If you’re already planning a trip to Versailles, did you know you can also enjoy a lesser known and much less crowded visit, the Royal Stables or Grande Ecuries? Just opposite the chateau, built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1682 and reputed to be the most beautiful in the world, the stables used to house the school for the royal pageboys, a high honour reserved for sons of the military nobility. Here they would learn how to be perfect gentlemen – horse riding, fencing, dance, music and drawing, as well as military skills.
The stables also housed and trained the king’s 600 horses. Completely restored and remodeled, today they are home to the world famous Academy of Equestrian Arts, founded in 2003 by Bartabas. Horsemen and women come from all over the world to learn and perform a mixture of dressage, ballet, fencing and traditional Japanese archery.
If you are there on a Sunday, you can see ‘Les Matinales des Ecuyers’. For 12€ this gives you access to a visit of the stables, and you can also watch a 45 minute training session set to music and featuring their magnificent Lusitano horses, the same breed that was the glory of Versailles in the 18th century. This takes place in the stunning Grand Arena, recently remodeled by Patrick Bouchain.
I really enjoyed this visit and beautiful performance. It’s a great complement to the crowded main chateau and gives a glimpse into another side of the palace life that we rarely see.
The Matinales take place at 11.15 on Sundays, and you can also see their full performances on Saturdays at 6pm and Sundays at 3pm.
- Les Grandes Ecuries, avenue Rockefeller, 78000 Versailles
Take the RER C to Versailles Chateau, or train from St Lazare to Versailles rive Droite, then it’s a short walk.