Chateau de Vaux-le-vicomte.

© jaife/Getty Images/iStock

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte


The privately owned Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte and its fabulous formal gardens, 20km north of Fontainebleau and 61km southeast of Paris, were designed and built by Le Brun, Le Vau and Le Nôtre between 1656 and 1661 as a precursor to their more ambitious work at Versailles.

The château’s beautifully furnished interior is topped by a striking dome. Don’t miss the stables’ collection of 18th- and 19th-century carriages at the Musée des Équipages, or if at all possible, a candlelight visit.

During the same period as candlelight visits, there are elaborate jeux d’eau (fountain displays) in the gardens from 3pm to 6pm on the second and last Saturday of the month. In the vaulted cellars an exhibition looks at Le Nôtre’s landscaping of the gardens.

The beauty of Vaux-le-Vicomte turned out to be the undoing of its original owner, Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s minister of finance. It seems that Louis, seething that he’d been upstaged at the château’s official opening, had Fouquet thrown into prison, where the unfortunate ministre died in 1680.

Audioguides cost €3; electric four-person cars are available to explore the grounds (per 45 minutes €20). There are two on-site restaurants and a Champagne bar.

Vaux-le-Vicomte is not an easy place to reach by public transport. The château is 6km northeast of Melun and 15km southwest of Verneuil-l'Étang. Melun is served by RER line D2 from Paris' Gare de Lyon (€8.70, 40 minutes, frequent). Trains link Paris' Gare de l'Est (direction Provins; €8.70, 35 minutes, hourly) to Verneuil-l'Étang, from where the Châteaubus shuttle links Verneuil-l'Étang station with Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte (35 minutes, hourly). On Saturdays from mid-May to early October, the last bus returns directly to Gare de Lyon in Paris. Reserve ahead via the château's website and bring cash for the bus. At other times you’ll have to take a taxi. One-way day/evening prices are €18/32 from Melun, and €28/46 from Verneuil-l'Étang.

By car, follow the A6 from Paris and then the A5 (direction Melun), and take the ‘St-Germain Laxis’ exit. From Fontainebleau take the N6 and N36.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Île-de-France attractions

2. Château de Fontainebleau

11.48 MILES

The resplendent, 1900-room Château de Fontainebleau’s list of former tenants and guests reads like a who’s who of French royalty and aristocracy. Every…

3. Forêt de Fontainebleau

11.68 MILES

Beginning just 500m south of the Château de Fontainebleau and surrounding the town, the 280 sq km Forêt de Fontainebleau is one of the prettiest woods in…

4. Walt Disney Studios Park

20.99 MILES

Disneyland Resort Paris' sound stage, production backlot and animation studios provide an up-close insight into the production of films, TV programs and…

5. Disneyland Park

21.14 MILES

Disneyland Park has five themed pays (lands): the 1900s-styled Main Street USA; Frontierland, home of the legendary Big Thunder Mountain ride;…

6. Disneyland Resort Paris

21.15 MILES

Basic one-day admission fees at Disneyland Resort Paris include unlimited access to attractions in either Disneyland Park or Walt Disney Studios Park. A…

7. Marché International de Rungis

21.44 MILES

Covering an area bigger than Monaco (234 hectares), Paris' wholesale markets are sectioned into vast halls for meat, cheese, fish, fruit and vegetables,…

8. Parc Floral de Paris

22.32 MILES

This magnificent botanical park is a highlight of the Bois de Vincennes. Natural landscaping, a Japanese bonsai pavilion, an azalea garden and several…