This is a true representation of the magnificence of the Sun King (Louis XIV) himself, who transformed the hunting lodge of Louis XIII, his predecessor, into the largest royal residence in Europe. The palace attained its present aspect in 1690 following long and complex construction work under the direction of Le Vau, Hardouin-Mansart and Le Ntre; the latter was responsible for the magnificent gardens. In 1682, Versailles took the place of Paris as capital of the kingdom, when Louis XIV transferred the government there. The following years, until 6th October 1789, were the magical years for Versailles. Then the castle fell into disrepair, was plundered a number of times and stripped of many of its works of art until, in 1837, it was restored by Louis Philippe who made it into a Museum of French History. In 1875, it was here that France was proclaimed a Republic and in 1919, the Peace Treaty was signed here with Germany. From the Place d'Armes, it is possible to enjoy a view of the splendid palace, with its three consecutive courts: the first, known as the Cour des Ministres, at the end of which stands the equestrian statue of Louis XIV; the second, known as the Cour Royale, to which the royal family's carriages had access and the last, called the Cour de Marbre (Marble Court), surrounded by the first nucleus of Louis XIII's lodge. The western faade of the palace is the most famous and undoubtedly the most beautiful. It extends for a length of 580 metres, with the harmonious gardens which open up before it. The main body of the building is the work of the architect Le Vau, while the two wings were the project of Hardouin-Mansart, creating harmony and elegance. Passing from the Cour Royale, through the Louis XV wing, one gains access to the inside of the palace. This is where the Historical Museum is housed, composed of eleven halls illustrating the epochs of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. From here, one can continue on to the Opra, designed by Gabriel in 1770 for the wedding of Louis XVI with Marie Antoinette. On the second floor, the Chapel built by Hardouin-Mansart from 1698 to 1710 merits particular attention. On the same floor, there are the rooms of the King's Grand Apartment, six in number, where the sovereign held court three times a week, in the evening from six to ten o'clock; the King's Apartment, containing the bedchamber where Louis XIV died in 1715, as well as the Queen's Grand Apartment. The most magnificent room in the palace is certainly the Hall of Mirrors which can be reached by passing through the Salon de la Guerre (War Room). This is the masterpiece of Hardouin-Mansart, who followed its construction in 1678; it is 75 metres long and 10 metres wide, with its ceiling decorated by Le Brun with pictures depicting various French victories. The gardens of Versailles, rightly considered to be the prototype of French style gardens, for their elegant design which is, however, never extravagant and yet rich in artistic "findings" and landscaping ingenuity. They were designed by Le Ntre from 1661 to 1668, occupy an area of 100 hectares and are integral part of and necessary complement to the palace. Descending from the central terrace, one finds Marsy's masterpiece, the Fountain of Latona, which portrays the goddess, with her children Diana and Apollo, who reigns over the concentric basins which rise up in the form of a pyramid. This fountain marks the start of the long avenue called Tapis-Vert which leads to the large Apollo's Fountain. Here, Tuby has depicted the god's carriage drawn by four horses which rises up imperiously from the water, while the Tritons blow into their shells to announce the arrival of the god. Behind this group of sculptures extends a vast, open area of grass crossed by the Grand Canal which stretches on for almost two kilometres and is intersected halfway along by the Small Canal. The Small Canal gives access to the Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon, the first wanted by Marie Antoinette and the other built by Louis XIV for his numerous "love-affairs". Continuing through a copse of centuries-old trees, one reaches the Hameau de la Reine (the Queen's village), a veritable rustic Disneyland. For visiting the large park, we would advise renting bicycles, the famous "Bicyclettes de Versailles", which can be found on both sides of Apollo's Fountain. You cannot leave Versailles without having visited the Orangerie, the largest and most impressive hothouse in Europe.