Hidden gem: visiting Puy du Fou, France

Team member Jenni visited Puy du Fou in France, and recommends that everyone add it to their French itinerary: “It’s truly a special place, unlike any other I’ve visited. It is a theme park, yes, but there aren’t any rides and slides, flashing signs or over-the-top bling. Think elaborate immersive theatrical experience meets enormous living history “museum” park (but you won’t find any dusty exhibitions here) in beautiful grounds with woodlands and flowers. Like being in a whimsical fairytale!”

This theme-park-with-a-difference is an incredible immersive experience packed with romantic and swashbuckling historical tales that are anything but boring, romantic scenery, gorgeous costumes, and exciting performances. You’ll need at least 2 days to make the most of it.

Puy du Fou is usually open from April to November, and closes for the winter period; it is at its busiest from June to August.

Get in touch to book your trip to Puy du Fou and the rest of France at sales@britishtips.com or 021 975 2047.

Jenni says: “I absolutely loved it and, without all the cheesy, stereotypical amusement park stuff, you can immerse yourself in this ‘olden times’ ambience. I’ve never been anywhere like it and it will stay in my memory as something exceptional. As a fantasy TV and book fan, this was spot on for me.

You learn a bit about French history, but in a way that, if they taught history like this at school, we would all get straight A’s!  I can understand why it’s won so many awards and why it is one of Europe’s most popular theme parks. Most South Africans have never even heard of it so it’s a “hidden” gem for us. I only got to spend an afternoon & evening there, staying over one night, and that’s not nearly enough – so I’m looking forward to visiting again one day. My favourite performance was Les Noces de Feu – a night-time performance on a lake featuring beautifully dressed and illuminated performers, a violinist and pianist, a flame-throwing pipe organ, and a horse-drawn carriage, all gliding around amidst fountains, with everything lit up with sparkling lights. Absolutely magical! You’ll be entertained the entire time you’re there.

What is Puy du Fou?

Puy du Fou (pronounced “pwee doo foo”) is located just outside the town of Les Epesses, in the Vendée region of France (west). The aim is to share France’s rich, fascinating history in a way that is both entertaining and educational. It’s an enormous place, with gardens and woodlands that give it a natural feeling, and throughout are “villages” replicating different time periods.  

In a nutshell, the aim is to immerse you in some of the different time periods that shaped France, particularly in the region of the Vendée. The emphasis is on storytelling and historical accuracy, so the costumes, sets, and performances come across as enchantingly authentic (although, of course, some artistic liberty is used to make it fun!). From the moment you step through the gates, you’re transported to different eras, witnessing epic battles, medieval jousts, and amazing performances that bring history to life.

The sprawling Grand Parc is home to various attractions and shows, like a falconry display set in a Medieval castle, an epic Viking battle complete with fight sequences, a shipwreck and fire effects, and dashing knights of the round table in water. At night, there is the Cinéscénie, is one of the largest world’s largest night-time shows, which recounts the history of the Vendée region through sound, light, and pyrotechnics, and with a cast of thousands. And, of course, there’s the utterly magical Les Noces de Feu, as mentioned above.

There are plenty of places to eat too (all themed, of course), including the fun Le Café de la Madelon, which makes you part of a 1914 wedding, with singing, dancing, and acting waiters, Parisian-style food, and Belle Epoque decor.

Who will enjoy it?

Pretty much everyone! There is something for everyone (even hard-to-please teens) and people who aren’t at all into history and “the olden days”. This is not a stuffy museum and is widely enjoyed by people from around the world. The caveat is that there are animals in some of the performances, which may make this attraction unsuitable for those who are against performing animals (although they are well cared for). Most children should enjoy it. The recommended age is 4 and up, but bear in mind that shows can be long and young children may find it tedious, while other young children could find some of the shows overwhelming – it all depends on your child’s stage and needs.

The park is very accessible for people with mobility, hearing, and vision disabilities.

I can’t speak French though…

Neither can I! The great thing is that it isn’t just for French-speaking people. There is a mobile app in English, Spanish, Dutch and German, with simultaneous translation and subtitles for all shows, which I found very helpful and seamless. I suggest bringing your earphones. Even without the translation, the spectacular shows are still easy to understand and enjoy.

How long do I need?

To really do it justice, you will need at least 2 days to take in all the shows and villages. You can do it as a day trip but you’ll need to be there before opening time to beat the queue, and be selective about what you see as it’s simply impossible to get to everything in 1 day. No matter how many days, you should plan your visit carefully as it’s a huge place with tons to see and do. Ideally, stay in one of the excellent themed hotels in the park, as this will allow you to do even more (and they’re also pretty cool!).

Can I get there without a car?

Yes, you can, although it’s a bit more work than driving. Head for Angers St Laud train station, which is under 2 hours from Paris by high-speed TGV. From there, you can catch the Puy du Fou shuttle bus, which runs 3 times per day and takes 1 hour. There is a fee for this service and it must be booked in advance. If you do have a car, there is free parking at all the car parks in Puy du Fou.  

Jenni’s Tips for visiting Puy du Fou France

  • Book ahead! Tickets and hotels sell out far in advance as this is one of the most popular theme parks in Europe.
  • Consider the Pass Emotion which costs extra but provides reserved seating and faster access to get into the 7 biggest shows, so you won’t have to wait forever in queues. This is the closest to a ‘fast track’ that is currently available at the park and only a limited number are available daily, so book in advance.
  • Download the app which will give you a way to plan everything (it helps you with scheduling) and provide French to English translations for the shows.
  • Remember to bring your own earphones for yourself and everyone in your group.
  • If there’s a restaurant you really want to go to, book seats in advance.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. The park is enormous and you’ll be doing loads of walking.
  • Bring a hat and sunscreen. You’ll be spending a lot of time outside and France can get really hot in summer.
  • Take a raincoat and, even if it’s sunny, pack warm clothes, especially for the evenings.
  • Most of the seating for shows is on cement grandstands so you may want to bring along a little pillow to sit on.  
  • If you wish to save a little time and money, or are travelling with children or people with special dietary requirements, such as diabetics, vegans or vegetarians, you may bring snacks and water bottles into the park.  
  • Stay at an on-site hotel (called La Cité Nocturne). The hotels are all themed, which makes it extra special, and you’ll save a lot of time as you have quick access to the park, plus guests staying in La Cité Nocturne can take part in Discovery Workshops.
  • Read up a bit about the Vendée region’s history before you go because quite a lot of the park is focused on this and it will give you a much better insight into the whole thing, which makes it more fun.

We think Puy du Fou stands apart from the traditional concept of a theme park and is an unforgettable experience. We highly recommend it!

Get in touch to book at sales@britishtips.com or 021 975 2047.

Want a little taster? Check out the trailer on YouTube:

Note: the above is intended to inform and inspire, and information is correct at time of writing. However, as things change rapidly, it’s best to check before you travel.

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