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A photo of the front facade of Vaux-Le-Vicomte. It is nighttime, and the facade is illuminated with lights.

Celebrating the Holidays at Vaux-Le-Vicomte

I love holiday traditions. I’m one of those people who will happily watch the same movie, eat the same food, and do the same activities, year in and year out. There’s something comforting about traditions, and I look forward to them every holiday season. I should also note that I love making new traditions. For example, last year I started a new one when I discovered Lumières en Seine, a 2km illuminated light show at Parc de Saint-Cloud. This year, I discovered yet another new tradition when I visited Vaux-Le-Vicomte for their Grand Noël festivities. Just like Lumières en Seine last year, this experience absolutely blew me away.

A photo of the exterior facade of Vaux-Le-Vicomte. The building is illuminated at night with projections and lights.

The Chateau that Outshone a King

First up, however, what exactly is Vaux-Le-Vicomte? In short, it’s a chateau. But it is a chateau that had huge implications on the French monarchy. It was originally a small estate located between the larger chateaus of Fontainebleau and Vincennes. However, in 1641, the estate was purchased by Nicolas Fouquet, a young politician in the court of Louis XIV. Fouquet hired architect Louis Le Vau, landscape artist André Le Nôtre, and interior designer Charles Le Brun, to work together to create the most luxurious, the most lavish, and the most wondrous private residence ever seen. The result was a stunningly beautiful chateau and gardens that cover 33 hectares of designed and landscaped buildings and grounds. Construction was completed in 1661, and on August 17th, Fouquet threw an extravagant party to celebrate the inauguration of Vaux-Le-Vicomte. It was a party that would directly lead to his downfall.

A photo of a magnificent tree in the main foyer of the chateau. It is sitting on a large round table that has place settings all along it. The walls behind are bathed in blue light and projections.

You see, the King was invited to this party as the guest of honour. Fouquet had built his chateau with the intention of honouring the King and his rule. Unfortunately for Fouquet, Louis XIV took one look at the lavish extravagance and decided that Fouquet must have been stealing public funds through his position as Superintendent of Finances. Fouquet was arrested on September 5th, having enjoyed his chateau for a mere three weeks. His trial lasted three years, and it ended with a guilty verdict and banishment from France as punishment. Louis XIV intervened, however, and the sentence was amended to life imprisonment. It’s the only time in French history that a King used his power to make a sentence worse.

Vaux-Le-Vicomte Lives On

In what was perhaps the ultimate insult, Louis XIV then hired Le Vau, Le Nôtre, and Le Brun to design an even more extravagant chateau and estate. An estate that is now known the world over as the Palace of Versailles. Nicolas Fouquet, on the other hand, lived the rest of his life imprisoned in Pignerol, where he died in 1680. But his legacy still lives on at Vaux-Le-Vicomte. Fouquet’s wife was able to recover ownership of the property after it had been confiscated during her husband’s trial. She lived there with her son for many years before selling the estate in 1705. Vaux-Le-Vicomte went on to have many owners over the years, and today, it is still privately owned. It was opened to the public for visits starting in 1968, and today, it hosts many events throughout the year.

A Holiday Display Fit For A King

I had long heard that the Christmas displays at Vaux-Le-Vicomte were a particularly impressive sight. However, for various logistical reasons, I never managed to visit during the holiday season until this year. And having now seen them, I can say for certain that the rumours are true. Le Grand Noël at the Vaux-Le-Vicomte is a spectacular event, especially in the evening. The chateau is not merely decorated with lights. Every room (including the stables) has its own incredible Christmas display, and a roaring fire can be found in each of the fireplaces, keeping everything warm and toasty. The gardens are illuminated with lights, there’s activities to be found throughout the estate, and the evening culminates with a projection light show on the facade of the chateau. The only thing that could have made the experience more Christmassy would have been snow. Perhaps next year the weather will cooperate.

A photo of one of the Christmas displays in the library. A large, U-shaped table is decorated with place settings, wreaths, and holiday ornaments.

I should note that Vaux-Le-Vicomte is not the easiest place to reach by public transit. However, if you’re willing to put in the extra effort, the trip will absolutely be worth it. The Christmas displays were truly incredible, with the massive tree in the main foyer being a particularly breathtaking sight. And an insider’s tip. As you enter the chateau, head for the staircase on the left. This will take you to the visit of the chateau’s dome. There’s an added charge for this, but you get to walk around the upper floors of the chateau and through the attic, both of which have a distinctly backstage vibe to them. And when you get to the top, the view is spectacular and well worth every step.

A view of the gardens from the dome of the chateau. The gardens are beautifully landscaped and stretch on for over a kilometre.

A New Holiday Tradition

My list of holiday traditions in Paris grows longer every year. Marvel at the tree at Galeries Lafayette. See the window displays at the Grand Magasins. Walk through Place Vendôme, down Avenue Montaigne, and up the Champs-Élysées. Eat tartiflette at the Christmas markets. Journey to Parc de Saint-Cloud for Lumières en Seine. And now, find a way to Vaux-Le-Vicomte for their Grand Noël festivities. I already can’t wait to see what displays this beautiful chateau will have in store for 2024.

A photo of the back garden of the chateau. An illuminated statue of a goddess is in the forefront, and the ponds and gardens are illuminated with lights. The illuminated chateau is in the background.

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.


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