The section of the vast gardens nearest the palace, laid out between 1661 and 1700 in the formal French style, is famed for its geometrically aligned terraces, flower beds, tree-lined paths, ponds and fountains. The 400-odd statues of marble, bronze and lead were made by the most talented sculptors of the era. The English-style Jardins du Petit Trianon are more pastoral and have meandering, sheltered paths.
Oriented to reflect the sunset, the Grand Canal, 1.6km long and 62m wide, is traversed by the 1km-long Petit Canal, creating a cross-shaped body of water with a perimeter of more than 5.5km.
On the southwestern side of the palace, the Orangerie, built under the Parterre du Midi (Southern Flowerbed), shelters tropical plants in winter.
The gardens’ largest fountains include the 17th-century Bassin de Neptune, a dazzling mirage of 99 spouting gushers 300m north of the palace, whose straight side abuts a small pond graced by a winged dragon (Grille du Dragon). On the same days as the Grandes Eaux Musicales fountain displays, the Bassin de Neptune flows for 10 minutes.
At the eastern end of the Grand Canal, the Bassin d’Apollon was built in 1688. Emerging from the water in the centre is Apollo’s chariot, pulled by rearing horses.