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Ten reasons to visit Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte ( Photoessay)

October 2, 2014
Transparency of the chateau
The entrance to Vaux le Vicomte

The entrance to Vaux le Vicomte

Nestled in the countryside near the town of Melun, Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte is located about one hour away from Paris by car. A recent article I wrote for the Chicago Tribune provides an overview of the historic 17th century chateau built by French finance minister Nicholas Fouquet, and explains why it makes for a perfect daylong excursion for tourists who wish to immerse themselves in French history and culture.

Here are some photographs taken during our visit that illustrate why Vaux le Vicomte, which took 20 years to build, has been so popular with both residents and tourists since it first opened to the public in 1968. The antithesis to a stuffy museum, it’s a living piece of history to be experienced and enjoyed.

1) A short car or taxi drive from Paris

A short car or taxi drive from Paris

A short car or taxi drive from Paris

Tourists to most European capitals tire of crowds and long lines (especially in the heat of summer) so driving through the countryside to a park-like setting can be restorative.

Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte is more intimate than other great chateaux like Versaille. “It’s not so crowded that visitors have to push and jostle for space,” says tour guide Balwinder Prabhakar.

The chateau has been owned by the same family for five generations (and still houses some family members).

2) The first formal French garden

The first formal French garden

The first formal French garden

One of the most striking and historically significant elements of the property is its extraordinary landscape design. Landscape architect Andre Le Notre was key to the design of this project, which includes the first formal French garden with its spectacular symmetry. From every angle and perspective visitors are able to enjoy another aspect of its beauty that only reveals itself as they stroll along its paths.

3) Transparency of the chateau

Transparency of the chateau

Transparency of the chateau

Architect Louis Le Vau designed the stately chateau so the approaching visitor could see directly through its arched doors into the breathtaking gardens. Such a design reinforced the harmony between the building and its natural setting.

4) The first formal dining room

The first formal dining room

The first formal dining room

Another “first” is that of what may have been the first formal dining room or “salle du buffet.” Here and throughout the home, visitors can enjoy the paintings, sculptures, furnishings and tapestries of the period. Charles Le Brun was the artist and decorator responsible for the interior design of the property.

A spectacular video display (see our YouTube link at the end of this post re-enacts the lavish reception for the King that was held at the property in 1661.

4) A place to relax

A place to relax

A place to relax

Visits are self-paced. You can tour the inside of the residence with an audio guide, stroll the gardens or even may be tempted to take a nap in the sun.

5) Pause at the champagne bar

Pause at the champagne bar

Pause at the champagne bar

The beautiful setting, which also houses two restaurants, invites visitors to sit down and enjoy it with a glass of French champagne.

6) The dome

The dome

The dome

A trip up the spiral staircase inside the dome offers a unique aerial view of the property.

7) Electric golf carts

Electric golf carts

Electric golf carts

Mobility impaired or have teens along on the trip? The grounds are immense. Surrounded by a moat, this is the largest public property in France so even walking from one end to the other can take at least 20 minutes. Zipping around on an electric golf cart can be fun and easier on the feet.

8) Period costumes for kids

Period costumes for kids

Period costumes for kids

Young children can don period costumes and tour the property with a comedian.

9) Saturday night fireworks

Saturday night fireworks

Saturday night fireworks

During summers, guests can extend their stay and participate in magical candlelight dinners followed by a fireworks display. More than 2000 candles light up the evening sky. These celebrations “re-live” the lavish reception held here for Louis XIV in August 1661 shortly before Fouquet was arrested and brought to trial for embezzlement.

10) On location

On location

On location

More than 70 films were filmed on location at Vaux le Vicomte, including The Man in the Iron Mask with Leonardo DiCaprio. We found this whimsical creature in a visit to the cellar. When you return home, it’s likely that you’ll be able to revisit the chateau on Netflix.


See a YouTube Video of the re-enactment of the lavish party thrown by Nicholas Fouquet:


IF YOU GO

For more information and reservations, see Vaux le Vicomte


In the Chicago Tribune on September 30, 2014

If Paris Gets Too Busy, Escape to Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte

Also on More Time To Travel:

A visit to Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte

  • Reply
    Marilyn Jones
    October 2, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Such a beautiful location. Your narrative and photos really sound and look so inviting!

  • Reply
    Ralph Carlson
    October 2, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for this lovely report. We are always looking for beautif places that somwhow never made the A list and therefore are more accessible and less crowded.

  • Reply
    Sand In My Suitcase
    October 6, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    The chateaux looks lovely to visit! We’ve loved visiting Versailles (crowds and all), so this looks equally inviting (and less crowded).

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    October 6, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Wonderful! Particularly the champagne bar! What an incredible setting. I love the harmonic detail between the architecture and gardens. People are always looking for recommendations within a day’s trip of Paris. I’ll be sure to remember this when asked.

  • Reply
    Leigh
    October 6, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Between the gardens – which I love – and the champagne bar, I’d be really happy to visit. And the thought of fewer people is also very appealing.

  • Reply
    Elaine Masters
    October 7, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    Your vibrant pictures brought back such memories from decades ago when I spent one very hot afternoon exploring the Chateau. So close to Paris too.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      November 5, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Glad you enjoyed visiting the Chateau as much as I did, Elaine!

  • Reply
    Milena Yordanova
    August 24, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Château de Vaux le Vicomte is one of my favourite day trips out of Paris. It is so beautiful and peaceful at the same time.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      August 25, 2015 at 2:47 am

      I loved visiting this beautiful place, too—away from the maddening crowds.:-)

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