As the door opened everyone gasped in unison. A bright blue life-size hot air balloon filled the adjacent room, rising up out of a glistening snow-covered forest. A big brown bear in the basket waved down at us. These enchanting festive displays made me feel like a six year old again. Or rather, I wished that I was six, making memories that would be fixed in my mind for a lifetime. Magical memories to treasure. I could even dress up as a princess or a musketeer, if I were six years old again. A family visit to Château Vaux-le-Vicomte at Christmas is the one thing everyone should do before they grow up, whatever their actual age! While you can to visit for the day from London, as we did, a visit to Château Vaux-le-Vicomte makes a perfect day trip from Paris.
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Christmas at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte
I was at the press preview of Christmas at Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, just south of Paris. In front of me was a room full of teddy bears, either climbing up the Christmas tree, sitting on a pile of books or climbing ladders. One big brown bear was snoozing on packages wrapped in brightly coloured glossy paper, his round tummy gently rising and falling, no doubt full after a Christmas feast. In another room everything was white. White swans, owls and squirrels sat amongst the white fir trees covered in snow. And another had a music theme with an animatronic hippo, giraffe and walrus entertaining the passing crowds. In the kitchen, giant gingerbread men greeted us, as ballet-dancing mice looked on. I would love to have been here when children wandered through these magnificent rooms, to see their faces light up with wonder as they caught sight of each new display.
Out in the expansive gardens we wandered through the woods, where more characters waited to greet us. The chateau and its grounds must be wonderful to visit at any time of year, but now in the lead up to Christmas, it’s so full of magic that I urge anyone with children to bring them here. We had come just for the day on Eurostar from London to Paris and then driven the rest of the way which takes about an hour. Alternatively, you can catch a train from Paris to Maincy and hop on the shuttle bus that the chateau runs, but it’s a very long day and we had to leave before it got dark, which was a great shame. It makes a perfect day trip from Paris. I especially would have liked to photograph the chateau as the sky turned a deep, dark blue with the Christmas lights flickering in the darkness. A short break staying overnight, either locally or in central Paris, would be a perfect Christmas treat for anyone at any age, young or not so young. You just need to be young at heart.
The chateau is the largest in France and the inspiration behind the Palace of Versailles. It is unique in that the building, grounds and interiors all come from the same period. It was built by Nicolas Fouquet, the then Superintendent of Finances for the King of France, who brought together for the first time three masters of their art; gardener André Le Nôtre, architect Louis Le Vau, and painter and decorator Charles Le Brun. Together they created a masterpiece where each element blends perfectly to create the whole, inspiring countless grand designs across Europe throughout the next century and beyond.
Sadly, in 1661, when Fouquet held a lavish party to celebrate the completion of the chateau, the King stormed out in a jealous rage. Fouquet’s enemies wrongly accused him of embezzling millions to finance the chateau. Just a few weeks later, Fouquet was arrested by d’Artagnan, captain of the Musketeers. Though innocent, Fouquet was sentenced to life in imprisonment where he died in 1680.
Now owned by the Vogüé family, Vaux-le-Vicomte is the biggest privately-owned property in France to be classified as a historical monument. And it is thanks to this family that Fouquet’s legacy lives on and can be enjoyed by so many today. They first opened their home to the public 50 years ago and are well known for their magnificent events. Their Christmas celebration is an unmissable festive experience to be enjoyed by children and all who still see wonder in the world. May I never grow up!
Vaux-le-Vicomte Celebrates Christmas
The Magic of Vintage Toys
Until 23rd December 2018
Wednesday to Friday, 11 am to 5.45 pm
Saturday & Sunday, 11 am to 6.45 pm
24th December 2018 to 6th January 2019
Daily, 11 am to 6.45 pm
Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day
On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve the last entry is at 4.45 pm
Chateau and exhibitions: Adults (over 18) €19.50
Children (6 to 17 years old) €13.50
Children under 6 FREE
For more information and to book visit
Children are encouraged to bring a toy or other present to leave at the entrance to the Le Musée des équipages which will be given to underprivileged children and their families, who are invited to the estate by the Croix Rouge (Red Cross) on Sunday 6th January to enjoy a special moment of magic!
How to get to Château Vaux-le-Vicomte
Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, 77950 Maincy
Eurostar St Pancras, London to Gare de l’Est, Paris (2 hours 15 minutes)
Gare de l’Est to Maincy (50 minutes)
A shuttle bus runs from Maincy railway station to the chateau.
Where to stay
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