Fireworks, explosions and ships rising from lakes are all in day’s work at the Puy Du Fou theme park.
Located in Les Epesses, about an hour south-east of Nantes, Puy Du Fou (pronounced Pwee du Foo) is the second-most visited theme park in France and a household name. Outside of the country, however, it’s still relatively unknonw.
It calls itself a theme park but there’s not a single rollercoaster or ride to be seen. Instead, the park stages lavish shows based on moments in European history. If this all sounds a little odd, it’s because it is. But it is also absolutely brilliant.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Puy Du Fou for the purpose of this review. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.
Set over 55 hectares of forest Puy Du Fou started in 1978 with an amateur reenactment of the history of the Vendée, the region where the park is located in Western France. This show went on to become what is today La Cinéscénie, the biggest nighttime show in the world. This show performs to an audience of 14,000 people in high season. It’s unbelievably popular and tickets sell out almost as soon as they go on sale.
I spent a long weekend exploring Puy Du Fou on a BritMums press trip and I loved it. I don’t tend to visit a lot of theme parks but Puy Du Fou was so quirky, so innovative and so wonderfully unique that I am already planning a return trip with the kids.
The Shows at Puy Du Fou
It took me a while to work out what exactly le Puy Du Fou is.
It’s not a theme park in the traditional sense, rather it’s a combination of Cirque du Soleil acrobatics, Vegas’ theatrics and West End plays.
The park stages 19 spectacular shows, including seven blockbusters, each lasting between 26 and 40 minutes (the perfect length of time to ensure kids’ attentions don’t wander!). The performances are staged up to seven times a day, welcoming some 2,400 to 6,000 visitors per performance! Most of the shows take place in outdoor theatres (and go ahead rain or shine), some are indoors and there are four immersive experiences. La Cinéscénie lasts 1hr30 and is only performed on Friday and Saturday nights during peak season.
The shows are, quite simply, incredible. They’re innovative, exciting and full of special effects that will have you wondering “how the hell did they do that?!”.
Not surprisingly, the shows and adventures at Puy Du Fou have won numerous awards. I mean, if you can make an illuminated grand piano rise from a lake, at nighttime, with a pianist playing, you deserve some kind of recognition!
We saw 13 of the shows during our weekend at Puy Du Fou and some of my favourites included:
- Les Vikings, a dramatic and humorous retelling of an ancient legend
- Les Amoureux De Verdun, a love story from WWI
- Le Bal des Oiseaux Fantomes, a one-of-a-kind bird show that saw some 330 birds take to the sky for the finale
- Le Mystere de la Perouse, an incredible immersive journey on a sailing ship
- Three Musketeers, an adorable musical by the kids from the Puy Du Fou academy
- Le Secret de la Lance, an epic medieval adventure with fire, explosions and jaw-dropping stunts on horseback.
The other great thing about the shows are that many of them encourage audience participation.
When you enter the stadium for Le Signe du Triomphe, you would be forgiven for thinking that you were in the colosseum in ancient Rome – and many of the people in the audience believed this too, cheering and booing on command!
For non-French speakers there are translation headsets, or you can plug into the Puy Du Fou app and listen to the story in the language of your choice. The sound quality is actually better on the app than on the headsets.
In truth, however, the storylines are a little tenuous in places so even if you don’t understand everything that’s going on, it won’t detract from the experience at all.
The Villages at Puy Du Fou
In addition to the wealth of shows there are four villages within the park. These have been designed and created by craftsmen using traditional techniques so that they are as close to the original as possible.
La Cité Médiévale is an authentic reproduction of a Medieval village, complete with craftsmen at work and a vegetable garden used by the park’s restaurants. In Le Fort d l’An Mil (the Viking village), you can watch a blacksmith and his apprentice at work.
Le Bourg 1900 was my favourite, a replica of a French town at the turn of the century complete with a carousel, Art Nouveau architecture and my favourite restaurant in the park, Le Bistrot.
There’s also Le Village XVIII, a French village from the 18th century. The villages are also where the park’s souvenir shops are located. Instead of finding plastic tat, however, you can buy local artisan work from bracelets and earrings to pocket knifes and brightly coloured pixie boots.
