Potager du Roi – The kings vegetable garden at Versailles

Written by on June 1, 2019 in Museums and Châteaux

View over the famous and historic Potager du Roi, the vegetable garden of Louis XIV, King of France

A short walk from the Palace of Versailles you’ll find the “King’s Vegetable Garden” – the Potager du Roi.

It was built between 1678 and 1683 by French gardening genius Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie, at the request of Louis XIV. Open to the public, gardeners will love its beautiful paths, raised beds, statues and fabulous planting…

The history of the King’s Vegetable Garden

Rows of perfectly pleached fruit trees in the vegetable gardens of Louis XIV at Versailles

Louis XIV commissioned Jean-Baptiste La Quintinie (1624-1688) to build a vegetable garden on the site of a swamp which was known at the time as the ‘stinking pond’. It was a horribly marshy area but close enough to the palace to get fresh supplies easily delivered to the royal kitchens.

La Quintinie trained as a lawyer in Paris but gave it up to devote himself to gardening. In 1670 he was appointed director of the Kings’ gardens and vegetable gardens. In 1678 he designed the vegetable garden. By then Versailles was already making a name for itself as one of the most splendid palaces in the world, the garden simply added to the wonderment.

The construction lasted for 5 years and La Quintinie invented innovative ways to turn the damp space into a productive garden. He had the marshes drained, dug out by the King’s Swiss guard and to this day the basin of water in the garden is known as the Lake of the Swiss Guard. He created an underground aqueduct and underground wood burners to heat the ground, elevating gardening to a scientific art.

How Louis XVI’s garden provided food for court

The soil was bad but luckily, there were plenty of horses in the King’s stables to provide tons of manure. The open land didn’t provide enough protection to heat loving fruit and vegetables. So, La Quintinie designed the garden as a series of large rooms. He dug down, improved the soil and separated areas with high stone walls and terraces to trap the sun and keep the heat in. It was innovative and exciting gardening and enabled him to grow plants that usually only thrive in the far south.

It was said he could provide up to 4000 figs and 150 melons a day. Lettuces were grown in January. Strawberries were ripe in March. Coffee beans and bananas were grown, as by 1685 glass making techniques meant greenhouse conditions could be created. The underground heating kept roots healthy even in the dead of winter. Louis would show off the area to foreign visitors, it became one of the most famous gardens of its time.

The King’s Vegetable Garden today

Original golden gate of the Chateau of Versailles at the Kings Vegetable garden missed during the French Revolution

Today there are more ordinary flowers and vegetables growing here though the artichokes in March were already growing ahead of schedule when I visited in March.

Despite the passing of hundreds of year, the layout remains true to the plans created by La Quintinie. The garden is a classified historic monument and absolutely remarkable. It’s where you’ll find one of the only original golden gates to survive the French Revolution. It leads to a park and onto the chateau. When you look through it, remember that the other side of this gate is where the palace laundry ladies would put washing out to dry. They would lay it on the grass or in the trees. Apparently Louis XVI’s aunties liked to have their things hung here, away from prying eyes.

Don’t forget to visit the shop when you visit. They have some lovely souvenirs and sell the vegetables, flowers and fruit from the gardens.

Details: www.potager-du-roi.fr

Visit Versailles, the Chateau, gardens and the Potager du Roi with The Cultural Travel Company. Their tours take place in France and Europe and you’ll be accompanied by the best guides and receive an indepth tour of the most iconic sites and monuments.

Related Articles

Top Museums in Strasbourg

Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace, has a dozen museums. Many of them are in historic buildings like the Museum of History which is in a 16th century former slaughterhouse and a voodoo museum (yes you did read that right), in a water tower! There’s a varied range of exhibitions from antiquity to contemporary – something […]

Continue Reading

Visit to the Chateau de Versailles

When Louis XIV was pondering over how to create the most magnificent palace the world had ever seen, one that truly showed off his glory and absolute power, he can’t have had any idea just how many people would tread in his footsteps and gaze in wonder at his legacy. The Chateau de Versailles is […]

Continue Reading

Mulhouse Train Museum | Cité du Train

When it comes to the Cité du train at Mulhouse, you don’t to be a train buff or train spotter, an anorak or a ferroequinologist (someone who studies trains) to get steamed up about a visit. This incredible museum is a fabulous place on so many levels. History, engineering, social history but overall – it’s […]

Continue Reading

Museums, Monuments and Arts Venues of Lille

Lille in northern France is one of the most cultural cities in the country. There are more than a dozen museums and art venues in the city and every three years or so Lille goes arty-party mad with a major several-months-long art festival known as Lille3000 in public buildings and the streets. Palais des Beaux […]

Continue Reading

The Halle de la Machine in Toulouse

When I was a kid I was entranced by stories of mythical beasts. My favourite tale was of a Minotaur who roamed a labyrinth on the Greek island of Crete. Small me believed that Minotaurs, a species which had the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man, really lived, much […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.