We spent around 12 years of our lives living within a one hours drive of Puy Du Fou. It is situated near Les Epesses in the Vendee region of mid-west France. Over those years we visited many times and from those visits we learnt many things about how to maximise a visit to this fabulous theme park. I will go through my top tips, tell you all about Puy Du Fou and what it is and briefly review some of the must-see shows that you can see there.
What is Puy Du Fou
One thing to know is it’s not pronounced how it looks. Another thing to know is that there are no rides at all there. Well aside from a small merry-go-round near the entrance. It is a re-enactment park with many different historical shows throughout the day. They are done on a very grand scale and will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before – especially the Coliseum!. You will do a huge amount of walking as everything is much further than it looks on the map. There is a train that goes halfway around the park but this can be hard to catch at the right time. If you can, do go on it as it will save your legs.
Is there a less busy time to visit
We have been mid-week, at the weekends, in hot weather, in relatively cold weather and during school holidays. It is always busy! The French love it there and let’s face it with a general lack of things to do in France it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular. It will be like nothing you have ever experienced before and I can promise you that it is well worth visiting. Because it is so busy there you will need a strategy in place for getting the most out of your day. Because it is so popular with adults, families and with schools there will never be a shortage of people there. The park is shut over the winter and re-opens in early April.
What is the best way to get the most out of your day
Most people visit Puy Du Fou just for the day. Some stay for the night time spectacular Cinescenie. We have never stayed in one of their wonderful accommodation options, nor have we stayed for Cinescenie – sadly. My best advice is to arrive at least 20 minutes before Puy Du Fou opens. You have more chance of being able to park closer and you can study the timetable before you go in. That way you can plan your way around the park with time to spare.
My top tip for planning your day is to think out of the box. If you can start way up at the back of the park (near Le Signe Du Triomphe) and work your way forward do because then you will be avoiding the flow of people. If you start at the entrance and work your way up you will soon find yourself going with the flow and that can be a long slow flow that gets you nowhere fast. The times we’ve gone from the back to the front of the park are the times when we’ve managed the most shows in one day. It’s so tempting to stop along the way though.
If you are going for just one day you need to accept that you will not have time to see and do everything. If you go for two days you should just about manage it all but it will still pay off if you go against the main flow of people.
Some of the smaller shows have a much smaller limit as to how many people can watch. If it’s a very busy day and you don’t get there early enough be warned that you may not be allowed in. This has happened to us a few times with the bird show and the Vikings. We have had to return later in the day, which isn’t ideal.
Are the shows in English?
No they aren’t. You are in France! If you want to completely follow the shows then you can pick up a translator at the entrance. These are available in various languages. We have never had one and to be honest, it has helped our French. I have never regretted not picking one up and neither have our non-speaking family and friends. It is what it is and I’d much rather hear the live voices than anything else. The action is so good that it’s not hard to follow the stories anyway.
What about food?
The French LOVE their picnics and most families take one with them. Personally, unless I had a buggy, I wouldn’t want to carry a picnic around all day. They have fast food options such as sausage or ham and chips. They also have nice (and expensive) sit down restaurants. We have tried both and I prefer the fast food options as then it doesn’t take too much time out of your day.
Can you take a buggy into the shows at Puy Du Fou?
No, you can’t. You can take in wheelchairs and they have specially designated areas for wheelchairs. But for all the main shows they don’t allow buggies in. You have to leave them, at your own risk, in the buggy bay. We never had anything taken from ours and it can be quite chaotic getting your buggy out after a show but it’s worth it to have one.
Even if it’s a not particularly hot day to take sunscreen. The French sun can be very strong and burn easily. Most of the shows are outdoors with very little shade. Nearly everyone wears a hat and I suggest you do too. We always take a supply of water as well as the queues can build up at the kiosks.
