As the crowds collectively gasped around me, the woman’s dress changed colour right before my eyes. Scorching fireballs erupted with loud bangs from the castle turrets behind her as armoured knights on galloping horses thundered across the ground. My senses went into overdrive. I didn’t know where to look first – desperately trying not to miss a second of the action unfolding before me. This continuous state of awe was to become the norm, as I discovered throughout a weekend in Puy du Fou 2019, Les Épesses, in the Vendée region of France.
What is Puy du Fou?
Such is the popularity of Puy du Fou, which is just an hour from Nantes airport, that it sees more than two million visitors cross the threshold into a world of wonder that transports them to a bygone era spanning several different centuries. Puy du Fou has won countless awards, including The Best Attraction in Europe, and labelled as a theme park, Puy du Fou is anything but. There are no rides at Puy du Fou, which has recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Instead, the Grand Parc is an immersive experience that brings to life French history in the most imaginative and spectacular way. And with Puy du Fou about to launch in Toledo in Spain and in China in the future – it’s safe to say, they’re on to a winning formula.
But is a weekend in Puy du Fou 2019 long enough? Read on to find out more…
Spectacle Puy du Fou – It’s all about the shows!
Inspired by pivotal moments in history, it’s the shows of Puy du Fou that excite, astound and leave audiences speechless. It’s impossible to fully describe the production values, scale and immense skill of all those involved in producing these epic 30-40 minute spectacles and immersive walk-throughs. The talented actors, stuntmen and women, set designs, special effects, the animal trainers and handlers, pyrotechnics and even the exquisite costumes, all come together to produce spellbinding shows – of which there are 20. Seeing really is believing. And with Puy du Fou’s Le Dernier Panache – cost a whopping €19million to create – this goes in some way to explain how phenomenal the shows really are.
From Viking ships that emerge from the water; and a gladiator chariot race around a Roman Coliseum; to the heart-wrenching pull of experiencing life in the trenches; as well as feeling the majestic wings of eagles and falcons soaring past your head, prepare to be astounded.
A few of my favourites include Mousquetaire de Richelieu essentially The Three Musketeers, which has a magnificent flamenco dance on a stage flooded with water; Le Mystére de la Pérouse, which sees visitors experiencing life aboard a famous seafarer’s ship, and even the freezing temperatures of being in the Arctic; and Puy du Fou’s latest 2019 immersive walk-through – Le Premier Royaume – which tells the story of Clovis, King of the Franks. The special effects are so exceptional, it’s like being in your very own Hollywood movie.
Purchase a Pass Émotion for €15 per person per day – which not only allows pass holders to go through their own dedicated entrance and skip the queues but also sit in a reserved area with excellent views. This is for the seven most popular shows at Puy du Fou and is well worth the price. Book early though, as there is only a certain number available per day.
During our weekend at Puy du Fou, the best was saved for last. La Cinéscénie has been dubbed ‘the greatest night show in the world’ and for good reason. Only performed on the weekends during the summer from June to September, La Cinéscénie has its very own stadium which seats 13,000 people, and a stage that measures over 56 acres. Yes. You did read that correctly.
What is even more mind-blowing is that Puy du Fou 2019 La Cinéscénie is performed by 2,400 volunteers each show, and features over 800 fireworks, 28,000 costumes and a countless raft of technical wizardry that takes the audience on a journey through France’s Middle Ages to the Second World War.
Exhausted from the physical and mental exertions of our Puy du Fou weekend, I was still enthralled by La Cinéscénie. How could I not be? It was so bloody good, I was moved to tears and I’m not ashamed to admit it…
La Cinéscénie doesn’t start until 10.30pm and lasts for an hour and 30 minutes – so it’s not really suitable for young children. Temperatures can drop in the evening too, so make sure you pack something warm. La Cinéscénie costs €28 per person and is not included in a Puy du Fou entry ticket.
Puy du Fou Hotel…
If you’re looking for a Puy du Fou hotel, there is currently a choice of five different accommodation options and all of them with unique themes. Do you need to stay on site? Not necessarily, and there is plenty of accommodation near to Puy du Fou. But to really get the most out of visiting Puy du Fou 2019 then by staying on the grounds means you not only have easy and direct access to the Grand Parc, but a quick and walkable journey to your bed after the night shows – or if you just need a few hours to rest and recuperate in between.
I found the Puy du Fou hotels to be super clean and kitted out with air-con, hairdryers, a safe for valuables and flatscreen TVs. Don’t expect a mini-bar or any hot drink making facilities, however.
La Villa Gallo Romaine is modelled on Ancient Rome; La Citadelle is best for budding kings and queens of a castle; there’s uber-luxury glamping in Le Camp du Drap d’Or; La Logis de Lescure is a more luxury offering in an 18th century lodge for larger families and last but not least, is where I stayed – Les Îles de Clovis – a collection of pretty thatched huts on stilts overlooking water. I was impressed by the amount of space in each hut which can easily accommodate a family of four. My three nights in Le Îles de Clovis was an extremely comfortable one, and I particularly loved the hot rain shower, the snuggly king-sized bed and standing out on the balcony, watching the ducks swim past.
My only complaint is there wasn’t any seating out there, which would give parents the opportunity to relax in their own space while the children are sleeping inside.
For more information on each of the hotels and for Puy du Fou reservations, click here. Rooms from €61 per person based on four sharing.
Elsewhere around Le Grand Parc
The Grand Parc isn’t just home to the best stages in Europe, it’s also a pleasant place to stroll and enjoy all the surrounding gardens. With an ancient forest, 90 different species of rose bushes, and acres of green spaces including La Vallée Fleurie where you can wander next to waterfalls and marvel at the flora.
