Versailles did not live up to expecations. How could it really? Castles and gardens all over the world are compared to it, it is talked up to be the greatest.
In reality the house was stripped of most of its original glory in the French Revolution. You can’t explore much of the house at all, and the parts you do see are crammed insanely full with tourists and mobs of school kids. The state apartments were filled with a temporary exhibit of silver work from other great houses in Europe. “Hey – look at the stuff we borrowed from Chatsworth and other great houses in Europe. Of course what we had originally was better though.” I didn’t come to Versailles to see stuff borrowed from other places I’ve already been. Plus it just made the mobs crowd into smaller spaces. Ick. The hall of mirrors had a painted theatre-prop replica of the throne as it was set up at one time. Very lame. Just let me see the room (which might be impressive) without filling it with junk.
Going outside was a wise move. Once you go around to the back side of the house you see why Versailles is the legend it is. The gardens go on for miles (literally). After walking and enjoying the gardens you turn around and see the massive scale of the house. It is truly huge. Entering at the front is not nearly as impressive as this view. A hilight of gardens are the subsidiary palaces Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon. Where the kings would “get away from it all.”
My advice – skip the palace. Only make the trek out to Versailles you truly have the time to make the trek and you have good weather. If so you can spend the whole day enjoying the gardens. There are many other great houses and palaces in Europe where you can enjoy and appreciate grand scales and great luxury and amazing craftsmanship. I’d recommend the Residenz at Wurzburg as a place to start.