For fans of French period dramas, the recent series of Versailles likely needs no introduction. Opulent and elaborate, the show was filmed across a series of locations in France, specifically in the Île de France region. Here’s your ultimate TV series location guide to the best of Versailles filming locations.
First things first: what may (or may not) surprise viewers of the show is that most of the filming does not take part in Versailles. This is particularly true of the depictions of ‘unfinished Versailles’ where the Sun King, Louis XIV is still constructing his ‘masterpiece’.
Instead, a whole range of French Châteaux are used as a backdrop for the popular series. And why not? After all, following the reign of Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette came along and decided she didn’t like the 17th-century decor that was already in place. The result? She changed nearly everything about the palace. And, as such, little of the decor or furniture from the time of the Sun King remain to this day.
Versailles before Versailles: Vaux-le-Vicomte was the beginning of French Baroque and was built in such an opulent style that King of the time, no other than the Sun King himself, became jealous of the owner and threw him in jail for the rest of his life. Louis XIV confiscated the palace for himself, and just a short while late, constructed Versailles.
Nicolas Fouquet had commissioned Vaux-le-Vicomte and was the first to bring together the trinity of Louis le Vaux (acclaimed architect), André Le Nôtre (landscape garden designer), and Charles Le Brun (interior designer). In due course, the three men went on to work on Versailles together.
Today, the French Château can be visited for a fee and is located in the Seine et Marne department, around an hour’s drive away from Paris. During the summer months, a shuttle runs between the Château and local train station. As one of the most recognisable of Versailles filming locations, the grand mansion often stands in for the actual Versailles Palace.
Read more: Visiting Vaux-le-Vicomte & Blandy Les Tours
The magical castle of Sceaux can be reached easily from Paris via public transport. Located along the RER B, this beautiful French Château was actually constructed in more recent times, in the very middle of the 19th-century (the original château having unfortunately been destroyed during the French Revolution).
Built in an architectural style so as to evoke the tastes of the Louis XIII era, Sceaux is set against the backdrop of a beautiful estate complete with a cherry blossom orchard and orangery.
The gardens themselves were designed by the same man who designed those of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte, André Le Notre, and can still be visited today for free.
Sceaux is best visited in the springtime when the house operates as a museum dedicated to the local area, the cherry blossom orchard is in full bloom, and the town can be explored without the crowds which inevitably flock to Sceaux come summertime. In the Versailles TV series, Sceaux is used as a stand-in for Versailles during the construction scenes. The gardens are also featured extensively.
Stunning and situated on the ReR line A, one of the more prominent Versailles filming locations can be found only thirty minutes away from the centre of Paris. The Château de Maisons was constructed during the middle of the 17th-century and can be found to the North West of Paris.
Within the Versailles series, the extensive, and more than a little lavish, ballrooms were used for party scenes. Elsewhere in the property, the beautifully proportioned grand staircase is featured in several scenes. Today, it’s possible to visit the Château at Maisons-Laffitte for a fee, while under 18s and EU residents under 25 can explore the Château for free.
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While not a huge amount of the series is filmed at Versailles in comparison to what viewers might think, it’s worth noting that plenty of the series was still shot there. After all, bedrooms, staterooms, and of course, the extensive gardens, were all used as a backdrop for many of the scenes from the Versailles series.
The world-famous Hall of Mirrors was also used within filming, as was the Grand Canal and the ornate main entrance (complete with golden gates) which leads up to the property. Today, the Palace of Versailles is easily the most famous of day trips from Paris.
Easily accessible via RER train from Paris, highlights of the palace include visiting the Hameau de La Reine, the farm where Marie Antoinette would play dress up, as well as touring the smaller ‘his and hers’ King and Queen escapes from the Grand Palace in the form of two smaller Châteaux; the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon.
Although many people make the journey to Versailles purely to explore its grand palace, this would be your first mistake. Instead, the actual town has so much to offer! From eateries to vintage markets to offbeat museums (including one which relates to the origins of tennis), be sure to explore Versailles town while visiting the Palace!
Read more: Tips for visiting Versailles & a photo diary