of the trip to checking out Versailles via bike tour. We went with the Blue Bike Tour company. Read on to find out how it went and to see pictures of the spectacular Versailles Palace and gardens.
The Blue Bike Tour of Versailles cost us 59 euros each. That fee covered a round-trip train ride between downtown Paris and Versailles, a bicycle for the day, and the guidance and history lessons from the tour leader. There were 14 unaffiliated people in our group for the day. Patty and I had previously bought the Paris Museum Pass so we used that for entry to some of the buildings. If you don’t have the museum pass the tour will cost you 79 euros.
Starting the Day
Versailles is a popular attraction for visitors to Paris. Its main palace is actually the 29th best place in the world according to Lonely Planet. However, not many tourists stay in Versailles proper. Instead, most opt for downtown Paris lodging. For that reason, the Blue Bike Tour of Versailles starts with meeting up at Gare St. Lazare (i.e. the St. Lazare train station).
To get to St. Lazare we took a 10-euro Uber ride from the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile. It was easy to find the Blue Bike Tour guides in the train station at the prearranged meeting point. We were handed our train tickets for the day, met our tour mates and our guide for the day: Claire. As a group we then took the half-hour train ride to Versailles.
The Farmer’s Market
Once we arrived in Versailles, Claire led us on foot to the farmer’s market, which is a few minutes walk from the Versailles train station. There we were able to wander a bit with the objective of buying our picnic lunch food for the day.
There are many indoor shops with a variety of food and as we were shopping vendors were setting up outdoor displays as well.
Patty and I bought some lunch meat, rolls, soda and….a bottle of Champagne! We figured that while we’re picnicking in France, champagne would be the perfect complement to our foods!
Our Powder Blue Rides!
After the farmer’s market, we all walked a bit to a garage of sorts to pick up our steeds for the day – powder blue cruiser bikes. Each bike had a label on the handlebars with a unique name, so that you wouldn’t confuse your bike with another.
The Canal, the Trianons and the Hamlet
Once aboard our bikes we made the short ride to the Grand Canal de Versailles, just west of the main palace. We dismounted the bikes and took a seat on the grass. Our guide Claire proceeded to educate us on the history of French leadership and the palace and grounds of Versailles. It was really fun to absorb the info in a peaceful setting away from the chaos of downtown Paris.
Claire’s command of the English language was impressive. There were one or two funny translations but overall she did an excellent job.
After we were up to speed on the progression of leadership in Versailles (there were a lot of Louie’s!) we climbed aboard our bikes again and rode to the far side of the Grand Canal. The short journey took us along beautiful, quiet, tree-lined paths.
We stopped at a grassy slope where we set up for our picnic-style lunch. This was incredibly peaceful and relaxing.
After lunch we headed to a couple of the buildings, known as Trianons, on the grounds. We saw some pretty impressive architecture and furnishings though it would be outdone by several orders of magnitude by what we would see later in the day.
Our next stop was at Marie Antoinette’s hamlet. The former queen, of Austrian descent, missed the rural elements of her home country and thus had an idyllic area built near the palace. Her retreat includes a couple charming buildings, a small vineyard, a scenic lake and a mini farm/zoo with goats and bunnies. It was really cool and completely different from the other buildings/areas!
Returning the Bikes and Heading to the Palace
After checking out the facilities and offerings adjunct to the main palace we returned to the garage from which we had originally obtained our bicycles. We returned the bicycles and then as a group walked to the Palace – about a five minute walk.
When the biking was complete we had ridden a loop of sorts, which totaled about six miles. The ride was very easy, with most of it on paved trails. It could be performed by any adult with even minor cycling experience.
The Palace (Chateau) of Versailles
The main attraction in Versailles is the Palace of Versailles, also referred to as the Chateau de Versailles. It’s an incredible work of grand architecture. Beautiful marble, monstrous columns, intricate carvings, luxurious furnishings, ornate statues, immaculate gardens and enough gold leaf to pay for a small island. It is large and it is truly awesome. It makes you understand why the French Revolution occurred!
Once inside the property, our tour guide gave us a few pointers and then she headed out, leaving us to check out the palace at our own pace.
I could write more about the Palace but it really is best described by photos so I’ll include a few here to tell the story.
The Bottom Line
If you’re visiting Paris, Versailles is definitely worth a trip. It’s magnificent and unique. The best way to see the offerings outside the Palace is bicycle.
Our tour with Blue Bike Tours was a winner. It was fun, efficient and charming. Our guide, Claire, did an excellent job leading us and educating us. The only element of the trip I might like to see modified is the close of the trip. Though we had no problem finding and riding the train back to downtown Paris we were a bit surprised that our guide didn’t accompany us on the return trip.
Overall the Blue Bike Tour of Versailles earns a very strong 16 out of 17 from The Honeymoon Guy.
Did you do this tour or another tour of Versailles? Share your thoughts in the comments below!