Heading to the Paris Olympics? Check out our essential travel info, plus things to do near Versailles

  • Are you planning an Olympic getaway for Paris 2024? Whether you’re all booked in or a bit lastminute.com (best of luck finding somewhere to stay!), you’ll want a complete list of things to do near Versailles. From getting there to dining out, we’ve done the hard work for you with our essential guide.

    The Château de Versailles, where the Olympic equestrian events will be held between 27 July and 6 August (3-7 September for the Paralympics), is 35km from the Olympic and Paralympic Village in the Saint-Denis area of Paris. It began as a hunting lodge in the 17th Century but soon grew into the grand palace and estate that stands today. A former royal residence, the château is wonderfully preserved and protected as a keystone of French history. The vast estate of 800 hectares is open to the public and will remain so throughout the Games.

    Travelling to Paris

    If you’re heading to the French capital from the UK, your options are:

    • By air – the principal airport in Paris is Charles de Gaulle to the north of the city. There are daily departures from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburgh airports. Or, you can opt for Paris Orly airport to the south of the city. Travel from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Dublin. Flight times to Paris range between 1 hour and 20 minutes to two hours, depending from where you fly.
    • By train – the Eurostar runs from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord (and beyond) in as little as two hours and 17 minutes. Ticket prices on the official website for July and August are currently ranging from £39–£189 each way for standard class and you are entitled to two pieces of luggage. Make sure you arrive at least two hours before departure to ensure you get through customs. Be aware that once you’re through at St Pancras especially, food and drink options are limited. You can buy Paris Metro tickets on board to help you avoid the queues once you arrive.
    • By car – the quickest car ferries routes for France from mainland England are Dover–Calais (1hr 30mins) and Newhaven–Dieppe (four hours). However, quicker still is the Le Shuttle at Folkestone, which takes you through the Channel Tunnel to Calais in just 35 minutes. From Calais, it takes roughly three hours to drive to Paris, while from Dieppe it’s more like two-and-a-half.

    Where to stay and things to do near Versailles

    If you’re yet to book your accommodation in Paris, may the odds be in your favour. Securing a last-minute deal in a prime location might be a tough one, especially if you’re looking for something affordable, but a quick search of Château de Versailles on Booking.com shows there are still some options out there.

    Versailles is readily accessible by the UNCL train routes, and there are other options too. So, if you’re keen to stay more centrally in the capital, areas to consider for your stay include…

    • Invalides (30 minutes) – for Hôtel des Invalides (11 mins), Musée d’Orsay (four minutes), Petit Palais (four minutes), Musée de Louvre (17 minutes).
    • Grenelle (36 minutes) – for the Eiffel Tower (13 minutes), École Militare (14 minutes), Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (13 minutes) and Rue Cler (16 minutes).
    • Montparnasse (40 minutes) – for the Jardin de Luxembourg (12 minutes), Musée Bourdelle (eight minutes), Notre Dame (11 minutes) and Les Catacombes de Paris (five minutes).

    It is important to note that some of the above areas and attractions may be affected restricted access zones during the Games. You may require a Games Pass to access your reservations.

    Getting around Paris and applying for a Games Pass

    Visitors to Paris this summer will require a free digital Games Pass in order to enter specific areas in the city. The majority of Paris will be unaffected, but if you need to enter the grey zones on this interactive map between 18–26 July to access an attraction such as a museum, restaurant or hotel reservation, you will require a Games Pass to show to officials.

    When showing your Games Pass, be prepared to show supporting photo ID documents and submit to a bag search.

    If you are travelling to Versailles from central Paris, check on the map to see if your hotel and transport links are situated in restricted zones.

    There are different zones with restrictions applicable to pedestrians and motorised traffic. Take a look at this handy explainer for more detailed information, but in general pedestrians are free to access the red zones.

    If you need one, apply for your Games Pass here.

    Getting to Versailles

    • From Gare du Nord (1hr 5mins) – Take the B line train bound for Massy–Palaiseau, changing at Saint-Michel Notre-Dame for the C train that terminates at Versailles Château Rive Gauche.
    • From Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (1hr 39 mins)– It’s the same as Gare Du Nord, only you begin at the end of the B line at the airport.
    • From Paris Orly Airport – Take the Metro 14 line bound for Saint-Denis–Pleyel from the airport. Change to the above-ground C train at Bibliothèque François-Mitterrand for Versailles Château Rive Gauche.

    There will be a free bus for spectators from Versailles Château Rive Gauche to the Olympic venue.

    Bear in mind that public transport will be extremely busy throughout the duration of the Games. Plan some contingency time into your travel so that you don’t get caught out.

    Where to eat

    You’re never more than a few feet from a Parisian eatery (or so it seems). Here are our top picks for…

    • Breakfastpetit déjeuner á Paris is not to be missed. Pretty much every street corner will have the classic cosmopolitan breakfast on offer. You’ll often bag a croissant, bread and jam, coffee and orange juice for anywhere between €7–10 – a total bargain for a casual, grazing breakfast and some time spent people watching. In Versailles itself, try compact crêperie Blé Noir on Rue de Satory. If you fancy brunch, head to Green Story on Rue Georges Clemenceau.
    • Lunch – In Versailles, head to Au Chien Qui Fumé (literally ‘the dog who smokes’). There you’ll find French specialities on the menu on Rue de la Paroisse. For a more casual lunch try Tripletta, an upmarket pizza chain on Rue Georges Clemenceau
    • Dinner – Versailles’ Chez Georges is a stylish joint serving high-quality meat and fish dishes. You can find it on Rue du Vieux Versailles. For a low-key bite, Le Mets du Roi on Rue du Maréchal Joffre is a highly rated hamburger spot.
    • Drinks – For a lively music bar, head to L’Alto on Rue du Général Leclerc for cocktails, tapas and plenty of atmosphere. There’s even karaoke on a Wednesday! For something a little more laid back, try No Water on Rue de Satory.

    Should I tip in Paris?

    One thing to note is that advice varies on tipping culture in Paris. However, tips don’t appear to be expected in the same way they might be UK or certainly US restaurants. At a café or restaurant, a 15% charge appears on bills listed as service compris – this is a service charge. Nevertheless, leaving a small tip for good service is commonplace, though not mandatory.

    You might round up to the nearest euro for a drink in a bar, or leave a couple of euros per person after a meal. If it’s an especially upmarket place, leave €5-10.

    Relatively few establishments are equipped for you to leave a tip on their card machine. Therefore, try to have some loose coins and a few notes to hand if you plan to eat out.

    Things do in Versailles

    • Visit the Palace and gardens – The majority of the Château de Versailles remains open throughout the Games, so you’ll still be able to book tickets and visit when you’re not watching the horses.
    • Pop in to the Jeu de Paume – this old tennis court is a free museum and site of historial interest.
    • See Versailles Cathedral in all its splendour – built in 1754 in a baroque style, the cathedral sustained damage in the French Revolution. Since then, it has been restored to its former glory.
    • Have a peek in a bookshop while wandering the cobbled streets – there are a fair few in Versailles!

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