The musical fountain show (Grandes eaux musicales) presents the gardens of the Palace of Versailles at their best on summer weekends. The best time to visit is early morning for the chateau but afternoon for the gardens.
The formal baroque gardens of the Palace of Versailles near Paris are at their most spectacular on summer weekends when the fountains are allowed to play. On these musical fountain days (grandes eaux musicales) admission is charged to see the gardens and fountains of the Chateau de Versailles. The Musical Gardens (Jardins musicaux) on most summer Tuesday offer far lesser value. The Palace of Versailles is usually less crowded on Saturday than on Sunday.
Seeing the Chateau de Versailles on Musical Fountain Days
The fountains show in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles in the afternoon is far more spectacular than the morning display. Therefore, arrive early only if planning to see the chateau too and making a full day trip of visiting Versailles.
The chateau, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, village and domain of Marie Antoinette, park and gardens offer more than enough for a very full day trip for visitors with the time (and energy).
To see the chateau, arrive very early or try to see it late afternoon, or not at all. The queue for security – everyone nowadays arrive ticket in hand – is pleasant compared to the scrum inside the palace. If arriving early, rush past the first exhibits (it is possible to return for a second round, if desired) and see the grand apartments and hall of mirrors before crowds build up.
The apartments of the dauphine and dauphin (as well as the Trianon palaces) are usually pleasantly quiet in comparison to the main staterooms of the Château de Versailles.
Admission tickets to Versailles are easily bought online from for example Tiqets and GetYourGuide but only a formal tour group will get visitors into the palace faster than the standard security queue moves.
Best Time to See the Fountains in the Gardens of Versailles, France
The best time to see the fountains in the gardens of Versailles is during the afternoon session. The morning session is from 11 am to noon but only six major fountains play the whole time with seven smaller fountains playing from 11:15 to 11:45 only.
During the afternoon session – 3:30 to 5 pm – currently all 32 functioning fountains play continuously. Versailles still uses 30 km of seventeenth-century piping but modern pumps are strong enough to supply the 4,500 m3/h of water needed to keep all fountains working simultaneously. (During the 17th century, engineers had to constantly turn fountains on and off as the Sun King progressed through the gardens.)
On musical gardens (jardins musicaux) days (Tuesdays) music is played throughout the garden and more groves than usual are open to the public. However, this adds far less to the enjoyment of visiting the gardens than when the fountains are in operation over weekends. In addition, Tuesdays are often the busiest day of the week at Versailles.
Best Fountains to See in the Gardens of Versailles Palace
Apart from the main fountain, don’t miss the following smaller but spectacular displays: ballroom and colonnade groves (mornings too), encelade and obelisk groves, Apollo’s bath, grove of the three fountains, and the dragon fountain.
The Neptune Fountain plays a grand ten-minute finale from 5:20 pm. Avoid the first train heading back to Paris immediately afterward.
The Mirror Fountain plays every ten minutes throughout the day on fountain and musical garden days.
Some visitors have described the fountains in Las Vegas as more spectacular than the seventeenth-century ones in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. For some seeing a postcard of the Mona Lisa also suffices.
Free Access to the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles
The formal garden, for which admission is charged on show days, stretches from the western façade of the chateau de Versailles to the Grand Canal. The rest of the massive park in the Estate of Versailles remains open for free.
To reach the park of Versailles and the Grand Canal without a garden ticket, go around the palace on its right-side (when facing the front entrance) – it is a very long walk. This route may also be used by cyclists or when traveling with dogs – neither are allowed inside the formal garden area.
From the Grand Canal, where visitors can rent rowing boats, parts of the formal garden can be seen. A small section of the garden can also be seen at the orangerie next to the chateau prior to the ticket booths.
More Shows and Spectacles in the Gardens of Versailles
On most Saturday nights from mid-June to end August, fountains night shows with fireworks are staged in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. It may be preceded by a royal serenade – baroque music and dancing show at sunset in the famous hall of mirrors of Versailles. Admission to the night garden show is €24 and €39 if the serenade is included. Online reservations are possible (and recommended) with tickets sold at the palace if still available.
The Chateau de Versailles is a great day-trip destination from Paris. Transportation to Versailles is easy from central Paris and many guided tours are also available for visitors with limited time to solve both transportation and admission problems. See also Visit the Palace of Versailles for an overview of the main sights and various admission ticket options.