The Chateau de Versailles is one of the most famous royal residences in the world. King Louis XIV made this former hunting lodge the official seat of the French monarchy in 1682, and for over 100 years, Versailles was synonymous with royalty, luxury, and opulence. Today, over 10 million people visit Versailles every year (pre-COVID). However, it is estimated that 90% of all visitors only visit the palace. Meaning only 10% of all visitors venture into the gardens to explore the rest of the sprawling estate. 10%! This means that only 10% of you know what I’m talking about when I say that the gardens are spectacular. Especially at night. This is because every summer, the gardens of Versailles play host to an extraordinary event called the Night Fountains Show.
Not the most original name, I’ll admit, but the event itself is incredible. Every Saturday night from June to September, the gardens of Versailles are transformed into a beautiful array of water and light. The fountains are all turned on, utilizing a 35km network of underground piping that has been unchanged since the 17th century. They are then accompanied by music, lighting, and even laser effects. Believe me when I say that the results are breathtakingly beautiful. Especially as the sun begins to set.
But it’s not just the fountains that are on display. Groves that are normally closed to the public are open during this event. Grottos are filled with music and smoke effects. Places such as the Grove of Domes, the Water Theatre Grove, and the Apollo’s Bath Grove are beautifully lit and open to be explored. And in the Mirror Pool, a beautiful fountain show timed to music plays throughout the night. And don’t worry. Maps are provided at the entrance to the gardens with a route to follow to ensure that you don’t miss a thing. And just a word of warning. That route is not a suggestion. Due to safety measures, Versailles officials want everyone moving in the same direction, so they will turn you around if you try to forge your own path. Trust me on that one.
The grand finale of this event is the fireworks display above the grand canal. The first fireworks display in France dates back to 1560 at the Chateau de Chenonceau, and therefore fireworks were a common part of royal celebrations by the time Versailles became the seat of royal power. The fireworks to celebrate the marriage of future King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette reportedly lasted for over 30 minutes! Today, the show lasts for 15 minutes, but it is a no less spectacular way to end the evening. Standing in the gardens of Versailles, looking down the Great Lawn, watching the sky light up. It’s magical.
The Night Fountains Show is currently running until September 25th. If you find yourself in Paris between now and then, I can’t recommend it enough. It will be an evening you won’t forget any time soon, that’s for sure. Doors open at 8:30PM, with the fireworks beginning at 10:50PM. But don’t think you will have time to wait around. There is so much to see and do, you’ll have a hard time fitting it all in. We entered the gardens at 8:30 on the nose, and still missed the last fountain because we ran out of time. But that could also be because we paused at the Mirror Pool to take in the fountain show with a glass of champagne. Was it a perfect moment? Yes, I’d say it was. Will I ever forget it? Absolutely not. Am I so incredibly grateful that I live in France? Forever and always.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.