I’ve been posting many incredible moments from our trip to France (find them all here), but I saved the best for last!
The most magical night of our entire vacation was when Greg and I attended the Grand Masked Ball at Versailles. Yes, we went to a party inside the Palace of Versailles! And it wasn’t just any party. Rather, guests were required to wear baroque costumes reminiscent of Louis XIV’s court. So not only did we party at Versailles, but we felt like we had stepped back into history while doing it!
Sommier, located at 3 Passage Brady in Paris, is the place for renting authentic costumes. Because when it comes to the Grand Masked Ball at Versailles, you can’t show up in something that looks like a cheap Halloween costume. You can email Sommier at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell them you need costumes for the Grand Masked Ball at Versailles, and what sizes you’re looking for. Then they’ll email you pictures of a few options, and you can correspond back and forth until you decide on your final looks.
Greg and I wanted to coordinate, so we chose these rich green costumes.
Then the Friday before the ball, we went to Sommier to pick them up. The employees had us try them on to make sure they fit well, and helpfully showed us how to put on the complicated costumes.
Since everyone rents their costumes from Sommier, know that there will be a long wait. Even though we had reserved our costumes beforehand, we were still there for about two hours.
Once we had confirmed everything fit, our costumes were placed in massive boxes and we were sent on our way, the line even longer than when we had arrived.
As a tip, I would go to Sommier on Friday morning right when they open. Friday afternoon is much too busy.
And so you can plan your flights home accordingly should you wish to leave the day after the Saturday ball, ordinarily Sommier is closed on Sunday. However, because they had so many people renting for the ball, they opened specially from 2-6pm the Sunday after. We got there on Sunday at around 2:30pm and didn’t have to wait at all to return our costumes, so at least that process was quick.
The next morning we slept in as much as possible, knowing we would be up all night that evening. Then we spent a leisurely day in our favorite garden before coming home to get ready for the ball.
It is SO important to bring your actual tickets with you! Apparently if you forget your tickets, no matter how many email confirmations and photo IDs you bring, they will not let you in.
We sprung for the top ticket tier, and I’ll explain why that’s essential later in this post. We loved that our tickets had “EXTRAVAGANT” written on them in large letters! It made us feel, well, extravagant!
Once we were dressed and ready, we climbed into our
carriage Uber and headed to Versailles. While you can take the train, we felt that an Uber was easier, especially with my massive hoop skirt. If you do plan on taking the train, be sure to confirm that there are no train strikes, as the French always seem to be striking and I would hate for you to be late due to something like that!
We quickly arrived at Versailles, one of the most beautiful palaces in the world.
Since it is a masked ball, you’re required to wear masks the entire time. And because the ball goes until dawn the next day, this means you’ll be wearing your mask for a long, long time. It would be awful having something tied to your face for all of that time, so I highly recommend getting these masks instead. They’re essentially temporary tattoos, and while they wash off easily the next morning, they’re strong enough to last all night no matter how much dancing you get up to!
The Grand Masked Ball doesn’t begin until 11:30pm. However, your ball ticket allows you admission to the Versailles gardens at 8pm for the night fountains show. I highly recommend coming early and strolling the gardens.
First of all, the gardens are beautiful, especially at twilight. Plus coming early will allow you to take a massive amount of pictures in costume, since the lighting at the ball is pretty dark. Just be warned, tourists who are not in costume will be taking a massive amount of pictures of you too!
My favorite part was seeing all of the other ball attendees strolling through the gardens in their costumes. It was magical being dressed up at Versailles among other partygoers who were also dressed up, and it felt like we had left the real world and were now among Louis XIV’s court.
The night fountains show features water and fire tricks set to music.
As fun as the spectacle is, it’s really not necessary, since the gardens themselves are stunning as the sun sets.
The event culminates with a fireworks show, so we walked up the steps towards the palace to get a good vantage point.
And speaking of walking, you’ll be on your feet for hours on end, maybe even 12 hours. Since you can’t see your shoes under your hoop skirt anyway, I strongly recommend wearing comfortable sandals or sneakers to help you make it until dawn!
