Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte visitor guide

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The Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte is an important castle, about 50 kilometres south-east of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department and near the village of Maincy.

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France This Way review: the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte is one of the most important castles in France, and also has an impressive interior and very extensive gardens so a visit is recommended if you explore this region

History of the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The castle was built between 1658 and 1661. One of the radical innovations at Vaux-le-Vicomte was that the building, the gardens, and the interior, were all planned together as one ensemble: the architect (Louis le Vau), the interior designer (Charles le Brun) and the landscape architect (André le Notre) worked closely together during all stages of the project.

It was the same 'team' that would subsequently be asked by the King to work on the Palace at Versailles, and the castle had an important influence on the architecture styles that followed.

Unfortunately the project was so lavish that the king decided that Fouquet, the owner and Finance Minister for Louis XIV, could only have paid for the chateau and the expensive parties he held if he had been using state funds.

Following a particularly lavish party, on the 17th August 1661, which included a play by Molieres and a magnificent firework display, Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned and the house was confiscated. It is now certain that there never had been any embezzlement, but just a plot to undermine him and jealousy on the part of the King.

The chateau was then occupied by various important characters until the middle of the 19th century, after which it was neglected and abandoned. This period of neglect lasted three decades, at which time it was bought by the Sommier family and an immense renovation project around the end of the 19th century regained the former glory for Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. The Sommier family still own the chateau today.


Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte today

The castle is built open a large raised platform surrounded by a moat. It is in the classical style, adorned by pilasters and statues, and a symmetrical facade surmounted by a large dome.

The interior, as you would expect in the finest 17th century chateau in France, is lavish, expensive, and luxurious, with immense rooms filled with fine furniture, tapestries, chandeliers and paintings. The highlight is the full-height Grand Salon which is a two storey room of oval shape that reaches into the central dome of the structure.

The chateau also has an attractive moat, although it was never designed for defensive purposes, and some of the finest French style gardens to be seen running a great distance from the front of the building - the gardens are perhaps the highlight of the whole chateau, despite having been completely overgrown 100 years ago.

As well as the extensive lawns and flower beds you will see various statues and fountains, in particular in the part of the gardens called Les Grottes. A notable innovation in the gardens is that the further you are from the castle, the longer are the flower beds - this creates a perspective effect to improve the view of Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte from further away.

Attractions nearby

While you are near the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte you can also visit the Chateau de Fontainebleau - one of the most famous castles in France - as well as the Chateau de Champs-sur-Marne, an imposing classical style castle.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Paris region guide.

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The French version of this page is at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte (Francais)