Daniel R. Haug/Getty Images
December 21, 2016

Once a humble hunting lodge, the opulent Palace of Versailles is now a magnificent testament to the lavishness of French royalty—as well as a symbol of the inequality that incited the French Revolution.

King Louis XIV (the “Sun King” of France) transformed this rural stretch of Île-de-France into a grand palace in 1682, when he relocated the French government. Yet its role as a royal residence was short-lived: after only two more King Louis (Louis XV and XVI) the revolution swept the nation. Versailles ceased to be a permanent palace for the French monarchy, which was done away with altogether in 1792.

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Despite centuries of turmoil, the palace is now a well-preserved World Heritage Site visited by millions. Travelers from across the globe flock to see Versailles’ legendary gardens, the Hall of Mirrors, and quirky Queen’s Hamlet.

Like many great palaces, however, the glittering gold often serves to disguise intrigue. We’ve discovered a few little-known facts about one of the most famous landmarks in France. 

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It’s the World’s Largest Royal Domain

To be clear, Versailles is not the world’s largest palace. But it sprawls across 2,014 acres, giving it this particular distinction. The palace itself is still a massive 721,206-feet of space.

Louis XIV really liked a good time

French royalty put great effort into merry-making, which included not only the grand balls and concerts that you would expect, but also gambling, operas, fireworks, and light shows. The grandiose performances and events were meant to impress the King’s court, and indeed, all of Europe.

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Even the farm animals were (and still are) treated like royalty

Marie-Antoinette attempted to create a version of French country village life within Versailles. You can see this at the Hameau de la Reine at Le Petit Trianon, where there’s a very lucky group of cows, chickens, pigs, goats, and donkeys who have never known anything else but a royal lifestyle.

Going to sleep was a ceremonial affair

King Louis XIV, XV, and XVI all had courtiers attend twice-daily ceremonies in the King’s bedroom. Here, they would watch him wake, and they would also send him off to sleep.

Marie-Antoinette had her own village

Built in 1783 to allow Queen Marie-Antoinette to escape the rigors of formal court life at Versailles, her little hamlet had everything from a billiards room to a farm, barn, and dairy.

A German Emperor was announced in the Hall of Mirrors

After an 1871 defeat by Prussia, France was humiliated when Kaiser Wilhelm I was hailed as the Emperor of Germany within the Hall of Mirrors: one of Versailles’ most famous rooms, with several glittering chandeliers, 357 individual mirrors, and 30 tableaux that depicted the achievements of Louis XIV,

A new gallery was just reopened

In May 2016, a restored collection of carriages (think: wood carvings and gold accents) was unveiled at the King’s Great Stables. You can even see the carriage from Napoleon I’s marriage, and the small coaches that belonged to Marie-Antoinette’s

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