Puy du Fou (Puy means ‘old mountain summit’ in traditional French) is a historical theme park located in the ruins of an old renaissance castle in the village of Les Epesses near Cholet in the heart of the Vendée region of Western France.
With 1.74 million visitors, the Puy du Fou has risen in 2013 to 2nd most visited theme park in France behind Disneyland Paris but for the first time since its inception earned more visitors than Parc Asterix and Futuroscope.
Crowned with the title of best park in the world in 2012 (Thea Award), Puy du Fou is divided in shows representing different eras or periods of time (Rome, Vikings, Medieval Age, Renaissance). The park doesn’t have any rollercoasters or big screen 4D projections but the shows have a scale and sophistication superior to anything I’ve seen at any other theme park in the world. My favorite show was “Le Signe du Triomphe” were gladiators battle and charioteers race in a Roman Coliseum with 115 meters long and 75 meters wide, “Les Vikings” and “Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes”, where 170 birds of prey swoop to within inches of our heads. Impressive though these shows are, they are nothing compared to the Cinéscénie night-time extravaganza. Some 1,200 actors (local volunteers of all ages) and a vast cast of animals (geese, sheep, pigs, oxen) movingly recount the history of the region, from the Middle Ages to the Second World War, in gigantic, living tableaux. Unfortunately when we visited in the spring 2014 the night show was “Les Orgues du Feu”, a competent but poor classical music lake show. Outside of the shows there is also plenty to keep you occupied with lots of areas to explore and quite a few places where live music is performed or street performers are present. The gardens are also very pleasant and well worth having a look at as you walk between the shows.
The park’s tickets are affordable (29€ adults and 20€ for children) and the car park is huge and free!. If you book online you’ll get 2nd day discount and there’s so much to see that you’ll need at least two days to explore everything – more if you don’t want to rush or have kids with you. There were plenty of picnic areas and everything is kept clean and neat (including the toilets). The park is a dynamic history lesson especially recommended for school kids. Obviously the historical facts are certainly bent a little in the French favor (the crowd cheered the ‘gauls’ booed the ‘romans’ and Vikings are portrayed as uncivilized) but that would be the same in any country!.
In 2015 Puy du Fou opened a new themed area one Word War I called “The Lovers of Verdun”. The attraction is based on love letters sent between a soldier and his fiancée, you will be whisked back in time to the depths of winter 1916, in a snowy trench, where you will meet heroic soldiers.
On Christmas Eve, smoke invades the trenches, the ground trembles with each new explosion, alarms ring out… Everything seems lost, but on the 24 December 1916 these soldiers do not yet know that they are going to experience a Christmas that they will never ever forget!
Let me conclude this guide with a few words of advice: First, get to the park early or book online otherwise you will queue to get in. Second, dress light and wear comfortable shoes because you’ll be doing some walking and it gets pretty warm in the summer (don’t forget the sun cream). Third, pack a picnic basket because the food’s not particularly cheap. Fourth, brush your French because some shows don’t have translation headphones. Finally, take an extra memory card or roll of film for your camera because the photo opportunities are countless.
Overall I was very impressed with Puy du Fou theme park.
‘Le Grand Parc’ is quite simply one of the best places I have ever visited. The sheer scale of the shows was enough to completely win me over but add to that the nearly perfect decors, the themed crafts hand made by live-in artisans, the beautiful landscape and the exciting and enjoyable atmosphere and you’ll have a hard time to leave the place.
By Ana Alegria. Updated: 1/8/2015
Location: 85590 Les Epesses, France
Tickets: Adults 30€, Children 20€
Opens April to SeptemberTop Shows
Le Signe du Triomphe, Les Vikings and Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes
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