Visitors passing through the rich interior of this colossal palace, or those strolling in these vast gardens why it was the glory of the sun king’s reign . Starting in 1668 with his father’s hunting lodge, Louis XIV built the largest palace in Europe, housing 20,000 people at a time. Architects Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart designed the buildings; Charles Le brun designed the interiors; And Andre le notre, the great landscaper, redesigned the gardens, which are formally styled into paths and groves, hedges and flower beds, water pools and fountains.

The Orangerie was built beneath the parterre du midi to house exotic plants in winter.

The South Parterre’s shrubbery and ornate flower beds overlook the Swiss pond.

The Chateau. Louis XIV made the Chateau into the center of political life in France.

The water Parterre . Vast pools are decorated with bronze statues.

The Dragon Fountain‘s center piece is a winged monster.

The Grand canal. was the setting for Louis XIV’s many boating parties.

Le Petit Trianon. built in 1762 for Louis XV, this small chateau became the favorite of Marie Antoinette.

Le Grand Trianon. Louis XIV built this small palace of stone and pink marble in 1687 to escape the rigors of court life and to enjoy the company of his mistress, Madame de Maintenon.

Fountain de Neptune. Groups of sculptures spray spectacular jets of water in Le Notre and Mansart‘s 17th century fountain.

Anne Suire