Have you ever walked into a period room with tacky 'candlelight' lightbulbs in the chandeliers and wondered, "What would this have been like with real candles?"
Château Vaux le Vicomte has the answer.
This (relatively) modest château outside of Paris offers candlelit evenings every Saturday in the summer, where they light over 2000 candles in the castle and on the grounds. At 11pm, fireworks illuminate the gardens.
I've never been able to experience a period room the same way after visiting Vaux le Vicomte by candlelight. The rooms are completely transformed by the soft flickering light, and I could imagine what life might have been like for the original inhabitants.
The candles in the grounds made it feel like an enormous party was taking place.
This history of Vaux le Vicomte is fascinating. In 1641, Nicolas Fouquet, one of Louis XIV's ministers, recruited the dream team of Le Vau, Le Brun, and Le Nôtre (architect, artist, and gardener) to build Vaux le Vicomte.
When it was completed in 1661, it was France's most ornate château. Fouquet held an epic party in honor of Louis XIV with 6000 guests, featuring poetry by La Fontaine, a comedy-ballet by Molière, and fireworks with pyrotechnic squirrels (Fouquet’s family symbol).
Louis XIV was so jealous of Vaux le Vicomte that he eventually had Fouquet thrown in jail and he took the dream team to build Versailles, a grander Vaux le Vicomte.
Vaux le Vicomte feels like a more manageable Versailles. Le Nôtre's gardens are incredible, playing with perspective and angles. It takes about an hour to walk the length of them.
Getting to Vaux le Vicomte from Paris is less than obvious, but definitely doable. A whole day could be spent here, wandering the gardens and canal in the afternoon, and enjoying the candlelit and fireworks into the night.
Château Vaux le Vicomte
Address: 77950 Maincy ∣ Getting there: Direct shuttle or train and then shuttle ∣ Opening hours: Daily 10am-6pm from March to November. Candlelight evenings: 7pm to midnight every Saturday until October with fireworks at 10:50pm