Before there was the Sun King’s Palace of Versailles, there was the magnificent mansion of Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte. A property so lavish, and so luxurious that the King of France himself grew envious of its owner and threw him into jail for the remainder of his life.
One of the greatest 17th Century châteaus in France can be found just an hour away from Paris and is well worth a visit if you’re looking to see some Baroque French architecture at its finest. After all, the stunning mansion is a prime example of some of the greatest French masters at their best; Andre Le Nôtre designed the gardens, while Charles le Brun was commissioned to craft a beautiful interior. And, above all else, the Château is a lesson in never flying too close to the sun…
Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte History
From the plane tree-lined entryway, Vaux-le-Vicomte could be any château in France. But wander around the back, and into Le Nôtre designed gardens, and you’ll find picture-perfect postcard views over Vaux-le-Vicomte. And then you’ll see why the palace was so coveted…
Constructed in the 17th century, this beautiful mansion started out as a relatively small stately home. That was until 1641 when it was purchased by Nicolas Fouquet, superintendent of finances to the King of France. In order to further expand his château, and make it into the palatial building you see today, Fouquet demolished three nearby villages and employed up to 18,000 people to bring his visions to life.
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.
The Château, the Fête and Fouquet’s Downfall
Of course, for the grand reveal of his latest project, Fouquet decided he needed an even grander party. He organised three-day ‘fête’ where he invited all the celebrities and nobility of France. Moliere was invited to perform his new play, the fireworks displays were like those no one had ever dreamed of (let alone seen) before.
Although Fouquet had constructed the palace to honour King of the time, Louis XIV (read: Sun King- Palace of Versailles), Louis grew jealous of Fouquet’s beautiful home. Perhaps he thought that Fouquet was stealing from France, or that he was paid a little too much. Either way, Fouquet’s plan backfired. He had flown too close to the sun.
He’d dare to compete with the Royals and now he had to pay the price. Louis had no idea that Fouquet wanted to present part of the lavish new palace to him and so Louis XVI confiscated the palace for himself. Fouquet was thrown in prison for life…
Visit Château de Vaux Le Vicomte: Candlelit Evenings
From the beginning of May until the beginning of October, Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte is lit by candlelight every Saturday evening. Opening hours are extended and visitors are invited to experience the magic of Baroque in the faint glow of a flickering light. Up to 2000 candles are lit, transforming the palace into a beautiful masterpiece, and allowing guests to see the mansion in a completely new light (sorry- couldn’t help myself!)
Visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte: Interior and Exterior
The château’s lavish look is complete in that it is surrounded by a full moat and bridges. The two bridges leading up to Vaux-le-Vicomte are an aesthetic and romanticised version of medieval fortresses and yet another way in which architect, Louis le Vaux, showed off his great skill in design.
Included in your ticket price, you can enter the mansion for yourself and experience the luxury of Baroque French architecture at its best. After all, it’s important to remember that Vaux le Vicomte inspired Versailles! Other highlights of visiting the Château include the chance to climb the dome to see a bird’s eye view of the grounds (for an extra fee) and visiting the horse and cart museum.
Vaux le Vicomte Garden and Estate
If you have enough time, then make sure to visit the vast gardens and estate that surround Vaux-le-Vicomte. As the estate is rather vast, there is also the option to rent a golf buggy to explore the château’s grounds (it is incredibly far to walk from one side to the other).
So popular and picturesque are the grounds, that the château and its picturesque gardens have been used in various TV series and films. Parts of the Man in the Iron Mask, Moonraker (part of the James Bond Franchise) and an episode of Australia’s Next Top Model were all filmed here.
Blandy Les Tours
A perfect accompaniment to visiting Vaux-le-Vicomte is Blandy-Les-Tours. Under 4km away from Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte and only a fifteen-minute drive (or an extra stop on the summertime shuttle bus), Blandy Les Tours is a beautiful medieval fortress surrounded by eateries and cobbled lanes.
Dating all the way back to the early 13th-Century, this château was heavily restored in the 1990s and provides a perfect example of what a fortified French castle would have been like during the middle ages. Visit today, and you can wander the castle’s ramparts, visit the Gatehouse, see the Keep and explore the château’s various towers.
How to get to Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte and Blandy Les Tours
Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte is situated in Maincy, near the populous town of Melun. Located in the Seine-et-Marne department of France, a visit to the château can easily be combined with a trip to nearby Fontainebleau (an equally sumptuous royal residence). However, bear in mind that Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is closed during the winter and cannot be visited.
There are regular trains running from Paris’ Gare de l’Est to Verneuil l’Etang (the nearest metro station to the château). Take line P in the direction of the medieval town of Provins. During the summer months, there is a bus that will pick you up from the station and take you directly to Vaux le Vicomte (bring cash to pay for the bus). The same bus will also take you to Blandy-les-Tours.
If you choose to visit by car (which is the easiest option if you want to fit in a few French countryside attractions at the same time), then parking at Vaux-le-Vicomte is free. Blandy-Les-Tours is about a fifteen-minute drive from Vaux-le-Vicomte and is perfect if you want to see some beautiful medieval architecture!