Big, spectacular, blockbuster shows are Puy Du Fou’s trademark. France’s second most visited theme park doesn’t possess a single roller coaster or ride, instead visitors get their thrills watching theatrical extravaganzas based on moments in European history.
The Best Shows at Puy Du Fou
Puy Du Fou stages 19 mind boggling shows filled with acrobatics, pyrotechnics and stunts to rival any Hollywood film set. Each show lasts between 26 and 40 minutes and performances are staged up to seven times a day. It’s unlikely that you’ll get through all 19 shows in a weekend (we managed 13 our our Britmums presstrip) so if you’re wondering what shows to see at Puy Du Fou, I’d say start with those listed below. I loved all of the shows that we saw but these eight were truly mind-blowing.
Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantômes
The Dance of the Ghost Birds is a thrilling show that, by the finale, sees some 330 eagles, falcons, vultures, kites, owls and more flying through the sky, circling the stadium and swooping inches above the crowd’s heads. Meanwhile Caracara birds play a bird-friendly version of the shell game, wild boars run through the grounds and maidens dance and then float magically above the ground. Puy Du Fou has its own Falconry Academy where 40 falconers look after 530 birds of 73 different species. After the show, you can organise to visit and see the birds and how they are cared for; workshops (1.5 hours) are held daily during high season.
One moment you’re watching a merry maypole dance in a simple village and the next minute a 20-metre longship has risen from the lake, complete with Vikings on board. “How did they do that?” asked just about everyone in the audience. This was one of my favourite shows and, given that we saw it at the start of our Puy Du Fou experience, gave us a taster of what was to come. Performing pigs did tricks, stuntmen were dragged along the ground by horses, towers tumbled, a saint disappeared in a puff of smoke and almost everything caught on fire. It’s a huge spectacle based on a legend from the nearby Island Noirmoutier, that was the first French Island to be attached by Vikings in 799. I can guaranteed that it will have you on the edge of your seat.
Le Secret de la Lance
Another one of my favourites is this epic show set in the Hundred Years’ War when a young shepherdess discovers the secrets of a lance that has powers to protect the castle. Cue lots of jaw-dropping stunts performed at high speed on horseback, men being dragged along the ground by seemingly invisible forces and ramparts that suddenly disappear from view. You’ll also see knights walking up and down castle walls, plenty of things catching on fire (a lot of things catch on fire at Puy Du Fou!) and dramatic sword fights. As well as being full of theatrics, the Secrets of the Lance is incredibly colourful with horses wearing bright caparisons and dozens of colourful flags everywhere. Watching the Secrets of the Lance is like being on a Hollywood movie set, only better.
Mousquetaire de Richelieu
This indoor show is based on the tale of the Three Musketeers and is held in a theatre that boasts the largest stage curtain in the world. There’s so much going on in this performance, however, that you’ll be forgiven if you don’t register the curtain’s size! Expect dancing horses, high octane sword fights, flamenco dancing and plenty of dramatic stunts as the musketeers battle the baddies. No matter how impressive the show is however, nothing can quite prepare you for the finale which is simply magnificent. I won’t give the game away but I will say that it involves a lot of water.
Le Mystère de La Pérouse
New for 2018 is this incredible immersive show based on the final voyage of La Boussole that set sail from Brest in 1785, led by Jean-François de Galaup, Comte de La Pérouse. The expedition mysteriously vanished in 1788 and no-one knew what had happened until a shipwreck off the island of Vanikoro, in the Solomon Islands, was discovered in 2005 and confirmed as belonging to La Pérouse. The show sees visitors enter a ship as novice sailors and walk from room to room experiencing life on board La Boussole. It’s incredibly realistic as you roll from side to side as if at sea, passing through cabins where plants, stuffed birds, animal pelts and even a Komodo dragon have been collected during the expedition. Real life actors mingle with the animatronic figures and they gave us a fright more than once! Towards the end of the show the ship starts to roll more violently in the stormy seas and the special effects marking the ship’s end are just spectacular.
Le Ballet des Sapeurs
Contrary to most of the other shows, Le Ballet des Sapeurs, doesn’t involve fire or explosions or wild animals. Instead, this charming show is performed by children from the Puy Du Fou Academy. It takes place on a bridge in the “Bourg 1900”, a recreation of a French town from the 1900s, and pays homage to the “années folles” (the “crazy years” of 1920s France). There’s a lot of slapstick, dancing and humour and I loved it. This is a great show for kids in particular, especially if they have an interest in art and the theatre. All the performers in Le Ballet des Sapeurs are students at the L’Académie Junior, which trains Puy Du Fou’s future managers, performers and technicians. Today, some 600 young “Puyfolais” are enrolled in one of the 30 schools at the academy studying everything from costume design and dance to lighting, sets and props, horse riding and more. Le Ballet des Sapeurs only takes place on Thursdays and Fridays at 4.15pm and 4.45pm.
This is the show that started it all. In 1978 the founder, Phillippe de Villiers, discovered the Puy du Fou Chateau and decided to stage a show in its grounds. Today, this nighttime production is performed on 23 hectares and involves 4,000 volunteer actors, 130 horse riders, 80 technicians, 30 free-flying drones, 850 fireworks and some 28,000 costumes to create a spectacle like no other. La Cinéscénie takes all the highlights from the daytime shows and then adds more incredible stunts and special effects to tell the story of the Vendee family, from the Middle Ages to WWII. It is, quite simply, astounding.
Le Signe du Triomphe
You’ll be forgiven for thinking that you had stepped back in time to ancient Rome when you enter the 6,000-seater Gallo-Roman stadium. Cheer for the Galles or the Romans, depending on which side of the theatre you sit on (audience participation is enthusiastic!) and watch as the gladiators do bloody battle and recreate an impressive, high-speed chariot race. Next come the lions and tigers, who are trained and cared for by the team who oversaw the animal training for films including Gladiator and Life of Pi. I had ethical questions over the use of these big cats in the shows, and they may make you feel uncomfortable, however French law still allows wild animals to take part in theatre and circus performances.
Puy Du Fou Show Tips
- Shows take place no matter the weather so dress accordingly; sun cream and hats for sunny days and waterproofs and an umbrella for when it’s raining.
- Once a show starts you can’t really get up and leave so make sure everyone has visited the bathroom beforehand!
- The Puy Du Fou app is really very good and allows you to easily plan your day.
- There are no age restrictions on any of the shows but I would recommend 5yrs and up.
- The park is big! If visiting with younger children, consider a stroller or pushchair.
Getting to Puy Du Fou
Puy Du Fou is located near Nantes in Western France and is best enjoyed over a two night, three-day stay. If you want to combine it with a longer holiday then there are some great ideas on visiting nearby Normandy from Suitcases and Sandcastles and exploring William the Conqueror’s Castle from Taking 5.
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Disclosure: I was a guest of Puy Du Fou for the purpose of this review. All opinions are, as always, entirely my own.