Many visitors to the Château de Versailles learn about the extravagant parties and masquerade balls hosted by the Sun King Louis XIV. But did you know you can actually attend one yourself?
There are two balls at Versailles each summer, both involve elaborate period costumes, but the Fêtes Galantes is in the Hall of Mirrors with Baroque music and dancing, while the Grand Masked Ball is in the Orangerie with contemporary dance dance music and more of a clubbing atmosphere.
One of the Secrets of Paris readers, Erin Meyer, planned her participation in the latter for over a year. After it was over, she graciously shared some of her impressions and tips for those thinking of attending next year. All of the following photos are hers.
“I wanted to let you know that the masquerade ball at Versailles was *astonishing*. I mean, Heather, holy cow. Some pieces of advice for you/your clients if you ever want to go to the sloppy drunk version, as opposed to the Hall of Mirrors version:
1. Buy only the very highest tier of ticket.
Yes, I know that’s like $400/ticket, but here’s why it’s worth it: each drink is 13 euros and requires you to stand in line and buy a special token… each time. You get reserved seating and reserved tables plus reserved dance space so you can be assured that there’s space to sit and people watch when you need a break, otherwise the dance floor is *packed* and you will spend your night being crushed by panniers (the wide baskets beneath the women’s dresses). Unlimited food and unlimited Red Bull/water help you counterbalance the unlimited champagne/wine/beer. Really, paying extra for your ticket significantly increases your ability to make it until dawn, so your cost per hour is maybe less? Whatever, it made for an *epic* night and was absolutely worth the months and months of extra saving. These tickets sell out quickly and tend to go on sale in November, so advance planning is key.
2. Rent from Sommier.
Contact them in December/January for the best selection, and they are fine with overseas folks. Costumes are of great quality, they have a huge range of sizes, and being able to pick up and drop off costumes was incredibly convenient. I brought mine from overseas and while it was great to guarantee that it was going to fit, no part of that particular experience was convenient (or cheap–we had to ship the wigs to our hotel ahead of time).
3. Comfortable shoes.
No joke, I wore straight up gym sneakers underneath my fancy dress and a) no one noticed, and b) I was in very decent shape for the extraordinarily long stumble back to the hotel at 7am.
4. Manage your sobriety.
It’s a long night, and no one wants to be sober (or sick) at 3am. Champagne, food, water, mimosa, repeat.
5. For people coming over from North America, that time change is your key to success.
Fly out Wednesday night, arrive Thursday morning, pick up your costumes, stay on North America time until after the ball, and you’ll find yourself wondering why everyone is so sleepy at 3am, because that’s only 9pm for you. Party on.
6. DON’T FORGET YOUR HARD COPY TICKETS.
THEY ARE NOT KIDDING WHEN THEY SAY THEY WON’T LET YOU IN, EVEN IF YOU FLEW HERE FROM AMERICA. Seriously, they don’t care if you have the email confirmation, pictures of the tickets, anything, they won’t let you in. We had two people of our 14-person group who were DENIED ADMISSION with their $400 tickets even though their names were clearly visible on the tables in the fancy section. No hardcopy ticket, no entrance.
7. These masks were lifesavers.
You can buy them on Amazon, they don’t rub off no matter how much you sweat, and they’re SO much more comfortable than having something strapped to your face all night. Make sure you have baby oil or jojoba oil or something on hand before you put them on, though, because they take some work to remove. And practice before the night of the ball. You need tiny scissors to cut them out; make sure to remember to pack those. You will sweat off any foundation or whiteface you might apply, so don’t even bother.
8. The guys were happiest wearing shorts under their rental outfits.
This is so they had pockets, or a moneybelt would work. They all said don’t worry too much about period shoes, just make sure they’re comfortable. Some of them wore dance tights instead of white socks so they didn’t have to worry about socks falling down or legs being exposed under the knee-length pants. Since you won’t take off your coat, you could just wear something sleeveless and attach lace to the coat sleeves. Don’t have a cane or wear gloves or have too big of a hat–you don’t want anything you have to set down or keep track of.
9. Try to meet as many people going from your country as you can before the event.
The more folks you can chat with and dance with, the more fun you’re likely to have and the later you’re likely to be able to stay up. You can ask the Versailles ticket office to seat all the people that you’ve met (or even all the people from your country!) together to reduce the language barrier if your French isn’t as fluent as you’d like. There’s a Facebook page already set up for people attending from the US–if you’re an English speaker, you can meet folks there, and you can post comments on the ball’s Facebook page routing English speakers to that page. Some of the most fun people we met were new friends we’d only talked to on Facebook!”
Find more photos at https://www.facebook.com/BalMasqueDeVersailles/
Check out other dancing options in Paris: Where to Go Dancing in Paris