It may not be accurate to call The Queen’s Hamlet a hidden gem—most guide books refer to it—but we’d guess many first-time visitors to the Château de Versailles miss it. While the palace is over-the-top opulent and the gardens spectacular, Queen Marie-Antoinette’s getaway was a completely unexpected pleasure and the highlight of our second visit to Versailles (in July 2018).
We walked from the palace, through the gardens and groves, to the Petit Trianon which serves as the entry point to the Queen’s Hamlet. The symmetry of the formal gardens gives way to meandering paths and streams, past the Temple of Love, and on to a lake surrounded by cottages straight out of a fairy tale.
Marie-Antoinette ordered the creation of the rural model village (completed in 1786) as a place for relaxing walks, to host small gatherings, and—as a working farm—a means for educating the royal children. She did not, apparently, dress up as a milkmaid and play farmer, but it’s not hard to understand why she would want a place to escape from the overwhelming regimentation of royal life at the palace.
We were surprised by the number of buildings. There were originally 12 of which 10 remain, having been restored or reconstructed at various times. When you go, be sure to explore behind the buildings to see the enchanting gardens.
The Queen’s House and the Billiard Room are connected by a covered gallery that is curved in a half-moon shape. We stopped beneath the gallery to relax for a bit and take in the same view Marie-Antoinette would have enjoyed as she looked toward the tower across the lake.
The circular tower on the edge of the lake is called the Marlborough Tower in reference to a popular song of the time. The view from the tower back across the lake is equally charming.
As we left the hamlet, we crossed the meadow and picked a path pretty much at random. We soon found ourselves in a more secluded area (thinking this would be an incredible place for the royal children to play hide-and-seek) before discovering the Belvedere and Grotto.
Choosing our next path, we got lost and found ourselves walking back toward the hamlet—perhaps we weren’t really meant to leave:)
We eventually found our way out, walked back through the gardens to the palace, and on to the train station for the trip back to Paris.
We’ve now spent about 11 hours over the course of two visits to Versailles and still have parts we need to see! We’ll likely skip the palace next time. We still need to see the Grand Trianon and take a row boat out on the Grand Canal.
One thing we know for sure is, like Marie-Antoinette, we’ll take time to escape the crowds and return to the Queen’s Hamlet.