Palace of Versailles
The shining example of regal splendor, the Palace of Versailles is the architectural embodiment of Louis XIV’s famous exclamation, “I am the state!” Originally a two-story hunting chalet in a bourgeois Paris suburb, Louis XIV upended the French monarchic system and moved the government and court into its increasingly expansive hallways and courtyards. Versailles’ growth, from a chalet to the palace we know today, is a visual lesson in French architecture through the 17th and early 18th centuries and recalls an era during which France was the leading European power. UNESCO inscribed the Palace and Park of Versailles into the list of World Heritage Sites in 1979, noting that generations of artists, architects, landscape architects, gardeners and more have provided Europe with an image for the quintessential royal residence.
Today, the palace contains 2,300 rooms, including the opulent Hall of Mirrors, King’s State Apartments and Gallery of Great Battles. The opulent Hall of Mirrors — designed to overlook and reflect the elaborate gardens to the chateau's west — is among the most well-known rooms in the château. While the Hall of Mirrors was exclusively reserved for Louis XIV, the seven rooms of the King’s State Apartments are adorned with all of the monarch’s admiration of Italian Renaissance and Baroque stylings for hosting official events. The longest room in the palace, the Gallery of Great Battles boasts French artistic masterfulness and has remained unchanged since the hall's completion in 1845.
The estate grounds are as much of a destination as the chambers and hallways within. Designed to illustrate the king’s dominion over nature, the French formal gardens occupy a majority of Versailles’ 800 hectares and follow the sun’s daily journey across the sky from East to West. The gardens were designed under the Sun King’s direct orders and were designed with canals, fountains and hydraulics that remain to this day. The Park of Versailles, segmented by the cross-shaped Grand Canal, is home to Marie Antoinette's estate and Louis XIV’s Grand Trianon. If Versailles was built with all the elaborate grandeur meant for a god, the Grand Trianon is home to the marble intricacies meant for man.