Kids will adore the large playground, with its very own mini castle, as well as the jumping water jets and animal-inspired labyrinth. There are also four Villages – Medieval, Viking, 18th Century and 19th Century – where you can discover and learn about craftsmanship and more in-depth history of that specific period. You can even purchase items that have been handmade at Puy du Fou, from jewellery and candles to clothing and glassware.
Where To Eat
When you consider that Puy du Fou will feed up to 20, 000 visitors per day, the food has to be nutritious, fast and tasty. And that is exactly what you get in the many restaurants across the Grand Parc and their hotels. In fact, Puy du Fou sources 90% of their produce from the best and mainly local suppliers – and has a two-Michelin starred chef, Yannick Alléno – at the helm of creating the menus.
Every dish we ate at Puy du Fou was fresh, delicious and reasonably priced, where some three-course set menus start from around €15.50. My children would be content with at least two options on offer at each meal. Salads, cold meats, cheeses and fresh bread feature heavily, and the most amazing chocolate croissants at breakfast – of course!
Dining highlights for me include Le Bistrot – which has a bistro-style menu and a lively atmosphere; Le Café de la Madelon – which saw our waiter performing on stage in between diligently serving us our dinner; and La Mijoterie du Roy Henry – which turns the notion of a buffet on its head. I adored the wooden tray with three cut-out circles whereby your starter, main and dessert are served in individual glass dishes and slotted into your tray. My tender duck with vegetables was divine, as was the lemon meringue that followed.
• Make dining reservations ahead of time. All the restaurants get busy and if you’re already organising your stay around the showtimes, then you’ll know when you’ll have a spare window to eat.
• If you don’t want a sit-down meal, there are fast-food takeaway options throughout the park serving crepes and paninis for instance.
• Puy du Fou restaurants are not the most vegetarian or vegan-friendly. So if you do have any dietary requirements – contact the park in advance and warn them when you make dining reservations. For more information on each of the restaurants click here.
Le Puy Du Fou tarif and rates
• Grand Parc Puy du Fou tickets cost from €36 per adult and from €26 per child (5-13)
• Grand Parc Put du Fou tickets with Cinéscénie Ticket from €59 per adult and €48 per child
• Cinéscénie Ticket is €28 per person
FAQs For Visiting Puy du Fou
What age is Puy du Fou suitable for?
The recommended age is 4+ – however, I would say it all depends on the individual child. Firstly, your kids will need to be able to sit through shows that can last around 40 minutes long. The shows are extremely loud and full-on, while the immersive shows are dark, claustrophobic and for some children, scary. We saw many youngsters being overwhelmed, upset and having to be escorted out. Make a judgement call – while Monkey would adore Puy du Fou, I know that Peanut is still far too young at two.
What is the best way of planning time at Puy du Fou 2019?
It is fully possible to see all the shows within two days but it does require planning in advance. While show schedules are printed off daily and in English, you can also download the Puy du Fou app, which allows you to see the programme of events and add to your own selection – so you have all the timings close to hand. Meanwhile, when planning your day at Puy du Fou allow yourself enough time to get between one show and the other.
The shows are in French, so is it possible to understand them?
Absolutely. All you need is the Puy du Fou app, a pair of headphones and access to the park’s Wi-Fi. The app worked on most of the shows, however, there were a few technical issues in some of the immersive walk-throughs. The translations do detract at times but are useful when you want to get the gist of the subject matter.
What if it rains?
The shows must go on. Come rain or shine, they will continue to be performed. During our weekend Puy du Fou, we had a deluge of bad weather. But covered with the Puy du Fou poncho – it was like having a portable tent wherever I went. There’s no point even using an umbrella – as it would block the view of audience members. The poncho saved me from getting soaked, cold and miserable. And for €8 it’s well worth the money.
Many animals feature in the shows. Are there animal welfare protocols in place?
With 206 horses, over 600 birds, as well as camels, pigs, oxen, wolves, a tiger, lions and a leopard – it’s safe to say that animals feature heavily in Puy du Fou’s shows. There was never a point throughout our weekend that I felt any of the animals looked mistreated or unhealthy – and the only uncomfortable moment is when the big cats come out at Le Signe du Triomphe. Personally, I don’t think they add anything extra to what is already an exciting show. I do concede Puy du Fou’s point that many shows including this one, are of the past – conceived decades ago when animal welfare wasn’t perhaps so high up public’s agenda.
A spokesperson for Puy du Fou hasn’t ruled out that these animals will be phased out eventually and we were emphatically reassured that all Puy du Fou’s animals are well cared for. Meanwhile, Puy du Fou is an active member of several French Zoo Associations and at the forefront of many animal conservation projects, having given over €600,000 to the protection of endangered species around the world.
Are there any shops at Puy du Fou where essential items can be purchased?
Unfortunately no. However, the town of Les Épesses is only five minutes away from Puy du Fou, where you can find a supermarket and other shops.
Discover other Puy du Fou reviews…
Don’t just take my word for it – I visited Puy du Fou with four other family travel bloggers. You can read about their Puy du Fou 2019 experiences below:
Best Things for Teens at Puy du Fou in France – Helen from Actually Mummy
Puy du Fou’s Best Shows For Families – Claire from Tin Box Traveller
Why You Should Visit Puy du Fou With Kids – Carrie from Flying With A Baby
Tips for Puy du Fou with Kids in France – Cathy from Mummy Travels
*Disclaimer: I was invited by Puy du Fou on an all-expenses-paid press trip to experience a weekend at the Grand Parc. As always, opinions are my own.