Built by Louis XIV on the site of a royal hunting lodge, the Palace of Versailles is one of the world's most popular tourist sites, and soon it will be possible for a few privileged visitors to actually stay in a restored seventeenth-century annex building just yards from the main Palace itself.
Originally located in Versailles, a small rural village around twenty kilometres from Paris, the French capital has so expanded that the palace is now part of the greater metropolitan area. The palace was symbolic of royal absolutism and three kings lived here before the face of French politics and government was changed for ever by the revolution. Each king expanded and improved the buildings and facilities, and the palace and park are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, providing one of the very best examples of eighteenth-century French art. The royal apartments, the Hall of Mirrors and the Museum of French History combine to make this a must-see destination for anyone visiting the French capital.
Now, in the first of a controversial series of commercial projects aimed at saving some of France's most important monumental heritage, the Hotel du Grand Controle, a mansion originally destined for the use of the treasurer and his dependents, is to be refurbished by a Belgian company. The mansion will be converted into a luxury boutique hotel with just 23 bedrooms, decorated in keeping with the rest of the palace. Soon, there may be guests strolling the gardens of Versailles, champagne in hand, once more, although probably nothing like on the scale of the magnificent parties celebrated by the Sun King, Louis XIV.