The Palace of Versailles started out as a modest "hunting lodge," but Louis XIV really spiffed it up, adding tons of gilded rooms decorated with sparkling chandeliers and paintings, plus major landscaping - acres of formal gardens, fountains and a Grand Canal that took thirteen years to make. In 1682, Versailles became the official residence of the king and his court. Later, Marie Antoinette added her own style.
The Chateau - You can walk through the State Apartments of the King and Queen at your own pace, and there's an audio tour of the King's Chamber. The Hall of Mirrors is impressive, just think of courtiers milling around every day or the masked balls in full splendor. Especially lovely is the floral canopy and hangings in the Queen's Bedchamber. (Our kids were totally blasé about the lavish décor in the State Apartments).
Head for the gardens, just a glorious place to explore - massive gilded fountains with mythical creatures, lines of statues, and gardens that go on and on. Don't miss the splashy Neptune Fountain, Dragon Fountain with a truly writhing dragon, and the Apollo Fountain, the god Apollo in his chariot, driving four horses, surrounded by spouting sea creatures. (April-October, fountain displays with music.)
Take the mini-train that circles the park, stopping at the Petit Trianon, for a complete tour of the extensive grounds, or ride in a horse-drawn carriage.
Rent bikes - Near the Grand Canal, rent bikes, perfect way to get around the extensive gardens or over to the Petit Trianon (leave your bikes outside the Estate).
Marie Antoinette's Estate - The Petit Trianon and Hamlet are best in summer, when the gardens are in bloom, and you can imagine parties with lighted lanterns for Marie Antoinette and her friends. Kids can stroll around the first floor of the Petit Trianon at their own pace.
At the Hamlet, Marie Antoinette's toy village, check out the water mill, Queen's house, dairy, and ramble around on the paths. In summer, look for cows and sheep grazing, and great to escape the crowds.
Grand Canal - Louis XIV and the nobles boated on the Grand Canal in row boats, gondolas, or small size ships! In the summer, you can hire row boats on the Grand Canal and imagine the spectacle of the Sun King and his entourage.
Tip: There are cafes at Versailles, but come prepared with a picnic lunch, if the weather is nice. Both the Chateau and Marie Antoinette's Estate are closed on Mondays, Estate opens at noon.