The top shows to see at Puy Du Fou
Le Signe Du Triomphe (The Sign of Triumph) – duration 42 minutes
This is my absolute favourite, not to be missed, show. You sit on tiered levels of a replica Roman Coliseum. The acoustics are amazing and the atmosphere even before the show is electric. The audience joins in with cheering, booing and sometimes they get a Mexican wave going. It can seat a huge amount of people so don’t panic about getting to this one a long time before it starts.
The Romans parade around the Coliseum with geese, camels and other animals. They then bring out the captured Romans who have to win games to save their lives. They even raise the barrier around the audience and bring live lions out. There’s plenty of staged fighting and even a horse and carriage race with lost wheels and more. You won’t leave feeling disappointed.
Les Bal des Oiseaux phantomes (The Phantom birds ball/dance) – duration 33 minutes
Sometimes there are not enough superlatives for this show. It comes with a warning – after seeing this you will find all other bird shows boring. The choreography of the birds and the sheer numbers are just stunning. There is a story alongside the birds flying around but who cares the birds are the star of the show. Chances are very high that one will fly right over your head or even land near you. They have small birds of prey right up to gigantic storks and vultures. Keep an eye out for the balloon as quite a lot of birds hurtle to earth from way up high. There is also an area nearby to walk up or down and see them in their cages which is nice to do as you can see the types of birds that you have just seen in the show. The amount of birds they have for the final part is like nothing you will have seen before. It can bring a tear to my eye it’s so wonderful.
Les Vikings (The Vikings) – duration 26 minutes
This show has some pretty spectacular stunts and special effects. It is also another show that can be very popular so get there early to guarantee a seat. You witness a happy life in a village – until the Vikings attack. They come down a ramp on a Viking ship and sail along the front of the show area. Expect fire, fighting and even the taking down of a tower as the village is burnt down and destroyed. It is quite a spectacle.
Les Chevaliers de la Table Ronde – The Knights of the round table – duration 17 minutes
This show hasn’t been going as long as the ones I’ve mentioned above but you can tell it’s more recent by the tricks and backdrop. It will leave you baffled at times as you see the round table rise out of the water with people seemingly coming up with it. There’s plenty of action and drama and it is a show not to be missed.
Those are my four not to miss shows. Other shows we enjoy seeing are Le Dernier Panache (the Last Panache) which is indoors and the scenery revolves around which is very clever and means the acting is seamless and ever-changing. The scene on the boat is the best bit. This is a great one to see if you need a break from the sun or rain. Le Secret de la Lance (the Secret of the Lance) is a medieval adventure with plenty of horseback riding and battles. Mousquetaire De Richelieu (Mouskateers of Richelieu – which isn’t far away!) is another indoor spectacle. With plenty of swashbuckling action from the Muskateers. There’s a lovely scene with water. Since our last visit, they have a couple of new shows that I’d like to see which are Le Mystere de La Perouse (the Mystery of the Perouse) and Les Amoureux de Verdun (The lovers of Verdun). Plus a new show for 2019 Le Premier Royaume (the First Kingdom). There are many more shows and also plenty of animated shows around the park.
They have a wonderful playground for the kids plus fountain shows and a maze that isn’t too hard to find your way out of. We love the themed villages that are dotted around the park. People walk around in period dress which really adds to the atmosphere. If you don’t want to miss a thing then a 3 days visit is essential but you can easily do the main shows and get a true feel for the place in a day.
The park reopens for 2019 on April the 6th. I can not emphasise enough how important it is that you buy your tickets online in advance. Not only will you save 20% off your ticket but it also saves queuing time at the gates, which is the last thing you want to do. Reservation is available up to 72 hours in advance. You can purchase Grand Parc day tickets form 28euros. Grand Parc + Cinescenie from 52 euros and Cinescenie tickets from 28euros. Grand parc stays are from 61euros per person and Grand parc + Cinescenie from 139 euros per person which is great value for money.
We often speak about returning to show our son where we used to live and where he spent the first 18 months of his life. He has been to Puy Du Fou three times but was far too young to remember. I really hope that we can take him back soon and spend a couple of days there. He adores shows and this will truly blow his mind.
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