Our vantage point was also a stunning place to watch the setting sun paint the sky in gorgeous colors. It could not have been a more beautiful evening.
Then at around 11pm it was time for the fireworks!
For most of the tourists at the night fountains show, their evening was over. However, for us partygoers, it was just beginning. We followed the costumed crowd to the Château de Versailles Orangerie for the most magical party I’ve ever been to.
You check into the booth that corresponds to your ticket level, exchanging your tickets for classy wristbands.
Then after a check to make sure you’re properly costumed and masked, you follow the crowd into the Orangerie where you’re immediately greeted by a visual and audio spectacle.
One of the things that makes this party so unique is it isn’t just a bunch of dancing. There is dancing, of course, but in addition special acts perform every 30 minutes or so. The entire evening is part nightclub, part circus, part concert, part Versailles and part Disney magic, all rolled together to create the most magical ball I’ve ever attended.
And of course, since it was France, there were some comically strange performances as well!
The performers didn’t just stay onstage. Rather they ventured out into the crowd, bringing the spectacle to you.
Remember earlier how I told you to purchase the “extravagant” level tickets? Here’s why that’s so essential.
There are three different ticket levels. General admission tickets are €98, VIP tickets are €188, and extravagant tickets are €330.
And while it may be tempting to save money and purchase the general admission tickets, if you do so you’ll be stuck waiting in line to get a drink ticket, then waiting in line at a crowded bar to buy a drink, every time you want a drink. Plus you’ll be stuck standing on the crowded dance floor all night, with few places to sit and relax. Greg and I ventured into the general admission area and felt like cattle, pushed around and smashed up against a bunch of people. It was such a miserable experience we left as soon as we could and headed back to our area!
VIP tickets are better, giving you access to the VIP room which has nice bathrooms with no wait, more general seating, and a buffet. Plus you’re also given two glasses of champagne. But then if you want any more drinks, you’re stuck in the pattern of waiting in line to purchase a drink ticket then waiting in line at the crowded bar for a drink.
Extravagant tickets, on the other hand, offer an unlimited buffet and open bar. There’s no wait at the extravagant bar, so you’re able to just grab a drink whenever you please. And another major perk is that all extravagant ticket holders are assigned their own tables in the special extravagant area. So you always have a seat available to you and you have a home base to meet up with your party if you’re separated, and a place to leave non-valuable items if you don’t want to carry them all night. The seating area overlooks the party, so you’re able to get great views of the dancing and the performances. And with the extravagant wristband you’re admitted to all other areas of the party, meaning you can use the no-wait bathrooms in the VIP area or even dance in the general admission area if you want. It’s the best of everything, and I’d go so far as to say if you can’t afford to buy an extravagant ticket to the Grand Masked Ball at Versailles, you should wait to attend the ball until you can afford one. It’s just that essential to making your evening hassle-free and fun.
Here’s what the extravagant seating area looks like.
And here’s what the general admission dancing area looks like. See, it’s a completely different experience!
Regardless of what level of ticket you buy, you’re able to head out into the Orangerie’s gardens whenever you need a break from the party.
My goal was to last until dawn, a daunting feat for someone who likes to go to bed by 10pm! But the party was so much fun that the time absolutely flew by. And because there’s unlimited food and drinks in the extravagant area, alternating between champagne, water, and food really helps you maintain the correct level of tipsy throughout the night.
It couldn’t have been a more magical evening, and before we knew it, it was already dawn!
We walked outside into the gardens as the sun was rising, noticing tired partygoers relaxing around the fire.
Then we headed through the gardens to the breakfast area, where everyone was surprisingly upbeat for 6am!
We took one final picture in costume.
Before following the crowd out through the gardens and reluctantly leaving Versailles.
It could not have been a more incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
As much as I tried to capture it in pictures, this video gives you a further sense of what the ball is like, and just how magical it is.
The Grand Masked Ball at Versailles happens once every summer. The next one is on Saturday, June 22, 2019 so mark your calendars now! You can find out more information, and get tickets, here. Don’t forget to purchase the “extravagant” ticket level and order these masks ahead of time!
And then get ready for the most memorable night of your life!
(You can find all of my France travel posts here).