One of the more magical experiences you can have in the Île de France region during the summer months is to head out to a candlelit château to enjoy centuries of history illuminated with flickering lights. Recently, I was able to enjoy one of the candlelit evenings at Vaux le Vicomte (known in French as soirée aux chandelles au Château de Vaux le Vicomte). Here’s how to visit as well as things to know before you go!
I was invited to visit Château de Vaux le Vicomte by Agence Observatoire. However, all opinions and photos are my own.
What is Château de Vaux le Vicomte?
Before there was Versailles, there was Château de Vaux le Vicomte, a palace so lavish that the King of France himself is alleged to have grown jealous of the owner. Constructed during the 17th-century, the Château is one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture and saw three of the greatest minds of 17th-century design come together for the first time.
To create the best possible residence, Nicolas Fouquet hired the most up and coming designers of the time; Louis le Vaux (acclaimed architect), André le Nôtre (landscape garden designer), and Charles le Brun (interior designer) were brought together for the first time, thus signalling the emergence of the Louis XVI style of architecture.
Today, the Château is the largest private monument in France and can be found in the Île de France region, around an hour’s drive away from central Paris. Though the Château can be visited throughout the year, I highly recommend visiting during one of the candlelit soirées for an extra magical experience.
The Château is also known for being a filming location for the 1998 movie production of ‘the Man in the Iron mask‘. Set in France and based on potentially real events, The Man in the Iron Mask is a film which is based on a novel by Alexandre Dumas, who is best known for writing ‘The Three Musketeers‘.
In the film, the grand Château is used to film scenes of the King’s Palace, and a particularly grand scene featuring over 250 extras was filmed on site. Another notable scene from the Man In the Iron Mask filmed at Vaux le Vicomte is a piglet chase.
Candlelight evenings at Vaux le Vicomte
Since the 1980s, the Château de Vaux le Vicomte has hosted an annual set of candlelight evenings throughout Saturdays during the summer and early autumn, making it the first French château to propose candlelit events.
As well as opening the doors of the château during twilight hours, the event sees the grounds being illuminated by several thousand candles. The evening is rounded off by a ten minute firework display which recounts a little bit about the history of Vaux le Vicomte.
Candlelit dinner at Vaux le Vicomte
Fireworks, fountain displays, and candlelit rooms are not the only attractions available during the candlelit evenings at the château. There are actually several dinner options available which you can opt to choose from depending on your budget and personal preferences.
The Dome – This is the ultimate in luxury experiences and, during my press visit to the Château, our group was lucky enough to be invited up to the dome to enjoy a fantastic view of the grounds. Privatisation of the Dome starts from €650. Dinner is from €1200 and includes a starter, main, dessert, and your own private waiter. Included in every privatisation is a bottle of Duval-Leroy champagne.
Les Charmilles – A semi-formal dining experience that is only open for the candlelit evenings (and reservations are a must before you go), set menus are priced at 64.50€, 81€ and Children’s Menu at 25.00€ .
Relais de l’Ecureuil – If you’re looking for a dining experience that’s a little more laid back than that of Les Charmilles, then the restaurant Relais d’Ecureuil has an à la carte menu and is the usual restaurant of Vaux le Vicomte that is open whenever the Château is open. A set menu of a starter, main, and dessert starts from €25.00
Le Songe de Vau – This laid back experience in the garden sees visitors being able to purchase fruit cocktails or glasses of champagne while relaxing on deck chairs. Macarons are also available for purchase. Prices at the champagne bar start from €14.
Picnic in the estate gardens – Provided that the weather is good, the sprawling estate gardens are the perfect place to enjoy a quintessentially French picnic with all of the essentials. Just bring your picnic supplies, sit back, and enjoy the château illuminated by candlelight. There is also a kiosk in the grounds where you can purchase light snacks and drinks.
How to go to the candlelit evenings of Château de Vaux le Vicomte
The event starts at 7pm and ends at just after 11 pm following the ten minute firework show that rounds off the evening. In terms of food, there are several dining options (see above) and so visitors can enjoy anything from a lovely picnic in the grounds to a fine dining private gourmet experience.
Once upon a time (as recently ago as 2019), it was easy enough to reach the Château as a day trip from Paris. There is no direct public transportation directly to the Château and the nearest train station is at Melun, which is around a fifteen-minute drive away and is located on the RER D.
There was a shuttle that would transport visitors to and from the closest station to Vaux le Vicomte has unfortunately been cancelled due to current world events and so the only way to reach the château is with your own car. Free parking is available at the entrance to the estate.
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