Puy Du Fou deliberately keep all the shops within the park’s four villages, and not outside the shows themselves, so there’s no pressure to buy something.
Where to eat at Puy Du Fou
There are 27 places to eat in Puy Du Fou ranging from fast food kiosks to a la carte restaurants.
We tried a number of the restaurants during our stay and two things really stood out; the first is that the food is really very good. We didn’t try the fast food outlets but the meals in the restaurants were excellent. There were no hamburgers or pizza or hotdogs, rather we ate freshly made, flavoursome dishes created using local produce.
The second thing I noticed is that eating out at Puy Du Fou is really reasonable. Even better, if you reserve your restaurant in advance (which is highly recommended for peak season) then you get a discount per person.
My favourite restaurant was Le Bistrot, in Le Bourg village where we had lunch and Le Café de la Madelon, a Belle-Époque restaurant where you dine while watching – and sometimes taking part in – a brilliant cabaret performance.
Puy du Fou Hotels
Puy Du Fou offers five themed hotels within La Cité Nocturne, its on site hotel complex. Each hotel is dedicated to a period of history, from Ancient Rome to the 18th century.
Just as I’m not traditionally a fan of theme parks, I’m not usually big on themed accommodation either. However, the hotels at Puy Du Fou are really well done.
I was transported back to the Middle Ages with my stay at Les Îles de Clovis, a village of 50 thatched huts built on stilts over water. My room was very comfortable with a big double bed, a good-sized bathroom with a great shower and fantastic bunk beds with curtains that I know my kids will love. I also had my own little terrace overlooking the carp-filled lake.
Others in our group also had a couple of nights at Le Camp du Drap d’Or, royal tents that came with four-poster beds, embroidered tapestries and a throne for the toilet!
Much like everywhere in the park, Puy Du Fou strives for authenticity and they really do get it right. There are hotels in the surrounding area but I would definitely recommend staying on site when you visit Puy Du Fou, it’s just so much more convenient and the accommodation if very family-friendly.
Plan your visit to Puy Du Fou
- To get the most out of Puy du Fou I recommend that you spend two or three days in the park. We spent two full days at Puy du Fou and they were long days but we managed to see a lot.
- I would highly recommend downloading the Puy Du Fou App; it’s very easy to use and really helpful for planning what you want to see. It can also be used as an audio guide (bring your own headphones).
- It is really worth spending the extra €15 per person to get the ‘Pass Emotion’. Acting like a fast pass, this ticket allows you to enter the shows through a separate line and sit in the best seats.
- Puy du Fou is open until November 1, 2020. It typically reopens in April. Make sure to check the calendar as the park will also be closed for several weeks in September and October 2020.
- La Cinescenie takes place Friday and Saturday evenings until Saturday September 19, 2020.
- Note that from June to September you can’t book a Friday and Saturday night in an on-site hotel (this is to allow for the popularity of both the park and La Cinescenie). If coming for a weekend, I would recommend arriving on the Saturday morning and leaving on the Monday afternoon.
- Puy Du Fou is very accessible for people with disabilities or mobility issues and there are special seating areas in every show for those visitors who need assistance.
Puy Du Fou – How much does it cost?
Park entrance only
- Park entrance only if bought in advance – €37/adult for 1 day (all the shows and activities, included the night show “Les Orgues de Feu”) and €27/child for 1 day. There is a discounted rate for under 4s.
- If you buy tickets on the day then the tickets are €43/adult and €32/child.
- Two day tickets are €61/adult and €45/child if purchased in advance
- Tickets to La La Cinéscénie from €28pp (book your tickets well in advance).
- Book your tickets online for the best deals at Puy du Fou – you’ll save up to 20%
- It’s worth paying extra for the ‘Pass Emotion’ – the park’s Fast Pass system.
Getting to Puy Du Fou
Puy Du Fou is located in Les Epesses, in the Vendée region of Western France. The closest airport is at Nantes, roughly one hour away.
Your easiest option is to fly into Nantes and then hire a car. There is parking available at Puy Du Fou. If you want to have a longer holiday then you can combine a trip to Puy Du Fou with some time in nearby Brittany. Take a look at this post from Mini Travellers for some ideas on where to go.